Creating the Circular IT Economy

Creating the Circular IT Economy

London, United KingdomLondon, United Kingdom
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

What if every time a big business swapped out old technology for something newer, we could set aside some money to invest building the capabilities of developing communities and future generations?
Can the IT industry ‘self-fulfil’ by using current changes to enable and accelerate future change?
It’s time for change

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In 2011 77% of the UK’s eWaste was being illegally exported to West Africa. At the same time the UK is facing a growing digital exclusion as more and more services move on line. In 2011 1 in 4 adults in the UK did not have access to the internet, the government estimates these people are missing out on over £560 per year. These issues are complex and interrelated; in one case we have a problem controlling the downstream recycling of unwanted IT equipment and in another case we have a large part of our society that cannot afford access to IT. These issues are not confined to the UK, they are a global problem.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The programme will look to leverage partnerships created between all the parties involved in the sales, sourcing, redistribution, and use of IT. The unique aspect of the proposed model is that each party makes a contribution to the funding, but at no time is any party at a commercial disadvantage. In other words – no one actually needs to do anything particularly different – simply set aside some of the funding that is already contained within the value chain. The concept is circular in nature because we are using money generated from technology refreshes that are occurring now, in order to fund the programmes that will enable further technology change in both current and future generations.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Step One: Business Driven Technology Change. Every large organisation in the world needs to upgrade end of life technology. This idea protects the value throughout the end-to-end process, converting it to social agenda funds. Step Two: Generate investment from technology refresh, major hardware and software vendors run channel programmes with major systems integrators, we will leverage these programmes and convert some of this alliance investments into funding for social programmes. Then in the last step of the value chain Accenture can partner with “social enterprises” like ICT Refurbishment to generate value from end of life assets helping to reduce eWaste, increase the funding available and help bridge the digital divide. Step Three: Support sustainability and organisational development. What makes the idea truly unique is to link this together with Accenture Development Partnerships (ADP) an internal “not for profit” arm of Accenture. ADP’s innovative business model applies a multiplier effect on the funds available. Step Four: Drive innovation & build capabilities. The programme delivered helps to build new capabilities in developing and emerging economies. Creating new opportunities and the next generation of leaders. And for the clients that have been involved, they get to “see round corners” into developing economies which will enable business transformation in high growth markets which will lead back to step one.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The idea leverages the huge IT spend of global companies, the biggest challenge is when clients see IT purchases and disposals as commodity excercieses conducted by procurement departments. We need to engage at a higher level to convince clients this is a simple and easy way to make a real difference.

Founding Story

There were two moments, the first was when I met Steven Coates, the CEO of ICT Refurbishment. He was telling me over a drink about how he had left behind his corporate career to set up ICTR to address the sustainability issues of technology. He was explaining how he decided not to set up as a charity but as a commercial enterprise. His ideas about how to do this profitably resonated with ideas I have been having myself. The second moment was having lunch discussing the idea with a client. They talked about Accentures internal social programme Accenture Development Partnerships and I began to think about how we could link these two concepts together.
About You
About You
First Name


Tell us about yourself/your team.

I realised at a young age whilst living in Hong Kong in the mid-80s that I had an affinity for Technology. It was later that I found that I was actually more interested in the socio-economic impact of technology, rather than technology for its own sake. I would like to regard myself as a ‘techie that talks English!’. By that I mean that I’m someone who is good at articulating the personal and business value of complex technologies and processes, in simple terms that ‘normal’ people can understand. I am currently a Technology Alliances Director at Accenture.

What makes you an intrapreneur? What are the skills, capabilities, and personality traits that make you an intrapreneur?

I love to create – being in at the start of something new is the most challenging and rewarding time. Within corporate life my track record is developing new products. I spent several years launching services for market leaders including O2, Dell, and Reuters. I also ran my own business (Communications). I’ve always been driven by a moral compass – to rise above the day job to give something back. Starting an idea like this in an organisation like Accenture, there are a thousand reasons it won’t work – but I have the belief that it will. That’s how to make a difference.

About Your Organization
Company Country

, LND, London

Primary country where this project is creating social impact

, LND, London

Additional countries or regions

The intention is that the programmes it will fund will be global, with a focus on developing economies in Africa and Asia


Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services

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Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Idea (you're poised to launch)

The Solution: Why is this solution innovative for your company and industry?

This project looks at that entire value chain spend and creates a mechanism for the IT industry, together with its largest clients and beneficiaries, to give something back to developing economies and future generations. It creates a sustainable approach to IT that has not been done before.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

We are still in start up mode however we have already began to develop the concept with one of Accentures key global clients (a global retail bank.) We have defined the principles of how this could work, we have engaged with their citizenship team and they are really excited about the idea and we are hoping to start a pilot with them before the end of January.

What is your projected impact over the next 1 to 3 years?

The one client we are planning to start the pilot with has the potential to deliver over £1m into the fund in the first year. With Accenture’s global reach and brand in the market place we could quickly scale this up to over 100 companies within 3 years which could deliver over £100m into the fund.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

Existing contracts and existing relationships with IT suppliers and service companies and disposal companies that our clients will have an agenda not to interfere with to support the scheme. We will engage with our clients at a higher level than procurement teams and show through success of pilot projects how this idea can work and make a real difference, it will take time to get embedded.

Internal barriers – risks associated with each part of the process, sourcing, disposal of old technology. Making sure we can run scheme without adversely affecting our clients will require a fair amount of rigor. We need to avoid worse PR if something went wrong. This needs to be a gold plated solution for our clients, it needs to be delivered without compromise and must be commercially viable.

What is the benefit or value you're creating for your business?

We are leveraging our brand with our technology partners and within the IT ecosystem and doing something profound with it. Supporting our brand as a highly responsible business with integrity Internally we are developing output for ADP projects – servicing high demand for people who want to go onto ADP programmes as we grow which will help with recruitment and motivation.

How are you leveraging internal resources (funds, time, knowledge, etc.) to support this initiative?

We will use Accenture’s alliances team as well as some people from the ADP team working together to develop and deliver this. Within the alliances team it is centrally funded and as long as we are leveraging the investment from alliance partners we can use some of this to fund this programme. The ADP team are centrally funded but many of them have taken a voluntary pay cut which creates a combination from Accenture funding and their own personal investment.

Expand on your answer, explaining the long-term funding and support plan.

The uniqueness of the idea is that it self funds, utilizing existing mechanisms to divert value to a citizenship agenda.

Tell us about your partnerships across your company and externally that are key to your project's success.

ADP and the clients and the NGOS they work with. Relationships with major IT vendors that enable the investment and new partners to refurbish and recover the value of redundant technology.

What internal support have you gotten for your project? What kind of push-back have you received?

We are still in start up mode however initial support has been given by global head of the ADP programme, Accenture’s key corporate citizenship programme. We have also received support from the client lead partner for the client we are working on the pilot programme with.