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Circular Economy Podcast - Episode 77 Steve Haskew – Remanufactured laptops

Steve Haskew of Circular Computing is back to tell Catherine how Circular Computing was awarded the world’s first BSI Kitemark™ for Remanufactured Laptops from the British Standards Institute.

Steve explains what a Kitemark is, and why it’s important. Steve also tells us how the Kitemark has opened up conversations with new customers and partners, and why it’s important to realise that a zero carbon future can only happen if we go all-in for a circular economy.

Podcast host Catherine Weetman is a circular economy business advisor, workshop facilitator, speaker and writer.  Her award-winning book: A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business includes lots of practical examples and tips on getting started.  Catherine founded Rethink Global in 2013, to help businesses use circular, sustainable approaches to build a better business (and a better world).

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Read on for a summary of the podcast and links to the people, organisations and other resources we mention.

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Links we mention in the episode:

Steve Haskew Circular Computing

About Steve Haskew

Steve Haskew specialises in a Circular Economy business model, specifically within the IT industry – a “Super Looper”. 

He has a deep understanding of the UN SDG’s, of resource preservation challenges, ethics in the supply chain, a wide knowledge of positive change required in eWaste, and reverse logistics – and the interdependent relationships these have, with an acceleration to a Carbon Net Zero future.

He is a regular keynote at Governmental level, the UN and EU helping to build the bridges to the Circular Economy and sustainability in the IT industry as the transition to a Circular Economy takes hold. 

About Circular Computing

Circular Computing exists to create a more ethical, sustainable and socially responsible way to buy enterprise grade IT.

The world’s first remanufactured laptops: We set out on a mission with a simple thought: How can we remanufacture a laptop to be ‘like new’?

For us, ‘new’ meant not simply a cosmetically improved finish, but an intense focus on the performance and reliability of the laptop too. This was pioneering activity, but one we felt confident we could achieve with real focus.

Plans for the construction of the world’s first remanufacturing facility began from here and Circular Computing initiated several research and development journeys to define the ‘how’ and, as of 2021, we have perfected our unique remanufacturing process which has been certified with a BSI Kitemark.

Our remanufactured premium-brand HP, Dell and Lenovo second-user laptops deliver a product with the performance of new models and an RMA of less than 3%.

Interview Transcript

Provided by AI – add ~2 mins for the finished episode

Catherine Weetman  00:02

Steve, welcome back to the circular economy podcast. After we spoke last time about all the benefits of remanufactured it back in episode 24, I was so impressed that I finally decided to replace my seven year old Dell laptop by buying a remanufactured Circular Computing Dell laptop. So thanks very much to you for sorting out all the logistics and the setup support for that was great to have as a client. And in this quick update, I know you’re keen to tell us about the developments with the Kitemark. But first of all, can you explain what a Kitemark is?

Steve Haskew  01:01

Of course, the Kitemark is a British Standards Institute mark of trust for consumers. And quite often Catherine, it’s a precursor to ISOs. So for instance, ISO 14001, which is an environmental standard, the precursor to that was was designed by the British Standards Institute, from which then the International Standards Organisation can adopt best practice. So the Kitemark for us represents a third party verification around us a standard within BSI, which is a technical thing called called BS, 8887. And that particular standard says your output from the from a factory must produce a laptop equal to or better than new. And the BSI Kitemark certifies to our users that that actually is true.

Catherine Weetman  01:58

That’s a really good phrase, isn’t it? Better than or equal to a new one. So that’s, that’s a really great label to have on on the product. Yeah. And I’m curious to know why Circular Computing decided to pursue the Kitemark and what it involved.

Steve Haskew  02:17

And our target has always been b2b. And the product itself is central to industry and public sector clients day to day operations is how they do their day job. If you come to them with a product offering that in any way compromises their ability to perform their job, then they’re not going to engage with you. So the only way that they can get confidence is if a recognised third party actually comes by audit your factory looks at what you do has a really thorough understanding of the process. And then and then confirms actually, what these guys are doing. And what they’re saying, is matter of fact, true. The Kitemark then represents a not it’s more so for our customer, it removes the perception that an alternative to new is second best or second user is second best when it when in fact, if you have a process to bring things back to a new state, is actually much better.

