SMBs lagging in green disposal policy: study

Canadian companies of more than 500 people are more than twice as likely as their small business counterparts to proactively develop a strategy for disposing of old IT assets, according to a study from IDC.

Based on a survey more than 1,000 companies in Canada, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the U.S., about one-third of whom said they use a third-party firm to handle such chores. The IDC study was commissioned by Dell Canada, which, like HP and IBM, is one of those providers. The study found about 39 per cent of North American firms have some kind of strategy or policy in place for getting rid of old equipment, including options such as donating to charity or using municipal waste disposal services.

“There was a linear relationship between company size and the likelihood of using a third-party,” said David Doud, a research manager with IDC and one of the study’s leads. “There’s a huge opportunity in the marketplace for small businesses.”

While some small businesses might balk at spending in a third party for IT asset disposal, Doud admitted, but that’s not necessarily the best conclusion.  “The ones that have adopted IT asset disposal through a third party found it is much more cost-effective,” he said. “More than 65 per cent don’t have (a strategy) in place, and part of that is concern about pricing.”

Joe Strathmann, Dell’s senior manager of asset recovery, said the company is using the study as well as its direct client meetings to help companies understand the asset disposal issue.

“There are misconceptions about TCO and the cost-effectiveness that we typically get our customers aware of,” he said. “We’re bringing that education in terms of the environmental brand risk and data destruction risk, which are two things that may be managed by other functions.”

Although 40 per cent of North American firms get rid of old IT assets through donations to charity and non-profits, Doud suggested the generosity may come at a high price.

“It’s a good way to extend life, but it may come without the necessary checks and balances, which is a major potential risk,” he said, adding that the 16 per cent who said they deal with old asset by storing them are fooling themselves. “Ultimately, retirement of those assets will have to happen.”

Canada has seen a number of incidents involving in the improper disposal of IT assets. Most notable was a case several years ago of a Bank of Montreal server containing thousands of customer records that found up on eBay through a third-party provider owned by IBM. Strathmann said Dell’s services are governed by a strict set of standards as well as a third party audit that includes random monthly checks on data destruction.

Small businesses might opt for disposing through municipal waste facilities, but that could increase the risk of a security breach or a negative environmental impact, Doud wanred. “Who knows where those desktops are going.”

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