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Quantifying carbon offsets in refurb and reuse

A Canadian ITAD firm has brought the concept of carbon credits into the refurbishment realm as a way of offsetting the carbon impact associated with purchasing new IT equipment.

Compugen, a major IT service provider in Canada, launched a refurbishment arm a decade ago called Compugen Finance. It offers ITAD services to Compugen’s customers, including large enterprise clients such as banks, insurance companies, law firms and more.

Steve Glover, Compugen

Three months ago, Compugen Finance began offering carbon credits to companies supplying the ITAD division with retired assets. The idea is that there are carbon emissions associated with manufacturing new equipment, so by sending equipment to reuse and repair channels, a company helps cuts down on emissions in the future.

“By us selling a used computer, it defers the purchase of new,” said Steve Glover, president of Compugen Finance. “It’s a means for a business to acquire carbon neutral technology.”

The carbon credits offered by Compugen are verified by third-party players, and they allow companies to clearly show how they may be moving toward “carbon neutral” status. For many businesses, reducing carbon impacts is an important part of their overall sustainability objectives.

“It shows leadership,” Compugen Finance writes on its website. “It makes you more desirable in the eyes of consumers who are environmentally conscious; it helps you prepare for future regulations; It allows you to save money on energy bills.”

Tangible impact

Compugen Finance applies one complete carbon credit, which is the equivalent of one ton of offset C02 emissions, for a retired computer.

Apart from being used to back sustainability claims, carbon credits can be sold, both through compliance markets (in which companies and institutions are required to offset their activities) and smaller voluntary markets (often geared toward consumers). The value of one carbon credit is currently around $7.50.

But the Compugen concept is unique in keeping the carbon reduction within the same field as the carbon emission, rather than having a wide disconnect between the carbon generator and reducer.

“This is within their sector, within their industry,” Glover said. “These are self-generating carbon credits for businesses. By giving us their technology I can create a carbon credit, and I’m going to give them one back.”

Glover developed the carbon offset idea when Compugen itself was being analyzed by an environmental firm to determine the company’s overall carbon footprint and offer recommendations on reducing it.

“When I had them on the phone I said, ‘Hey, here’s what we do for a living, there’s got to be a way to quantify that,’” he recalled. “They worked together with us, and at the end of the day they wrote up a document that would effectively convert what we do into a carbon credit.”

An independent verifier came in to audit the business and verify the agreement. It was then forwarded to the Canadian Standards Association, where carbon credits are registered. Now, Compugen Finance can do the audit each year and create its own carbon credits based on the electronics it collects for reuse and refurbishment.

Compugen Finance is gearing up to launch a campaign with major electronics manufacturers and distributors, which will provide the carbon offset program to their own trade-in clients. HP, for instance, wants to apply the carbon credits that are generated through the trade-in program to the new equipment it manufactures, Glover said, “effectively wiping out the carbon footprint that gets created when the new system is produced.”

“Now, when we’re talking to customers, we say to them, ‘Not only can I give you value and extend the life of your old technology, I’ll give you a carbon credit,’” Glover said.

The company has spurred similar social-minded initiatives in the past, including its Green For Good program, which asks clients to donate revenue from retired assets into charitable funds, helping 135 charities and raising $2.5 million in this manner to date.

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