The Internet has enabled massive dematerialization of traditional brick and mortar industries through the emergence of online services such as shopping, banking, communications and entertainment. However, this success has been accompanied by rapid growth in the Internet's own increased material consumption and waste generation. Akamai is front and center in the Internet industry (albeit behind-the-scenes!) and has been working diligently to get in front of this challenge by implementing socially - and environmentally - responsible reuse and recycling initiatives.
In 2008, Akamai launched a sustainability initiative to actively address and manage the growing environmental impact of our operations. It was clear early on that the decommissioning of network and corporate electronic equipment such as servers, laptops and monitors, was a significant aspect of this impact in the form of electronic waste ("e-waste"). Our platform was growing at a rapid rate and, hence, so was the amount of equipment we were decommissioning. But, we did not monitor the fate of this decommissioned equipment other than that it was being shipped to one of our asset management (e-waste) vendors or stockpiled in a warehouse, which was not only of no value to anyone but also a cost to Akamai. Where did the equipment really go? Did it have residual value? Was it properly disposed of? These were important questions for both good business and sustainability management.
The first step was to educate ourselves about electronic waste and its proper disposal. As one might expect, we became familiar with the Basel Action Network (BAN). Through BAN we learned about the potential hazards (no pun intended) of electronic waste disposal including the negative impacts to remote communities, as depicted in the photo below, as well as potential security and reputational risks to Akamai. BAN through its e-Stewards initiative developed a certification program for asset management companies. This certification program helps Akamai verify that the vendors we are using and their downstream vendors comply with a set of standards that ensures the secure and socially- and environmentally-responsible disposal of our electronic waste. The U.S. EPA has a "Responsible Recycling Practices" (R2) certification program that tries to achieve similar aims. The e-Stewards certification was invaluable to Akamai because we would not have had the resources to conduct this level of due diligence. After a thorough evaluation process we selected several e-waste partners. We are also developing internal procedures and training materials to help ensure that 100% of our electronic waste is processed through these certified partners.
Akamai's sustainability strategy around material consumption is first to reduce consumption as much as possible followed by reuse and recycle. Our e-Stewards-certified vendors help us achieve the latter two by reselling equipment that has residual value, turning what was a cost into an asset, and recycling as much recovered material as possible with minimal to no landfill. We quickly expanded the program to include our decommissioned corporate electronic assets.
Akamai is now processing tens of thousands of electronic assets annually, confident that we are recovering their full economic value, supporting employment in remote communities while reducing social and environmental impact.
More information about Akamai's overall environmental sustainability initiative can be found here: www.akamai.com/sustainability, or you can contact Nicola Peill-Moelter, Akamai's Director of Environmental Sustainability firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remote communities negatively impacted by the irresponsible disposal of electronic waste.
Nicola Peill-Moelter is Akamai's Director of Environmental Sustainability