21 Nov 2022

SME Member of the Week: Circularity First

Circularity First is a sustainable IT company. Using principles of the circular economy, they support organisations to design, build, and manage IT infrastructures with a circular mindset. Hear from Anthony Levy at Circularity First, this week's SME Member of the Week.

Circularity First is the fourth of November's SME Member of the Week. This month, techUK are focused on sustainability to tie in with COP27. We'll be showcasing SMEs who have made an impact on the transition to net zero, either through developing technology to combat the climate crisis or showcasing what they've done to reduce their own carbon emissions.

Circularity-first.com is a sustainable IT company. Using principles of the circular economy, the Circularity First Group supports organisations to design, build, and manage IT infrastructures with a circular mindset, to benefit people, the planet and profit.

Founded by Anthony Levy in 2008, businesses in the Group work internationally with telecommunications organisations, the public sector, (including the Ministry of Defence and the NHS), global banks and SME’s to make their infrastructure more resilient, sustainable and cost -effective.

How did your company start?

My interest in sustainability started when I was 12, although I didn’t know I was thinking sustainably at the time! I grew up when home computers were just becoming ‘a thing’ and my family couldn't afford to buy me one. I realised that you could build a PC from what other people were willing to give, or even throw away.

This approach has stayed with me. Realising the potential to deliver resilient and high-performance technology with less impact and at a lower cost, set in motion my interest in sustainable IT. In a world of limited resources, there simply won't be a choice but for IT hardware to become more sustainable.

I started my business with a simple aim: to break the unnecessary 3-year IT replacement cycle, putting into practice what I learnt when I was 12, that technology today is often thrown away when it still has many years of life left in it. 

Since then, my team and I have gained over 14 years of experience of deploying sustainable technology and we’re proud that we have supported hundreds of organisations to take a more sustainable approach to how they design, source, procure, use and dispose of their IT infrastructure. Taking a circular approach proves that you can deliver the same performance, with better return on investment, whilst being more sustainable. 

The good news is it’s easy to take a more sustainable approach to IT, the solutions and supply chains already exist.

How does your company contribute to this month's theme?

The COP27 conference this month has been hailed as the implementation summit. Huge focus is being given to the climate actions required to operationalise the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. 

The key themes are: urgently reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building resilience and adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change, and delivering on the commitments to finance climate action in developing countries.

Every sector has a role to play, and ICT is no different. A study from Lancaster University suggests that the emissions from ICT could be greater than the aviation industry.

We support customers to act on IT. Our solutions extend the life of existing technology solutions, enable customers to use remanufactured or refurbished technology in their networks and we help customers take technology back out of use and get it redeployed somewhere else, whether that's back to the original vendor or onto another customer. So, if COP27 is all about implementing actions, then we can help.

We are currently building software tools and capability to help customers make more sustainable decisions, and we're designing and implementing technology solutions for our customers who are repairing, decommissioning, and managing global international logistics. In addition, we offer advisory and consulting to support businesses to become more sustainable, including their use of IT.

Who's behind your company?

We have a fantastic team at Circularity First. Our entire group is focused on making the world more sustainable in its use of technology. Every person in the business has expectations around delivering more sustainable outcomes for ourselves and for our customers and this manifests in our internal programme called Think First. We’re embedding sustainability into our business so every decision is viewed through a sustainability lens.

We run a flat structure, where everyone has a voice and I’ve been blown away by the creative solutions being proposed through our Think First programme. Our team recognise the need to act now on the climate emergency and the enthusiasm of the wider team, brings along those who might be a little more cynical about it. 

Our UK office is based in Poynton, near Manchester and we return more energy to the grid than we use thanks to our solar panels, it’s a fact we’re really proud of. By keeping technology in use for longer, we’re on track to prevent nearly 1 million kg of eWaste from landfill and our operational team have implemented a new approach to how we pack products that lessens the environmental impact of the materials we use.

Of course, there is more to do. Logistics is a huge challenge for us and the movement of the technology we sell is the largest part of our carbon footprint. We’re already leaning into this, and working with our clients to find solutions that enable us to buy and sell the equipment in the same geographical regions- thus limiting the environmental impact of moving stock.  Of course, an additional benefit of this is that it also has a cost saving.

We’re also increasing our social impact, following work our Danish team completed with an organisation that supports neuro-diverse adults into work. This scheme was so successful that our US team have now formed a partnership with a similar organisation in Sacramento, California.

What’s your perspective on the present and the future of this month's theme?

