Electronic waste and CSR in the age of digitalization

The year 2020 marks the fierce competition of the technology field when multinational corporations launch a series of advanced products in turn. Modern life forces businesses to constantly produce new electronic products and upgrade new features to meet the diverse needs of consumers. Eventually, where will become a “landing ground” for outdated technology items? What will be the measure to help businesses reduce the amount of electronic waste to promote sustainable development of society?

The time bombs

A United Nations report notes that around 50 million tons of e-waste is generated by the world every day, of which 416,000 phones and 142,000 computers end their short life cycles in landfills and incinerators. Facing the 4.0 technology revolution, enterprises often renovate technologies to stimulate consumer demand, leading to the continuous elimination of old technologies at a rapid increase. In Vietnam, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), citizens in this country discharge an average of 116,000 tons of electronic waste annually, putting invisible pressure on our mother Earth. Electronic waste contains more than 1,000 different compounds, mainly heavy metal components, precious metals, and other high-molecular organic substances which contain many toxic substances causing serious environmental pollution and affecting human health.

Table 1: Total amount of electronic waste in Vietnam through years

Year 2014 2016 2018
Total amount of electronic waste (Tons) 60,000 90,000 116,000

(Source: Department of Pollution Control, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment)

The Earth is burdening on its back the potential risks from this huge amount of waste, typically climate change is getting serious, causing millions of people to face the risk of lack of clean water. If not handled promptly, toxic chemicals such as cadmium, lead and mercury from electronic devices will gradually seep into underground water, discharged into the atmosphere, leading to serious water pollution.

Graph 1: Discarded electronics has increased in Vietnam

(Source: Department of Pollution Control, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment)

Green growth measures for businesses

Environmental protection is one of the social responsibilities that any company needs to take into account to build customer trust and sustainable development. In order to assert their position in the consumer market, some businesses have launched communication campaigns to raise public awareness about environmental protection, contributed to spreading the message of green living to dynamic young generation. Last year, Tata Power – an Indian power company – organized a campaign named Earth Week with the desire to provide new electronic waste treatment solutions to domestic consumers. Besides, the company also cooperated with Karo Sambhav organization to set up electronic waste collection centers across the country. Residents could visit the Tata Power website to sign up for this campaign and bring old technology items to the nearest collection center for proper recycling assistance. To encourage the participation of young people, Tata Power posted articles calling for response with a dense frequency on the Facebook fanpage; especially they gave coupons to those who brought electronics to collection centers.

In Vietnam, plastic waste is still a top concern of businesses. Numerous campaigns named “For a community without plastic waste” have been carried out every year, but at the same time, the strong propaganda activities to overcome the danger from electronic waste are very small. To maximize the role of saving resources, businesses can start by contacting non-governmental organizations to clean and collect obsolete equipment in the office, thereby maintaining the eco-friendly image for the brand by posting articles on efforts to reduce electronic waste regularly in the media. Moreover, businesses also hold a competition to recycle old technology products to promote creativity and solidarity between employees on environmental celebration days of the year. After the contest ended, the organizers posted meaningful and funny images during the competition on the company’s website to call the community to accompany the business on the path of limiting electronic waste and “greening” the Earth.

Many Vietnamese non-profit organizations have also been established to raise people’s awareness, reduce e-waste, and increase recycling, control the impact to environment, safety and health of human at the end of products’ use life cycle. These organizations also provide e-waste collection services to individuals, families, agencies, state organizations and corporate customers in major cities. In addition, they also organize dozens of collection center for used or faulty electronic devices and regularly organize many activities to raise the awareness of the Vietnamese people in contributing to build a greener planet.

Aware of environmental concerns as a top concern of the community, EloQ Communications is always ready to connect with customers with the same purpose to accompany them in their media campaigns, in order to disseminate useful lessons and advice for everyone in the media and on social networks.

