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HP Refresh Programme: Ethical, Sustainable Technology Repurposing

January 21, 2021
Read Time 6 mins


Climate change is one of the largest problems facing humanity. Consumers have started to become more environmentally aware and in turn, companies have started to embrace sustainability into their business model. Sustainability and repurposing extends beyond the environment and also looks into social and economic areas. 

One of the biggest challenges in sustainability is to simultaneously reduce consumption in the developed world, while raising the standard of living in the developing world.  Here we examine some ways that your company or institution can make a positive difference in both education and the environment and what Hewlett-Packard (HP) and its largest distributor in South Africa, Tarsus Distribution is doing to facilitate sustainability when it comes to dealing with your e-waste. 

Make A Difference By Giving Back To Schools

First, we look at the educational situation in South Africa and what companies can do to simultaneously reduce e-waste and support the education system through the HP Refresh Programme. It has also been shown that areas with higher education tended to have more support for positive environmental policies and also engage in more environmentally friendly behaviour. 

Education is not only an excellent way to reduce inequality but education has been found to increase awareness and concern for the environment. People with higher educational levels were found to support environmentally friendly actions as well as act in more sustainable ways. 

South Africa has made great strides in the last few decades to expand access to education at all levels, but there is still a large number of teachers working with socio-economically disadvantaged students. E-learning has played a large role in improving the educational inequality in South Africa. Through the use of computers and tablets, children are able to get educated and have access to materials outside of the school. 

Make A Difference By Repurposing & Donating Used Electronics

In order to support e-learning, schools must have access to the computer hardware required to run the learning software and provide internet access to teachers and their students. The computing demands for this are not excessive and this is where companies and institutions can make a difference. 

In 2019, over 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste were thrown out, with only 17.4% of it recycled according to the last Global E-waste Monitor report. Much of the computers that are discarded are still in working condition and are well suited for educational uses. 

In cases where companies have recently made or are about to make significant upgrades in new equipment, donating the old hardware to education can be an excellent option towards sustainability. IT departments can take their computers, and wipe the data before donating them to educational programs across the world where those in need can benefit greatly. 

HP Refresh Programme

Electronic companies such as HP have set up numerous sustainability programmes, one of which is the HP Refresh Programme. This is set up to facilitate donations of any brand of computer or tablet, helping the previous owner to securely wipe the data from the computers before introducing them into the hands of schools, teachers, and students. 

Distributors of HP’s products such as Tarsus Distribution, located in South Africa are part of this programme and can work with companies to prepare their used computers for donation. By donating used computers and tablets to education, not only will the amount of e-waste be reduced, but it will have a positive impact on e-learning programmes which, in turn, also have positive environmental effects. 

HP’s Sustainability & Repurposing Impact At A Glance

Improving education in developing areas through the HP Refresh Programme is one area of sustainability. HP has been recognized as a leader in sustainability and its impact spans from education to plastic waste through all aspects of its supply chain, including suppliers and distributors such as Tarsus Distribution. 

Each year HP produces a comprehensive sustainability impact report with an update on its progress to date and upcoming goals. Here we take an overview of HP’s sustainability impact and how HP has been leading the way in ethical, sustainable technology repurposing from its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to education. Additionally we will review some of the sustainability goals for the future. 

A Circular & Low-Carbon Economy

The Sustainable Impact journey has focused on strategies that enable a more circular and low-carbon economy. By doing so, more value can be extracted from materials, while reducing environmental impact, and delivering transformative solutions to customers. 

Materials and products are kept in use by designing products for long life, offering service-based solutions, and recapturing products and materials at end-of-service. This has resulted in millions of hardware units repaired, remarketed, and reused, with over 130,000 tonnes being recycled. 

A focus on regenerate natural systems has resulted in over 1 million pounds of plastics that were bound for waste to be used in products since 2016. Additionally, 200,000 acres of forests have been restored or protected through the HP sustainable Forests Collaborative. 

A low-carbon future has led to improvements in product energy efficiency and decreased carbon and water footprints. Currently 43% renewable electricity is used in global HP operations with a goal to hit 100% by 2035 leading to significant reduction in GHG emissions intensity. 

By designing out waste and using materials responsibly we are able to have 39% of material in products and packaging  from renewable and sustainably sourced materials. 


While many will recognize HP as an electronics company, we also have a line of HP brand paper and use paper products in packaging and other materials. In 2016 HP set out to eliminate deforestation from our paper and paper-based packaging supply chain.  