Catherine Weetman  03:25

And we had a similar discussion, or I had a similar discussion with Astrid [Wynne] at Techbuyer, where they realised that their remanufactured enterprise equipment was more reliable than new. And that was probably because of the multiple extra tests that it went through instead of just batch testing on the end of a production line. And so how’s getting that Kitemark actually changed things.


We were engaged in different parts of our supply chain, we have the the upstream. So the products come into our factory, the production of those to a new circuit circuit computing device. Then the downstream was where this really made an impact. Shortly after we received the Kitemark so in and around August, September time, we signed heads of terms with Panasonic, they have a range of laptops called a Toughbook which are are effectively military grade products. By their by their nature, they’re very expensive, so they would be four to 5000 pounds sterling. And as a result of that the the barrier to entry for them is really high for their customers because obviously, the the the volume of machines that a customer can buy is limited to the budget spend, whereas a remanufactured device might come in at less than 1000 pounds, that then opens their market completely away to a new audience. Because the barrier to entry is so much lower, in addition to to Panasonic – which  and that was an amazing event that that there’s no way that Panasonic would reputation engage with an organisation with their brand if they felt at all compromised. So that was a real big kind of rubber stamp on our our ability to perform. And secondary to that is at an organisation called ATOS. They turnover maybe 17 billion a very, very large global systems integrator that lists on the French Stock Exchange. And there are super company to work with. They have a decarbonisation strategy, they’re helping their clients decarbonize. And again, following the Kitemark, they could take confidence that actually, we were in the right state, to be represented by their brand to their market. They’ve gotten Of course, these things will take time in terms of entry to market as their customers get to learn about what we do. But we have a room two really good bedfellows and Panasonic, and ATOS now that are taking us into into their market and allowing us to help their clients decarbonize their idea state.

Catherine Weetman  06:07

And it’s a really good vote of confidence in in the whole concept of remanufacturing, isn’t it? Yeah, it starts to open up all sorts of other conversations inside those companies. And so I gather, you’ve also been keeping an eye on UK Government policies, including the UK environment bill and the Greening IT strategy. So can you tell us anything about the targets for public procurement, which we know there’s a massive opportunity to help for public procurement to help things go circular, and give good circular signals and direction to all their suppliers? So what what can you tell us about what’s been happening there?


If we look at say the environment bill that was drawn up in, in, in Teresa May’s tenure, that’s gone through Royal Assent. And when we look at the environment bill, we consider particularly resource preservation, which sits under SDG 12, sustainable production and consumption, which we believe has a direct impact on SDG 13. In fact, the evidence suggests that that’s very much the case. If you look at the key drivers in those sustainable development goals, we must, we must take direction from from the United Nations in that regard. But the reason that that’s an important event is it enabled the Greening ICT agenda which has been driven by Defra, which has three main business rules to really kind of grab hold. And those those three business rules are business rule, one, that they required themselves to meet net zero by 2050, or, or sooner, which means two things. One, they must consume renewable energy as 100%. And two, they will only work with carbon neutral suppliers. So that’s business rule one, business rule two, which is a circular economy and resource to waste strategy. They want to see a yearly increase in procured ICT and services. That’s from a remanufactured or refurbished estate. But we obviously look into remanufactured and they want naught percent a landfill, and an annual increase in reuse and material recycling and preservation. So that fits within a circular economy basically. And then business rule, Tip three is to meet transparency and accountability, accountability commitments, which looks into the into ethics, modern day slavery, and those themes, which is also incredibly important. And as an organisation, we’re able to bring those three things to the public sector.

