BYOD and Sustainable IT: The Good, The Bad, The Problematic
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle has been the long-held mantra of all things sustainability. So, on the surface, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), the name given to the trend that allows employees to use their own devices on the job – their own smartphone and laptop, for example, instead of the duplication implicit in having two of everything – gets some points from for the first R in Sustainable IT. Using one of something instead of two is most definitely a sustainability win. For one thing, the greatest amount of energy used in the lifetime of the device is used in its initial manufacture. For another, use half as many raw materials and you have saved, well, roughly half. This is an undeniably a good thing.
The typical consumer, however, does not have such a plan. The typical consumer, if lucky enough to have a responsible retailer, may be able turn in his or her own device with a promise from the retailer to take care of it responsibly. However, no retailer is going to eradicate the organization’s data and give the consumer documentation of such an event. The globe is woefully short on recycling infrastructure for electronics and the U.S. is no exception.
When most consumers are asked what they do with their obsolete electronics, the answers range from “stick it in the closet” to “donate” (God bless the donee) to “throw it in the garbage.” None of these is a viable, sustainable, responsible outcome. The enterprise does not the own the device and isn’t responsible for its disposal. The enterprise may have a hold on the data and may be effective in erasing it on the employee’s termination or trade-in, but I wouldn’t want a security policy rife with so many contingencies. BYOD might be convenient for the employee, but spells data management nightmare to the enterprise. Read BYOD news reports and IT support issues.
When it comes to the Reuse and Recycle part of the mantra, my vote goes to the enterprise that has its sustainability policies in place. This kind of organization can hold an employee collection event and reign in all those closet devices. Perhaps having two of everything isn’t as great as having one of everything, but knowing where it’s going when its useful life is over is very important for the health of the enterprise and the health of the earth.
Please read our blog series and let us know your take on BYOD. Sustainable or superfluous?