Present in more than 150 markets, the Electrolux Group is a major player in the household appliance industry with a number of well-known brands. Sustainability is an important priority for the company, and one ambition is to make responsible choices when IT products are involved.

As a producer of refrigeration appliances, Electrolux realized that environmental issues were already a hot topic in the late 1980s, when legislation banned the use of freon in an effort to protect the planet’s ozone layer. The scope of the company’s sustainability work has since grown, and in the 1990s, it started issuing sustainability reports. In 2014, a new sustainability framework was designed.

“We analyzed all our business segments to map out which areas to prioritize and where we could have the largest impact. The result was a framework, with nine promises for our sustainability work, called ‘For the Better,’” says Helena Babelon, Head of IT Sustainability & Continuous Improvement at Electrolux Group.

Strategic IT purchases drive sustainable development

Helena Babelon saw the opportunity to include IT in the sustainability agenda. She had previously worked with the digitalization of company sustainability reports, creating tools that enable data collection from factories, warehouses and logistics. She identified that responsible IT purchases would be an efficient way of lowering environmental impact and driving progress toward fair working conditions in the factories.

The first step was to identify IT areas with the best potential for improvement. Then her team connected with the procurement team to set the purchasing criteria.

“Our organization has multiple considerations to make when purchasing IT products. By cooperating across functions, we can include the sustainability aspects in the decision-making process and get it right from the beginning,” Helena Babelon says.

Succeeding with sustainable procurement of IT products is a challenge, according to Helena Babelon: “global regulations and guidelines are lacking, and there is no clear framework that we can follow.”

What sustainability challenges does Electrolux prioritize in the procurement of IT products?

“There are a number of things, covering both social and environmental sustainability,” explains Helena Babelon. “We want to use fewer resources, especially when it comes to electricity. When we lease our IT equipment, we demand that the supplier reuses the IT products whenever possible. Social requirements are important; they have been included in the contracts for IT purchases earlier, too. We also make sure that we have the right to acquire product data that allows us to follow up on internal goals.”

To identify the right priorities in procurement, Helena Babelon and her colleagues used Electrolux’s corporate sustainability framework to define the requirements for sustainable IT, which are now included in the IT Master Services Agreement. For additional insights and inspiration, they connected with counterparts in other organizations. All along, top management supported their efforts, which was an essential success factor, according to Helena Babelon.