Malmö City aims to be climate neutral by 2030 and has already worked with circular management of IT products for 10 years. Find out how!

Circularity is an enjoyable and exciting field because it demands a strong focus on our own consumption behaviors. So says Ulrika Svallingson, sustainability coordinator at Malmö City Council in southern Sweden. The city is aiming to be climate neutral by 2030 and has already worked with circular management of IT products for 10 years.

Ulrika started working at Malmö City Council’s procurement unit just over two years ago. She was appointed to the newly-created position of sustainability coordinator for social responsibility, which was introduced because the municipality wanted to get a comprehensive grasp of the social aspects of procurement and purchasing.

Malmö City Council has ambitious sustainability goals. Two years ago, the council decided that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals should be reflected in local targets and form an integral part of local budget processes. The municipality works with Fairtrade City and participates in several local, national, and international networks related to sustainable development and the environment, including the EU’s Circular Public Procurement initiative that has participants from Sweden, Finland, Poland, Russia, Latvia, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Ulrika believes that circular issues are closely linked to both social and environmental sustainability, and that the municipality has considerable potential to make a real difference with its purchasing. The council works closely with its supplier, Atea, which provides sustainability expertise and solutions for the reuse of products. However, it is not enough to influence suppliers — to achieve circular management of purchased products, the municipality needs to focus on its own behaviors.

“Social and environmental aspects often go hand-in-hand and the circular mindset completes the picture.”

“Of course we can make our own demands and influence suppliers and other stakeholders, but in terms of circular economy issues, these put demands on us as an organization. It’s also about thinking intelligently about how we use the products we buy,” says Ulrika.

To promote circularity, the council purchases products with longer service lives and ensures that warranty periods are as long as possible. In the absence of warranties, nobody will repair products when necessary. The city council seeks to ensure that product use is optimized; for example, those working for the municipality for a limited period are given older computers than people who are expected to work for a longer period. Smartphones are provided with covers so they last longer. As much as possible, IT products are reused internally when they are insufficient for certain users but perhaps work perfectly well for someone else.

The municipality also works with collecting old IT equipment. If a device is still useable, all data on it is deleted so it can be resold to new users outside the council. Products that have reached the end of their service life are recycled. The aim is to collect all IT products used by the municipality. In 2019, a major initiative was organized for council employees. Searches of offices and storage areas revealed some 7,500 computers, smartphones and other IT products that could be collected and reused or recycled. Employees were also invited to seminars on the importance of reuse and how sustainability requirements can be included in procurements.

“This energized employees across the city and we received extremely positive feedback. It became really concrete when you saw the amounts of electronic waste that were collected outside city hall,” Ulrika says.

What is the key to achieving circular management of IT products?

“We’re a large organization with highly differentiated requirements and contexts. You need to know what your organization needs to be able to see what can be done better. This is why it’s incredibly important that functions and areas of expertise cooperate. At an early stage, we coordinate with our specialist sales people who know the market and k