The Circular Economy: Enabling Sustainability, for Business and Planet

Dec 27, 2018 11:50 AM ET


  • With a finite amount of resources available to us, it’s essential for both individuals and businesses to make a greater commitment to sustainability
  • By addressing the full product lifecycle, companies can help reach the ultimate goal of net-zero environmental impact
CSO Chris Wellise explores how looking at the entire product lifecycle can help businesses achieve a more sustainable future

We have just one Earth.

But at our current rate of consumption, we need about 1.7 Earths in order to provide all of the resources we expend on an annual basis.

Given the challenges our planet faces today due to energy and resource consumption, further exacerbated by population growth, the concept of sustainability – in order to truly live up to its name – must be more comprehensive than perfunctory efforts. Indeed, we must bend the curve from a take-make-dispose model to a regenerative and restorative system that eliminates waste through the superior design of materials, products, and business models.

That approach is the foundation for the Circular Economy, a sustainability paradigm with the ultimate goal of creating net-zero impact by addressing every phase of the product lifecycle: from resource extraction to product design and use, through to end-of-use management.

When Circular Economy principles are embraced, it’s good for both business and our planet. While environmental disruption creates vulnerabilities from material scarcity or fluctuating commodity prices; actively managing our consumption creates infrastructure efficiencies, opportunities for innovation, and business resilience. We fully believe that at HPE– as we announced today with the release of our new Circular Economy Report – we can help organizations drive financial and business results with efficient solutions that maximize material, resource, and equipment efficiencies for IT infrastructure.

At HPE, we are following Circular Economy principles as we innovate the IT infrastructure of the future, not simply because of the environmental and societal benefits but because it is a strong driver for economic growth.

As we indicate in the Circular Economy Report, which is available to HPE Financial Services Lease Return and Asset Upcycling Services customers, HPE is able to provide IT and sustainability organizations with information about the carbon, energy, material, and landfill savings achieved by returning retired or end-of-use assets to us for processing through HPE Technology Renewal Centers.

Specifically, the report, based on sophistical life-cycle-analysis and economic assessment, shows a breakdown by category of the IT products that were refurbished, remarketed and reintroduced into the economy as products, and those that were recycled and put back into the economy as recycled materials.

This is important information for organizations to share, especially as investors and customers increasingly request the disclosure of a company’s environmental impacts. But even more important than the information is the message behind it:

That we have the capability to find new ways to manage the explosive demand for data by using far less space, materials, and energy.

We have an opportunity to use the power of technology and our position as a global company to enable our customers to transition to a more Circular Economy. Although the concept is not a new one, we are at an inflection point today as companies accelerate their digital transformations and ditch legacy hardware for new solutions.

HPE is taking the initiative to help our customers optimize their IT infrastructure by leveraging our global expertise to drive more efficient use of energy, materials, and resources. That means innovating IT solutions that reduce total cost of ownership and meet tightening regulations around the world, as well as putting used equipment with value back into the economy. In this way, our Circular Economy approach connects the goals of IT organizations and corporate sustainability strategies – meeting and exceeding the expectations of customers.

We have many ways of helping customers do just that – from our Design for Environment program, to Asset Upcycling Services, to consumption models that shift ownership away from the customer, leading to higher rates of efficiency and reuse. And we know that customers are demanding this: HPE’s Technology Renewal Centers processed 58 million pounds of equipment in FY18, while HPE GreenLake pay-per-use solution now has more than US $2 billion in total contract value.

The Circular Economy isn’t academic theory. It’s a pragmatic plan of action that encompasses the entire product lifecycle, while maximizing the greatest value to both business and environment.

And doesn’t our Earth deserve that?