Wanzl gives IT hardware a second life: Cooperation with AfB social & green IT

At Wanzl, obsolete laptops and mobile phones are now kinder to the environment and promote inclusion

Green IT involves much more than a paperless office. Green IT also means, among other things, responsible handling of procurement and disposal, or ideally the recycling of used corporate hardware. The Leipheim-based company Wanzl, which recently joined the world’s largest voluntary sustainability initiative, the UN Global Compact, is now working with the IT refurbisher AfB social & green IT. AfB is a multi-award-winning inclusion company where people with and without disabilities work together in the regular labour market. This promotes the social participation of people with disabilities. The company specialises in the environmentally friendly and resource-conserving refurbishment of IT hardware.

In modern corporate IT, large quantities of old equipment accumulate on a regular basis – from laptops, smartphones to power supply units. It is a challenge to repurpose them professionally in accordance with the requirements of data protection and information security, and therefore involves a considerable amount of work. “Scrapping has always been something I’ve been personally opposed to and is no longer a fitting solution in this day and age. Our stock of old devices is constantly growing in the hope that it will be possible to put them to good use again,” said Dierk Meissner, Senior Vice President Global IT at Wanzl, and added: “Many of the devices are well suited to a second life after professional use, as they were often only replaced due to expired manufacturer warranties or to standardise infrastructure. Collaboration with AfB is the solution to this.”

Recently, the first lot of trolleys from Wanzl, which are compliant with dangerous goods regulations, were brought to the nearest AfB branch carrying decommissioned notebooks, monitors, PCs and smartphones. At AfB, the used hardware, which is usually still fully functional, is refurbished, all data is deleted and the devices are equipped with the latest operating system and sold. This extends the useful life of a smartphone, for example, from around two to four years. Avoiding new production reduces emissions and conserves valuable resources. Devices that cannot be remarketed are properly disassembled and recycled.

Beyond this ecological contribution, used hardware at AfB is not only “green”, but also “social”. This is because it is a non-profit inclusion company. Of the approximately 650 employees, around 49 percent are severely disabled. Hence the name “AfB”: Arbeit für Menschen mit Behinderung (translation: work for people with disabilities). For this exceptional business model that successfully combines environmental and social sustainability, AfB was awarded the IT Business Distri Award Gold for Refurbishing & Remarketing 2023, the German SDG Award 2022 and the German Sustainability Award 2021. Through the partnership with AfB, Wanzl is taking an important step towards contributing to the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and assuming its responsibility for the environment and society. AfB contributes to seven SDGs through its socio-ecological IT services. The partnership between Wanzl and AfB strengthens the impact of these SDGs and contributes, among other things, to increasing awareness of environmentally friendly recycling of IT hardware.