We are already feeling the effects of climate change and understanding more about what this change means for humanitarian impacts. Following the themes for COP27 means that we as a business and the industry as a whole, has to clearly communicate and signpost people to decisions that enable them to positively impact now.

techUK have spearheaded conversations in technology around material use, the circular economy and sustainable product design. The working groups formed by techUK normalise collaboration and shared learnings and as an industry we need to do more of that if we are to affect change at scale.

Now really is the time to act on IT. By demonstrating the commercial resilience, the cost savings and the environmental and social benefits of keeping technology in use for longer, we hope to change the way IT is sourced, used, procured and disposed of. There are many other companies working in this space too and it’s only by developing a common language and building trust together, that we can hope to shift the dial. We need to shift the narrative from 'it’s a compromise' to 'it’s better business'.

Recent Success

We recently partnered with an international organisation that works in challenging territories. They had struggled to access the technology they needed, at a suitable price-point and with the reliability of delivery that they needed given the sensitivity of the work they do.

Utilising our visibility of non-new global supply chains, we were quickly able to source and deliver the technology that they needed at a price they were comfortable with.  Our team were committed to this project, several of them taking 3am calls to reflect different time-zones to ensure that the items were delivered accurately in these mission critical situations. 

It’s times like these that I feel  really proud of what we’re achieving.

Likewise, our business has been well positioned to respond to the global supply chain issues and chip shortages. Non- new technology has offered the solution to many of these global challenges, and it will continue to do so. We have plenty of examples of being able to beat 6- month lead times for key networking technology items by accessing authorised supply chains that are not widely known, accessed or fully understood. It’s our long-term partnerships with OEM’s that gives us this visibility on global stock.

From a personal perspective, one of the biggest changes I have seen is that many conversations I now have with potential clients start with sustainability. Over the last 14 years, many conversations were centred on cost, that authorised remanufactured technology was a cheaper way to buy. I’m really encouraged by the conversations I have had in the last two years as they suggest that buyer behaviour is changing as we recognise a more sustainable approach to technology is needed and I would welcome anyone who wants to partner on this journey.

What does the future look like for your company?

Our business is changing. Like many organisations, we’re going through our own digital transformation and developing more automation across the business, expanding our ecommerce offering, reaching wider audiences, and growing our ability to process and remanufacture equipment ourselves.

Probably the biggest change is in the development of tools which encapsulate 14 years of experience and knowledge on how to become more sustainable in use of IT, and combining that with some proprietary research that we're doing to give people the right tools to make more sustainable decisions.  

We’ve been busy generating data to accurately compare the benefits of remanufactured and refurbished networking technology verses new. We have  welcomed  a new colleague from Pakistan as we start our first Innovate UK funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership with experts from the University of East London.

We’re really excited to be putting numbers to what we know to be true. As organisations measure their carbon footprint we expect that IT would be 5-30% of scope 3 so it’s vital that we can prove the benefits of extending the life of IT and using non new technology to reduce organisational carbon and material use impact.

The circular economy has many of these answers. A big driver in our business is the move towards more services. Hardware performance increases have slowed and more of the innovation is coming from software and services. But the reliance and the pervasiveness of intelligent digital devices is growing at a pace that few can comprehend.

We spent many years quietly and competently delivering more sustainable outcomes in IT, and felt that surely others already knew what we knew and could see what we could see but it has taken a while for the wider interest in sustainable IT to take hold. One of our aims now is to bring our community of experts together and help lead in this space, to help others go on a journey to reduce their impact.

Asks for other members  

We’re always happy to share our experience of taking a more sustainable and circular approach for IT. We have case studies and impact examples that provide evidence that taking a more sustainable approach is better for business resilience, for profit and for the planet.

We offer an initial consultation to see how we can support organisations take a more sustainable approach to how they source, procure, use and dispose of IT. What’s more, our Group of businesses have the solutions, so not only can we advise businesses in this area, but we can help them act too.

If you’re keen to get started on a more sustainable approach to your IT get in touch. We always love to talk. 

More information

LinkedIn: Circularity First
Website: https://circularity-first.com/

SME Member of the Week: December, Social Impact

For December's SME Member of the Week, we’ll be focusing on tech SMEs that create positive value for the economy, communities, and society. With Christmas coming up, we want to showcase how our SME members are creating social impact through their businesses, including charitable or humanitarian causes, staff volunteering opportunities for employees, or community intiatives.. Submit your case study here.

techUK – Committed to Climate Action

Digital transformation is critical to the decarbonisation journey of organisations in every sector. Across supply chains and sectors, industries are converging with tech partners to find innovations that reduce carbon emissions and unlock efficiencies that drive down energy use. techUK focuses on the application of emerging technologies and data-driven decision making in traditional forms of infrastructure to deliver innovative environmental outcomes. For more information on our Climate, Environment and Sustainability Programme, please visit Climate Action Hub.