Steve Haskew  08:38

And we see the public sector as being a key component of change here, whilst they’re a big, a big sort of tanker to change direction. They have been working tirelessly under the radar for like 15 years on these themes. So it’s not as if they’ve just come come to market and woken up. It’s just that they needed more stars to align. And I think that we see the shortage in in global microchips currently being a key driver to accelerate this transition because the alternative to new if you don’t think of an alternative product is nothing. So if there’s no supply in the supply chain, and you’re not prepared to explore an alternative version of new then the only other choice is not is nothing. So we’ve seen public sector having to look into the alternatives which is second use a marketplace, refurbished and then remanufactured as a separate grade. And and a lot the last year or so has been has been very good for us. It’s allowed us to learn how that how that market works. So allow us to engage that market meaningfully working with the supply chain and the reseller market to make sure that their contracts can be completed and so forth. So ultimately, we believe that was the public sector grab hold of it. And there are certain things in there also that our Public Procurement Notices, which says if you’re if you’re not on board with a decarbonisation strategy yourself, then there’s no place for you at the table, which is right, which means that all suppliers to government need to decarbonize, which means that their supply chains need to decarbonize. So you get this rippling effect out towards the edges of society, which means that everything will take hold the public sector of being in our market, the biggest consumer of it. So it’s a really positive thing, the environment bill and the greening ICT agenda.

Catherine Weetman  10:37

It’s great to see. And I think it’s back to that adage, isn’t it that constraints drive innovation, you know, the more the more you constrain, strain, what’s available, the more creative people have to get. And I think whilst microchips are kind of in the news a lot at the moment, I always encourage people to think about everything in their resource list their bill of materials, you know, what, what might you not expect to be disrupted, whether that’s by, you know, global demand increasing, or some kind of disruption to supply, and we’re looking at weather events, and all sorts of other things that are going to affect a whole host of materials. So it’s, you know, it’s really worth thinking from a business perspective of what happens if I can’t get this product or this material. You know, what, what am I dependent on? What alternatives do I have? And the whole thing about reusing what we’ve already got? Is, is absolutely key to that, isn’t it?


I think so i think i think also, if, as individuals, we take a step back and say, Okay, we know that the greening, the greening build back better agenda is coming, that that’s, that’s been underwritten by all major political organisations around the world. You know, they require the same compelling technology that a laptop needs, whether it be an electric vehicle, a wind, farm, solar, hydro, whichever way you look, they still they all require the same component technology. So whether it’s a microchip shortage or a goal shortage, or whatever the components required to make a laptop, they’re going to, even though the laptop demand has gone from one 60 million to two 50 million because of COVID. And that looks like it’s going to be maintained at two 50 million additional to that the rest of the world wants the same component technology. So everyone’s dipping into the the ever-vanishing pool of resources that globe has to offer. So I actually think there’s common sense of play here as well, which is, we recognise as a problem, we just need to know where to look for solutions. And then it’s about perception, and the education and the training of everybody in the supply line to make sure that there’s no compromise. Of course, as a remanufacturer, we rely on the the very best version of a laptop out at the first and the first stage. So we need original product to remanufacture. So we believe being part of the solution, as the manufacturers make this transition from a linear economy to a circular economy kind of is our principal job is to is to teach to educate, and to make sure that we don’t lose sight of the commercial reality of that we know we need to turn the lights on at the end of the day. But to help everybody make the transition as part of our job,

Catherine Weetman  13:25

yeah, yeah. And I know you were very interested in what was happening at COP 26, Last Last late last year, and we saw lots of new corporate netzero and science based targets, sort of being publicised as part of that, how have science based targets and the Kitemark change the conversations with people in the C suite and with customers IT teams.


