Why the public sector should be the standard-bearer for remanufactured tech

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As the technology industry evolves rapidly, the demand for new products continues to grow. The announcement by Microsoft that they will no longer support Windows 10 from October 2025 has left customers and businesses aware that they may need to upgrade their business laptops within the next year, even if their current model is still up and running.

The move was discussed recently at the Re: Sustainable IT Summit in the United Arab Emirates. A spokesperson at the summit from Canalys, a global technology market analyst firm, predicted that 240 million business computers could become e-waste because of these changes. With 85% of carbon emitted from a laptop coming at the production end, this is a concerning figure.

Against this backdrop the stage is set for the increased adoption of remanufactured technology, preventing waste, reducing carbon emissions and keeping the cost of replacement devices down. Although still an emerging category, 40% of IT leaders at the summit believed that by 2028 pre-used laptops will make up one in five (20%) of those bought by businesses. Perhaps Microsoft's decision could be the push needed to change our perceptions and move towards remanufactured.

Rod Neale

CEO and Founder, Circular Computing.

Old for new

Our point of view is that you wouldn’t throw the keys to your car away and get a brand new one, after driving it for a few months, or when it needs a service. Instead, you would get the service required to extend the life of the car. This same logic can also be applied to IT technology. If we are serious about driving towards a circular economy then whether it’s a Porsche or a printer, we must preserve what’s already been made, be regenerative in resources and cut out waste..

The challenge is focusing on a single group that will drive the most impact to make the change and begin the movement. Remanufactured technology is tailor-made for organizations with clear sustainability goals who are looking for an alternative to brand new, which delivers value for money and – crucially – works at least as well as a brand-new device. This is why I believe the public sector is the perfect group to act as standard-bearers, due to its influence and large number of employees working within a small number of organizations.

Sustainability pressures

Compared with small businesses, these large public sector organizations face different pressures from the private sector to drive sustainability. Although the majority of UK enterprises – about 5.5 million – are classified as small businesses, it is impractical to sell an idea to SMEs one at a time. Instead, greater impact and adoption can be achieved by focusing on large organizations that will purchase in bulk and have a louder voice to encourage others.

Evidence from peer-reviewed research by Cranfield University shows that remanufactured devices cut carbon footprints significantly, by producing only 6.34% of the CO2 in comparison to brand new. Many organisations are conscious of meeting their sustainability targets while still being cost-effective and contributing to their sustainability report. This means their buy-in on second-life hardware could be a hugely significant endorsement. Employees are also looking to companies to see what they are doing in terms of sustainability, so there is an added pressure from the ground up.

The hurdle we face is the assumption that a remanufactured laptop is a step down from brand new. However, here standards bodies such as the BSI can play a role certifying models’ performance and quality and removing any perceived barriers.

The real price of new hardware

In a recent case study, it was identified that each refurbished laptop sold is up to 40% cheaper than a comparable new model, as well as being able to contribute to sustainability goals of companies. Imagine that being done at scale and the potential savings and ESG benefits are huge. Something like this would be extremely beneficial for large organizations that are seeking more funding and where every penny spent is scrutinized.

The direction of travel is already being seen across the Channel, with French public sector organizations required to put 20% of their annual procurement budget into devices that are reused, refurbished or contain recycled materials. While some people are confident in this refurbished technology, many people are interested in the idea but feel they do not know enough about it to take the first step. With influential countries like France steering the technology industry in this direction, it is more likely for others to follow.

With all the movement happening in the technology industry, the sooner we lean into practical solutions the better position we will find ourselves in, as both individuals and organizations. The key, however, is to save time and resources by going directly to the largest and most influential sector and let them sing the benefits from the rooftops.

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Rod Neale, CEO and Founder, Circular Computing.