Circularity helps you tackle many of today’s sustainability risks

Our current, linear way of producing and consuming IT products damages fragile ecosystems and depletes natural resources. Large amounts of greenhouse gases are also generated. Adopting a circular approach to electronics can help us tackle many of today’s sustainability challenges, including climate change, biodiversity loss, toxic pollution, and even social supply chain responsibility.

According to the Circularity Gap Report for 2023, issued by Circle Economy Foundation, our global economy is only 7.2% circular, going down from 9.1% five years ago. The concept of linearity is based on the assumption that the planet’s resources are infinite — that we have an endless supply of oil, water and rare earth metals that we can use freely. We also assume that we and the earth can deal with enormous amounts of waste.

IT products are no exception. They contain valuable natural resources and manufacturing is energy-intensive. Thousands of people are involved in the production. All of this should make these products valuable and long-lived but today, they are often only used for a couple of years before being replaced.

When IT products are manufactured and used in a linear way, virgin natural resources such as oil, metals like lithium and cobalt, and large amounts of freshwater is used to produce products that often are difficult to repair and upgrade. After a relatively short life, the product is discarded. A very small percentage of the materials is recycled and used to manufacture new products. The result is a depletion of scarce resources, loss of natural habitats, and huge amounts of toxic e-waste, which may risk human health and the environment if it is not managed safely.

Circular habits reduce climate impact

It doesn’t have to be this way. In a circular economy, we use natural resources responsibly so that we don’t risk exhausting them, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to manageable levels, and protect land and water for the benefit of all in the long term. Products are designed to be durable, upgradeable and repairable to ensure they last longer, and are used in a circular way. Instead of disposing of them after a few years, we take good care of them, and once the product no longer meets the needs of the first user, reselling or donating options are considered, to give them a second life.

This has positive impacts on greenhouse gas emission levels. By doubling the use time from three years to six, the annual greenhouse gas footprint is almost halved. Even holding onto your device for just one more year will make a big difference — keeping it for four years instead of three reduces its annual footprint by an impressive 23,5 percent. (Source: Report Generator)

Worker rights leverage the circular transition

One aspect that is often overlooked in the circular agenda is social sustainability. This is unfortunate from a human perspective, but it also reduces our chances of succeeding with the circular transition. In fact, human and worker rights can be used as leverage to accelerate the pace of change.

One reason why IT products are discarded prematurely is that they are relatively cheap to buy — we pay far from the full cost if the value of natural resources and human well-being is factored in. Stopping the exploitation of people in the IT product supply chain, will lead to higher production costs, and that is the single most effective way of driving the innovation and development of longer-lasting products that users want to keep, service, and repair rather than dispose of and replace.

By protecting worker rights and raising wage levels, we can more quickly move toward a production and consumption of IT products that is truly sustainable.

Examples of circular solutions for IT products

A majority of the sustainability impact happens when the IT product is manufactured. Therefore, the most efficient way of lowering its impact is to keep products longer.


Broken or low-performing parts are replaced.