Sustainability: Partners measuring purpose and profit in equal measure

Last week, channel analyst firm, Canalys, called out both channel partners and vendors for not acting decisively enough on sustainability.

At the Canalys Forum in Barcelona, Chief Analyst Alastair Edwards called on partners to help their customers urgently reduce energy consumption and improve efficiency. “We can all see how the stakes are getting higher”, he told vendors and top European partners.

“This summer brought the worst drought in Europe for the last 500 years. For the first time, water became a geopolitical factor in Europe. And now with energy inflation exploding, your customers urgently need to reduce energy consumption and improve efficiency. At current rates, the IT industry will account for over 11 percent of global energy usage by 2030. In other words, the need for sustainability is more than just an ethical argument; it is an economic necessity.”

This is a hugely important point. Even if companies aren’t driven by a desire to try to save the planet(go figure), it is becoming increasingly apparent that there a strong commercial reasons for doing so.

Taking action to improve the environment and reduce an organisation’s footprint has always been a moral and ethical necessity, But, even if a company’s main motivation isn’t to save the planet, it’s clear that eco-friendliness has also evolved into a key driver of revenue.

Interestingly, SAP released research this week that reveals a staggering 90 percent of UK business leaders believe there is a connection between environmental sustainability and long-term profitability. Survey respondents ranked ‘customer demand’ (49percent) and ‘the potential for revenue generation’ (38 percent) as the biggest motivators for action. Furthermore, two-thirds (65 percent) of UK businesses believe that addressing environmental issues will be material to business results.

Michiel Verhoeven, MD, SAP UKI, commented: “In a macro-economic environment filled with uncertainty, taking action to improve the environment can restore balance and fundamentally improve the bottom line. Whether that’s transitioning to renewable energy and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, or streamlining supply chains to address product shortages”. Evidently, companies must make sustainability a top priority if they are to capitalise on what Edwards describes as, “a multibillion-dollar opportunity for the channel over the next five years.”

“Be ambitious“, he told partners. “Set bold targets both internally and externally — externally in terms of what you deliver and what you do internally within your business. Make everyone in your organisation accountable for sustainability. Change culture. Change behaviour.”

To vendors, he said: “Start reporting sales of refurbished products along with takeback volumes. Reward your partners for selling refurbished products rather than trying to compete with them. We recognise the challenges this creates for you in the vendor community. Your shareholders want you to sell new products, but that’s not an excuse. You need to start educating your shareholders today about what this means tomorrow.”

The good news is, it appears that many partners have already embarked on a sustainability journey. A survey by IT provider, Agilitas ITSolutions, reports that channel partners are in fact now measuring purpose and profit in equal measure, with almost half (46 percent)stating it has become more of a focus. Of those remaining, more companies (18percent) are prioritising environmental and social purpose over profit when it comes to their partnerships.

The report stated: “Channelfirms are no longer waiting for the vendors to make the first move, with more companies now taking ownership and building their own localised ecosystems through increased partner-to-partner collaboration”.

With channel businesses at various stages of their sustainability journeys, there’s no overnight fix. And, in the age of greenwashing, only time will tell whether these companies follow through on their promises to make genuine, positive changes. Nevertheless, the survey results are encouraging — an impressive 98.4 percent of businesses are currently making strides to improve their impact on the planet. Watch this space.

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