Woolworths is implementing a range of measures to minimise the impact that its IT products and equipment have on the environment.
Initiatives range from recycling e-waste such as computers, to using energy efficient equipment. Woolworths is also using the opportunities created by IT operations to uplift communities.
"Every little bit helps. We could make a huge difference if every business in South Africa were to have a 'greener' or more sustainable approach to managing IT resources," says John Hunt, divisional director of Woolworths IT services.
"Beyond the bottom line, Woolworths is also concerned about the businesses' environmental and social impacts. At present for instance 98% of our old computers (desktops and laptops) are recycled, re-used or safely disposed of. This is important as computers contain toxic components like lead and mercury, which could pollute the environment," Hunt says.
"We have also helped grow emerging BEE, IT consultancies, like Reagola. Our partnership with Reagola has helped them become an influential IT consultancy with a national reach. Our plan is to identify other development opportunities for our BEE partners."
To reduce the impact of Woolworths IT operations on the environment and make a difference in communities, the business is focusing on:
* Recycling and re-use of e-waste;
* Reducing the use of paper in the business;
* Promoting energy efficiency of equipment; and
* Providing business opportunities for previously disadvantaged entrepreneurs.
The safe disposal of old computer equipment – a significant part of what we know as e-waste – is a challenge. E-waste is often disposed of in landfill sites even though it contains potentially harmful materials like lead and mercury. Woolworths is working hard to ensure that computers, printers, screens and peripherals like printer cartridges are properly disposed of:
Over the past few years, computer equipment has been donated to The Salesians Institute, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) which , in turn, donates the working equipment to schools in less privileged communities.
Equipment that is not fully operational has also been given to the The Salesians Institute, which uses them in its maintenance training courses for disadvantaged youth.
Computer hardware that can no longer be used has been safely recycled or disposed of through a network of non governmental organisations, who create employment with recycling projects for the homeless and unemployed.
In future, Woolworths will work through the Western Cape's new e-Waste Recovery Facility in order to ensure that old PC equipment is optimally reused or recycled through a pool of partner institutions.
In terms of reducing paper use, Woolworth is using recycled material for 50% of its head office needs, while phasing in duplex printing.
It is also doing away with hard copy payslips and putting publications, manuals and other administrative materials online.
Computers are responsible for a significant amount of power consumption and the company has committed to monitoring the amount of energy used by IT equipment and
taking corrective action where it is deemed to consume too much energy.
It is also phasing in the use of energy efficient hardware and software.