Green for good: BC Hydro's disposal of IT assets - Canadian Government Executive
Best Practice
November 18, 2013

Green for good: BC Hydro’s disposal of IT assets

BC Hydro was experiencing ongoing challenges with IT assets decommissioned as a result of regular personal computer refresh cycles. An innovative asset disposition program enabled the firm to meet its sustainable IT goals, while continuing to support worthwhile charities.

Regulatory compliance, tight budgets and rapidly changing business requirements top a list of factors that are driving IT shops to pay closer attention to managing hardware assets such as PCs, laptops, servers, printers and network components. Most of the management focus, however, has been on the front end of the IT asset lifecycle – procurement, deployment, maintenance/support – where processes are well-defined, mature and well-supported with best practices and automated tools.

The final stages of the IT lifecycle on the other hand – asset retirement and disposition – continue to be a source of considerable challenge for many organizations. Those organizations that are looking at disposition are likely focused on recycling. Many are not aware of other disposition options, namely refurbishment, re-use and resale, that can reduce total cost of ownership, mitigate data security risks and increase the return on their investments in technology, all while still having a positive environmental and social impact.

BC Hydro, a commercial Crown corporation owned by the British Columbia government, is no stranger to the challenges of IT asset disposition, dealing regularly with decommissioned assets resulting from large-volume PC technology upgrades and hardware refreshes for its end users.

With roughly 1.9 million customers and serving approximately 95 percent of the province’s population, BC Hydro is the largest electric utility in the province and one of North America’s leading providers of clean, renewable energy. With a focus on lowering costs by being fiscally prudent, and always considering environmental and social costs, efficient operations are at the forefront of the corporation’s business success.

To address IT asset disposition, BC Hydro formed a group internally to collect decommissioned assets from across the company, wipe them clean of all residual data, and donate any assets meeting a pre-defined specification to Computers for Schools, the company’s chosen charity, while sending the rest for recycling.

As a result of ongoing financial and staffing challenges associated with this approach, however, the firm decided to outsource asset disposition to the Green4Good (G4G) program.

G4G offers a unique, new approach to the disposal of decommissioned IT assets that not only allows organizations to extract any residual value from those assets, while protecting sensitive corporate data, but also eliminates any negative environmental impact. Through the resale of the more useful assets, the program even generates a revenue stream that allows organizations to offset some of their disposition costs or, as is the case with a growing number of organizations, enables them to continue making charitable donations.

In the case of BC Hydro, the Green4Good program includes collecting decommissioned IT assets sent from BC Hydro locations throughout the province – 3,000 in total over the past year – destroying any residual data on data-bearing devices to ensure data privacy and security, and triaging assets into several categories based on their residual value.

For assets having no remaining value, Green4Good arranges for environmentally sound and regulatory-compliant recycling through certified recycling partners

For assets that still have useful life, approximately one-half of these assets are tested and refurbished by Green4Good and shipped to Computers for Schools. The rest are bought from BC Hydro by the Green4Good program – which generates revenue that helps BC Hydro offset its overall program costs – and then refurbished and resold.

“What I like most about the Green4Good program is that it reduces the number of devices going to recycling and to landfill and reduces my equipment disposition costs,” says Sophia Tham, manager of IT security and infrastructure, Technology and Security at BC Hydro.

In fact, the Green4Good team reports that it has been able to refurbish and resell 92 percent of all the equipment it has processed since beginning operations in 2009. This has dramatically reduced, and in the majority of cases, even eliminated, e-waste for these customers, thus contributing significantly to their sustainability goals.

According to Tham, the program also eliminates BC Hydro’s asset disposition management problem and frees-up the internal team of people previously dedicated to the effort. “It’s a pretty straightforward service, and since there are no problems, I don’t have to be involved, which is exactly why one outsources such a service,” she concludes.

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