Aliter’s Network Hardware Technician Arjan Eising and Operations Engineer Pedro Ortega work together in operations across all of our different departments. From the start of the day, when they receive POs, through to implementing our quality control (QC) process, they work to ensure we function in the most sustainable way possible. While also delivering high quality refurbished IT products to clients around the world.
SUSTAINABLE QUALITY CONTROL
Pedro: That is, as we receive IT hardware for refurbishment, it undergoes review, cleaning, testing and then repair if needed – in order to look and function to its best capacity. I have an overview of each step in the QC process, through to packaging and shipment of the refurbished items.
We “go green” in all the ways we can.
We recycle the packaging materials that vendors send IT hardware to us in. We refurbish the items so that they can be re-used for a longer period of time. And we use a lot of recycled packaging material ourselves, when sending them to their new owners. This also helps to reduce the production of new packaging. We also strive to lower our CO2 emissions by encouraging the use of economy shipment to save the environment and lower the cost for our customers.
Together with Arjan and the rest of the Aliter team, we are each responsible for certain actions that help to ensure we maintain a high standard of quality and sustainability in all that we do. Operating together in such a way is part of the reason Aliter achieved B Corp status last year.
But of course, it took work and still takes work – but we are proud to have fought to be here together, and regard sustainable practices as necessary to who we are and what we do as a business.
Arjan: I’ve been with Aliter for over six years, as a technician in the warehouse up until November 2020. Now, because Aliter is growing, I also focus on OPEX and will be leading vendor communication moving forward this year. This means I’m responsible for return to vendor (RTV) operations – when something is broken, physically or software-wise, I deal with the request for repair and the return shipment. In some cases, the hardware or IT device is at end of life, and then I ensure it is disposed of ethically and sustainably.
In my role, I see how big of an impact shipping has on our planet. Especially as we’ve expanded as a company. Beyond packaging, one of the ways I support Aliter to be as sustainable as possible, is by talking to our clients and customers about how we can make better shipping choices together. Helping them to be more sustainable while saving money.
For example, choosing economy over priority shipping makes a big difference. Waiting a day or two longer for a package, when possible, can reduce CO2 emissions immensely.
Of course, there are times when a customer needs their item ASAP, and we pride ourselves on getting it there fast. But in many cases they are happy to opt to receive their item a day or two later. And often now when we have items for clients in the same location, we send multiple shipments together instead of separately. This saves on shipping costs and packaging materials, and benefits the planet.
I see the education in the conversations I have as key – because without the insight on shipping benefits, it’s likely many businesses wouldn’t know about them in order to make greener decisions. Operations just isn’t the typical place people think to make sustainable tweaks to.
These conversations are one of the ways we aim to engage our customers more. To make the race for a more sustainable future and a healthier planet something we can tackle together.
2020 STATS AND ACTION
Here are some of the stats on our operational efforts in 2020. We’re proud of where we are at.
- We recycled 80% of the plastic we received
- We recycled 2500kg of cardboard
- We planted 2800 trees through to compensate for the CO2 emissions created from shipment and logistics
And here’s a snapshot of some of the action we took. Some of these are specific to our industry, but some aren’t, and are fairly simple to make the switch to.
- Changed plastic packaging padding to paper padding
- Dispose of broken e-waste and items in an environmentally friendly way
- Ship RTVs back with recycled material
- Combine multiple RTVs to reduce shipments
- Use both sides of a sheet of every sheet of paper (for notes, or when printing on)
- Became a certified B Corporation!
This year and looking ahead, we’ve got a range of sustainability goals we want to reach too. Because while we’re on track, we know there’s still more we can do, and have prioritised this action as a company.
- Paperless shipping – digitize paperwork as much as possible to save on paper, time and money.
- Change the boxes we use from 75% recycled cardboard to 100% recycled cardboard.
- Support the sales team with tools and ideas to help more customers become aware of the benefit of economy shipping.
- Recycle and reuse more packaging material while maintaining our high level of delivery quality.
- Make ‘green shipping’ the Aliter standard.
- Reduce the amount of replacement services or repair of refurbished items, in order to reduce CO2 emissions.
WHERE TO BEGIN: STRIKING SUSTAINABLE BALANCE
Arjan: Of course operational decisions need to be weighed up like any other plans. In our case we need to be realistic when working with vendors and supporting clients to meet their needs. For some, the only thing that matters is that the package arrives on time in good condition. So we make that our priority for them. For others, they might have the flexibility to explore different options.
Pedro: Right now we have two lines of shipment. A ‘standard’ and then a ‘green’ approach – where we reuse more materials in the packaging. While safely delivered, this sometimes means items arrive presented differently.
t’s important to remember that while the packaging might be different, it’s more important what’s on the inside. The compromise is better for the planet.
Arjan: For 2021, we’re also exploring different packaging and shipping options to provide the customer. For example, going completely green, opting for economy with recycled packaging, economy with A-grade new packaging, or priority shipping and A-grade packaging. It’s a work in progress. And for any businesses that are thinking about where to start making sustainable tweaks in operations, the same goes – striking a balance between your goals, budgets, timelines, and other business imperatives is key.
AWARENESS DRIVES PASSION AND ACTION
Arjan: But first, I think education and awareness is important. Before you make decisions and take action, you need to be informed.
What are your operations policies and procedures? Do you know what impact they have on the environment?
These questions can be a good place to start if you don’t already know. Then it’s about weighing up against other decision factors. Which processes or actions could be tweaked or perhaps completely overhauled?
Pedro: I think how employees, and the workplace as a whole feel, is important too. If you care, or feel compelled to do better, that motivation can spread quickly and lead to greater change.
Aliter has made changes successfully, and become a B Corp, in part due to having a collective vision and working towards it together.
It’s good to have perspective too. As we said earlier, we take our role as educators in this space seriously. But not everyone will make sustainable choices for the same reasons.
For some individuals or businesses, sustainable decisions are made purely to save money. But if that contributes positively to the bigger picture, just from another view. So it’s still worth it.