This opinion piece is published by GreenBiz

By managing the life cycle of IT products such as notebook computers differently, your organization can address some of the world’s most urgent sustainability issues.

Today, our way of producing and using information technology contributes to sustainability problems such as the overuse of scarce, natural resources and the massive exposure of hazardous substances to humans and the environment.

The circular economy offers powerful solutions that can help address these issues. This article focuses on how your organization can purchase and manage IT products, specifically notebook computers, in a circular way — a strategy that can benefit your company’s sustainability agenda and that could lead to financial benefits as well.

Extending product life cuts CO2 emissions

An important tenet of circular economy business model is to keep products and materials in use as long as possible. This is definitely something to think about when it comes to the notebook computers your organization purchases and uses.

IT products are a source of greenhouse gases (GHGs) throughout their entire life cycle — from manufacturing through to distribution, use and disposal. To identify the best way of lowering these emissions, you need to know where they come from.

In the report, “Impacts and Insights: Circular IT Management in Practice”, TCO Development investigates the GHG output from the manufacturing, distribution, use and disposal of a notebook computer and how purchasing a new one impacts GHG emissions, compared with extending the life of an existing device.

The analysis concludes that a vast majority of the GHGs are emitted in the manufacturing phase. When a notebook is used for four years, the estimated total carbon footprint is 299 kilograms during its life cycle. Of this, 79.8 percent of the greenhouse gases are emitted in the manufacturing phase, 6.8 percent during transportation, 13.2 percent in the use phase and 0.2 percent at end of life.

Since almost 80 percent of emissions occur in the manufacturing phase, extending a notebook computer’s product life will clearly lead to substantial reductions of GHG emissions.

When a notebook is used for six years instead of four, GHG emissions are reduced by 29 percent. For an organization with 1,000 employees, this means a reduction of 216,250 kg over a 10-year period. This strategy also saves natural resources and prevents electronic waste.

Buying a new, more energy-efficient product isn’t the answer

You might think replacing an old notebook with a brand-new, more energy-efficient one is a good way to save energy and reduce your organization’s carbon footprint. While this may be true for some household appliances, the same cannot be said for notebook computers.

TCO Development’s analysis suggests the positive effect of saving energy in the use phase is overshadowed by the enormous energy consumption in manufacturing, from raw materials extraction through to assembly.

For example, if the new notebook is 10 percent more energy-efficient, it must be used between 33 and 88 years before the reduct