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How to set up a sustainable IT purchasing policy?

Discover the essential steps for establishing a sustainable purchasing policy

Sustainable IT purchasing: how to implement a sustainable strategy within your company

Implementing a sustainable purchasing policy has become a central and essential CSR action, made mandatory by the REEN law (Réduire l'empreinte environnementale du numérique en France). This new regulation demonstrates the emergence of Sustainable Digital Purchasing as a sine qua non approach to be adopted by organizations in all sectors. Faced with this virtuous movement towards a more frugal digital environment, what are the ways in which companies can invest in a sustainable purchasing strategy?  

What is sustainable purchasing? 

First and foremost, we need to understand what exactly is meant by "sustainable purchasing". When a purchase meets certain environmental and socio-economic performance criteria, it is considered sustainable. The aim is to reduce environmental impact, encourage ethical practices throughout the supply chain and promote the efficient use of resources. 

Although its name doesn't make it explicit, this is IT purchasing. The digital equipment (terminals, computers, smartphones and data centers) that make up the IT estate are sustainable for a large proportion of a company's environmental impact.   

Initiating a sustainable purchasing policy in just a few steps

Implementing a sustainable purchasing policy offers several advantages: it enables companies to reinforce their control over the purchases they make, improving their transparency vis-à-vis customers and strengthening the bond with their suppliers (through shared values). Above all, its aim is to reduce the environmental footprint and improve the social impact of their activity, and to go further in their decarbonization strategy. But how does this change take place?   

1. Getting started: using existing standards as a foundation for your strategy

There are a number of standards that enable companies to specify their commitments and help them set a well-defined framework for their sustainable purchasing policy:   

  • ISO 26000: This standard provides clear guidelines for implementing a CSR policy within an organization. In short, it acts as a roadmap, focusing on 7 approaches: governance; human rights; labor relations and working conditions; environment; fair practices; consumer issues; communities and local development.   
  • NF X50-135-1: NF X50-135-1 applies the principles of ISO 26000 specifically to the Purchasing function, providing recommendations for decision-makers and buyers wishing to manage their costs while anticipating economic, social and environmental risks.   
  • ISO 20400: This standard helps to integrate CSR into purchasing processes by proposing best practices. It encourages buyers to consider environmental, social and societal impacts when choosing digital equipment. 

2. Taking stock of digital practices and IT assets

Before initiating any action, it is first necessary to take stock of digital usage before starting to deploy the strategy. Not only will this enable you to identify specific actions to be taken in response to any weaknesses or shortcomings detected, but it will also enable you to make a comparison in a few years' time, and see what progress has been made. This can be done by means of a score obtained after a 360° analysis of the company's digital footprint, as proposed by fruggr. Both to determine a target for improvement, and to meet France's roadmap for decarbonization by 2050.  

Currently, French companies focus mainly on two purchasing categories: IT equipment and intangible services such as SaaS software. As the March 2023 ADEME-Arcep study highlights the weight of user equipment in the carbon footprint of organizations, you can start your CSR diagnosis with a carbon assessment of your IT assets.  

It can be accompanied by some welcome questions: is the equipment that makes up the IT fleet reconditioned or new? And to look at the intangible (whose impact is invisible but just as significant): What type of data center is used to host the SaaS applications you use?  

3. Taking concrete action

Having carried out this diagnosis and identified possible solutions, you can now define an action plan and clear time objectives, bearing in mind that a sustainable purchasing policy is first and foremost rooted in a long-term approach to continuous improvement. Here are just some of the actions you can take:     

  • Favoring SSE players when selecting IT equipment suppliers 

Suppliers play a key role in this transformation. In order to choose suppliers who meet their commitments in terms of digital responsibility, it is essential to draw up a list of criteria to be followed: compliance with national and international standards, employee working conditions, short supply chains, etc. The best way to ensure that your suppliers meet these requirements is to turn to companies from the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE), as well as suppliers with the Numérique Responsable, European Ecolabel and, more specifically for IT equipment, TCO Certified or EPEAT eco-labels.    

  • Buying local, reconditioned and recycled  

Choosing reconditioned equipment extends its useful life, reducing the demand for new resources. By opting for reconditioned equipment, you also support the local economy while reducing the carbon footprint associated with transportation. What's more, by buying recycled IT equipment, you're helping to reduce electronic waste and preserve natural resources. By integrating these sustainable practices into your digital equipment purchases, you are contributing to a more sustainable circular economy.  

recycling it

  • Always consider LCA when purchasing equipment 

LCA is a multi-criteria method for assessing the environmental impact of a product, from manufacture to end-of-life. To make more reasoned choices when selecting digital equipment, its life cycle must be considered. In concrete terms, this means ensuring that suppliers have manufactured equipment ethically and responsibly, as well as turning to reuse, repair and recycling to extend the life of equipment (computers, audiovisual equipment, printers, etc.).   

  • Turning to the eco-design of digital services 

When creating a digital service, it is imperative to turn to eco-design to ensure that its impact on the environment is limited. These impacts can include resource consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution and waste management.  

  • Optimizing IT asset management  

Once useless IT equipment, reprographics tools and audiovisual equipment have been detected, they can be taken in hand by SSE players such as Atelier du Bocage, who will repair or recondition them. WEEE waste, on the other hand, must be handled by reliable, secure and certified treatment solutions. 

  • Following the recommendations of the Practical Guide to Sustainable Digital Purchasing  

DINUM (Direction interministérielle du numérique) has created and made available to the public in 2021 its own guide dedicated to sustainable purchasing. Its chapter "Fiches pratiques par segment d'achat" sets out the issues specific to each purchasing family (office equipment, printing solutions, infrastructure and cloud....) and the tools offered to buyers to achieve sustainable purchasing.  

4. Communicate about your strategy via the establishment of a charter

Once these actions have been implemented, it is essential to communicate about the sustainable purchasing policy in a transparent way, both internally and externally. A common approach is to draw up a charter reflecting your sustainable purchasing policy. Signed by your suppliers, it commits them to respecting pre-defined social and environmental criteria. This charter can also commit the company to carrying out awareness-raising and training workshops for employees, and in particular the team in charge of purchasing.   

5. Set up a roadmap with a clearly defined timeframe

It is essential to integrate this policy into a long-term approach, even in the absence of a charter and communication measures. To guarantee its success, it's crucial to draw up a Sustainable Digital Roadmap and set clear objectives: indeed, the sustainable purchasing policy is one of the 5 pillars of a sustainable digital approach. For this, you can call on the support of a company with expertise in the field, such as Digital4better, publisher of the fruggr solution.

These objectives will serve as a compass to guide actions and measure progress. By setting precise objectives, the company can mobilize the resources needed to achieve its aspirations in terms of sustainable purchasing, and more generally, the environmental and social footprint of digital business, over a 3, 5 or 10-year timeframe.  

Sustainable purchasing policy: a powerful lever for your company's performance and positive impact

A sustainable purchasing policy goes far beyond its ability to unite teams around shared values. Above all, it is a powerful lever for improving company performance. By integrating social and environmental criteria into your purchasing decisions, you promote operational efficiency, reduce supply chain risks and strengthen your reputation with stakeholders. By investing in a sustainable purchasing policy, you position your company as a committed leader, ready to meet tomorrow's challenges while generating long-term value. 

Last but not least, investing in this type of approach also enables organizations to respond to European and national legislation. Indeed, the new CSDD directive adopted by the European Parliament and due to be adopted in June 2023 will require companies to integrate human rights and environmental impact into their value chains. Manufacturers of electronic products will have to comply: an opportunity to promote digital practices that are more respectful of both workers' rights and the environment.

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