Mr. Duy Ly, Head of External Relations of EloQ Communications, said: “The cooperation between EloQ and domestic and foreign companies is a great opportunity for us to spread beautiful actions to the community and society as well as raising awareness of environmental protection among young people in Vietnam. If each of us understands our responsibilities and contribute to building, I am sure that the world will become more and more beautiful.”

Typically, in order to show a sense of responsibility to the community that EloQ is also a member, the company has called on its staff and partners to delete spam emails and limit attachment, minimize the amount of email to protect the environment. Although the whole world is focusing on COVID-19, there are other social aspects that need attention from society. Environmental protection activities are not only limited by outdoor activities or limiting material waste, but “digital pollution” is also an issue that is gradually gaining worldwide attention.

Sending an email releases about 4g of CO2 on average. This emission corresponds to the amount of power that servers and data centers need to send and deliver e-mail to recipients. If the sender attaches additional files, this number may be up to 50g CO2. It is estimated that the amount of emissions generated by sending a person’s annual e-mail is equivalent to the emissions generated when driving on a 322-km road trip. Spam or unnecessary emails stored in mailboxes from year to year also consume power for backups. The total power that these data centers use to operate is up to 2% of global electricity. Reducing email storage reduces the amount of energy used to back up data, thereby reducing the amount of CO2 released into the environment. This is exactly why EloQ urges the community to respond to this online environmental protection measure.

According to the United Nation University’s forecast the whole world will be flooded with 120 tons of electronic waste by 2050. If not handled properly and promptly, it is what it is, we will soon be forced to daily inhale a large amount of dioxin from incinerators near the workplace and living area. Therefore, businesses and individuals should collect and recycle in accordance with the process, replicate this practical action to more young people for a green, clean and beautiful environment.

Table 2: The amount of electronic waste generated globally

Year The amount of electronic waste
(Thousand tons)
Population
(Billion people)
The amount of electronic waste generated per person
(kg/person/year)
2010 33.8 6.8 5.0
2011 35.8 6.9 5.2
2012 37.8 6.9 5.4
2013 39.8 7.0 5.7
2014 41.8 7.1 5.9
2015 43.8 7.2 6.1
2016 45.7 7.3 6.3
2017 47.8 7.4 6.5
2019 49.8 7.4 6.7

(Source: Baldé.C.P, Wang F, Kueher R, Huisman J, The Global E-Waste Monitor 2014 Quantitities, flows and resources, United Nation University)

In addition to environmental risks, electronic waste also poses a security threat to individuals and organizations. If a hard drive is not erased properly before it is removed, it could be compromised and could take away sensitive information. Credit card numbers, financial data and account information can be taken this way.

Electronic waste has become an alarming problem not only for Vietnam but also for the whole world. To gradually solve this problem, not only the involvement of the government, manufacturers or recycling companies, but also the participation of the whole society is needed. In particular, the most important thing is to change people’s perceptions and habits when using and discarding an electronic device. Building a closed collection, transportation and disposal system is an urgent requirement that needs to be debugged from the policy stage with detailed documents from the authorities. Companies involved in e-waste recycling should get maximum support from the supply, capital to technology. Therefore, in the future, Vietnam will really have an environmental industry specializing in recycling electronic waste.

 

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Author My Nguyen is a Communication – PR Intern at EloQ Communications. She studied at RMIT International University, Ho Chi Minh City and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Communications.

About EloQ Communications

EloQ Communications is an independent media company, taking role as the eyes, ears and voice of international customers in Vietnam. By combining domestic expertise with a global perspective, EloQ is partnering with local and foreign companies of different scales and industries to enhance brand image and expand their influence in Vietnam market.

EloQ strives constantly to ensure that the criteria are modern, transparent, advanced and flexible in the process of providing integrated marketing services, including PR, social media, digital marketing, and video marketing, working with influencers, brand and product promotion, crisis management, integrated strategic planning, and event planning. For more information, please visit https://www.eloqasia.com/en/.

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