This was achieved in 2019 with our HP brand paper, and we continue to work towards achieving zero deforestation associated with paper-based product packaging by the end of 2020. With paper representing about 20% of our carbon footprint, this will have a significant positive impact on the environment. 

Global Education

Increasing education in a population has been shown to have a positive impact on both the reduction in inequality as well as the population’s environmental awareness. HP has various educational programmes that look to bring opportunities to the most vulnerable and marginalized communities in the world. 

From 2015, the learning outcomes of over 28 million students have been improved through HP’s programmes. The donation of used computers and printers through the HP Refresh Programme has helped to bring education to where it is needed most. 

Moving Forward

Going into the future there are still areas where we can further improve our sustainability. Here are some of the goals that HP has set for its future sustainable impact goals: 

  • Reduce HP product use GHG emissions intensity by 30% by 2025 
  • Reduce first-tier production supplier and product transportation related GHG emissions intensity by 10% by 2025 
  • Reach 60% renewable electricity in global operations by 2025 and reach 100% by 2035 
  • Double factory participation in our supply chain sustainability programs by 2025 
  • Enable better learning outcomes for 100 million people by 2025 

Repurposing: Good For Business & The Environment

There should be little doubt that sustainability is beneficial for the environment, and the socio-economic status of everyone, but is it also good for business? Beyond creating an environmentally friendly brand image, there are solid business reasons for being sustainable as well as social and environmental ones. 

Many companies have started to incorporate sustainability and repurposing into its business model as more and more of their clients and customers become more environmentally aware. Here are five reasons why sustainability makes good business sense and some simple things that can be done to reduce the environmental impact of your operation and have a positive impact on education. 

1. It Improves Employee Engagement

It has been shown that when companies invest in sustainability and incorporate it into their products and operations, employees get more engaged which can create higher productivity and profitability. This is particularly true of the millennial and Gen Y populations. 

2. Lower Expenses

By promoting sustainable practices such as turning off lights or using energy efficient technology businesses can save on energy, water, and other resources the overall expenses and costs can be significantly reduced. 

3. Customers Will Pay For It

Many customers are willing to pay more for sustainability and actively seek out products that are environmentally friendly or have recycling or repurposing programmes. But keep in mind that it has been found that consumers also look for companies with internal policies that reflect the sustainability message in their marketing and on their packaging. 

4. It Can Lead To Innovation

By doing more with less, new innovations can be made from product design through to packaging. More sustainable materials which turn out to be less expensive than the alternative are being created by other companies. Yet another example of how aiming for sustainability can lead to cost savings. 

5. Reduction In E-waste While Improving Education With Repurposing

Electronic waste has become a significant problem with millions of tonnes thrown out each year. Many sustainability programmes now include repurposing of electronics, with many going to support schools and education in less well off areas of the world. By supporting educational programmes, businesses can put less e-waste into landfills, and play a role in reducing inequality. 

Sustainable & Repurposing Practices

There are basic things that companies can do to be sustainable without spending significant sums of money. Much starts at the individual level and the message that is sent out to employees. Here are a few things that can be done in the workplace: 

  • Switch to energy-efficient lights 
  • Turn your computers off rather than standby 
  • Open the windows and save on air conditioning 
  • Encourage staff to carpool or take public transit 
  • Remove disposable cups and plates from the lunch room 
  • Have a recycling programme for your electronic waste 
  • Do business with companies that are also sustainable 

There are many things that companies can do to create a sustainable business model. One of the large programmes that HP and its distributors such as Tarsus Distribution have set up are disposal of e-waste. Computers, tablets, or other relevant electronics can all be wiped of data and then put to use in e-learning environments. 

Improving the education of women and children has been shown to reduce the socio-economic inequality that they face. This has additional benefits of promoting sustainability as those with more education tend to be more environmentally friendly in policies they support and actions they take. In addition this reduces the amount of e-waste that is ending up in landfills around the world. 

Tarsus Distribution is the longest-established IT distributor and the leading distributor of HP products in South Africa. We are positioned to provide credit funding, stock availability and efficient logistics so that resellers can deliver the best possible service and solutions to small and mid-sized end-user customers. 

Part of our focus is on generating solutions in response to customers’ needs. We are committed to reducing our environmental impact through internal energy-saving and recycling programmes, and supplying e-Waste containers both internally and to our customers. 

Tarsus Distribution has branches in Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, and Free State, with its head office in Gauteng. We have also started extending into the rest of Africa with branches in Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia. 

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