It was, I was fortunate enough to get to Glasgow for COP 26. And I think, I think it helped me, help me really reshape my thinking with with what we’re achieving. And that is that the circular economy has remanufacturing as a as a as a part of it. In fact, it sits in the hierarchy of the circular economy in terms of extending the lifecycle of a product. But certainly by doing that, you’re you’re reducing the the factory output of carbon those carbon emissions, and therefore the circular economy sits as a as a centre to a decarbonized future. But we rely upon other third party parts of industry to hit net zero. So saying we’re going to do net zero by certain time, the intent is brilliant. But for instance, we know we make things and we move things around the globe as an organisation that that’s our day job. So we rely on sustained sustainable aviation fuel and carriers to use sustainable aviation fuel to transport our product. Or we could go by sea, you know, or if we could, if we could, we could walk it across the, the borders. But time is very much of the essence with our line of products. So generally we’ll fly it, we we’re relying therefore on third parties to use Sustainable Aviation Fuel, which is more expensive, and our consumers won’t pay the additional. So we have to go down an offset path in the short term. Do I think we’re going to get there, I do think we’re going to get there. But it’s going to it’s going to take a shift in behaviour, which we spoke about earlier on Catherine, and just a willingness to want to be a better version tomorrow. And I think coming out of the troubles of the last few years, which have been in my lifetime, like nothing I’ve ever seen, I get a sense that the sun is brighter, that people actually are prepared to make an effort to build back better and do things more differently. I think now is the time to help people on that journey. I think that’s part of our job, which is why being involved with you on this podcast is super important for us.

Catherine Weetman  16:14

Yeah, I think it’s, it’s interesting, isn’t it, that it comes back to the constraints and innovation again, that we did things, you know, everybody had to do things during the lockdown and during the pandemic that we never would have considered. And suddenly, mindsets changed. And we realised how quickly if we all did something, how quickly things could change. And so that kind of realisation that if we all do small things, big things can happen. You know, if we all take care around other people and wear masks and you know, wash our hands loads of times, then we can help keep a pandemic under control. Just by doing very simple things, then that I think can encourage people that by making slightly different purchasing decisions, slightly different decisions about what we eat. I was just reading something in the Guardian at the weekend that I posted on LinkedIn about restaurants using nudge tactics to remind people about what’s happening with the environment. And to remind people about how many of other people have chosen to eat less meats. And they found that putting those statements on menus meant that people chose more veggie options. So very simple things can encourage different behaviour and normalise things in a very short space of time. So what we need is, you know, people, people making buying decisions in companies to be happy to have a circular mindset, don’t we sit there thinking about circular first. And linear is kind of last resort. And I

Steve Haskew  17:53

I think so, and I also think that the the way that we the way that we think through buying needs to be a societal thing, you know, when I’m buying something, I tend to because I’ve I’m in the business, I tend to think is this the most sustainable way I can procure this this item? Do I actually know what that means? You know, and and in asking those questions, you stop and think about actually what what you’re doing. And you require an answer that is more sustainable than just convenience or bite from there because it’s really convenient. Unless you stop and think.

Catherine Weetman  18:38

Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah, I think and and just deciding what questions you’re going to ask and thinking about what’s it what’s important to you, you know, is it is local, more important than then? I don’t know the the carbon footprints or whatever, everybody should have their own set of values in terms of what’s it because, you know, there are some trade offs on that. But yeah, so. So it’s it’s really good to hear about all that progress. And you know, the Kitemark is really impressive and sounds like it’s opening up some some different conversations with important companies that can really make a difference. And as we said, normalise remanufactured kit and get across the message that it’s as good as if not better in some cases, than buying new. So Steve, before you go, could you please let us know how people can find out more about circular computing and get in touch with the company and you?

Steve Haskew  19:38

Of course, thank you, Catherine. Our website is www dot circular You can find us on Twitter @CircularIT as well as LinkedIn. Circular Computing would be the hashtag there, and we welcome inquiries about sustainability. Obviously, we welcome enquiries about laptops, but we’re here We’re here to help with a journey.

Catherine Weetman  20:01

Thank you so much, Steve. And that’s great to brings up today on a few of the developments that Circular Computing and I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s next. And I’ll keep spreading the word on all the benefits of remanufactured IT

Steve Haskew  20:14

Catherine, you’re a game changer. Thank you.

Want to find out more about the circular economy?

If you’d like to learn more about the circular economy and how it could help your business, why not listen to Episode 1, or read our guide: What is the Circular Economy

To go deeper, you could buy Catherine’s book, A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business. This comprehensive guide uses a bottom-up, practical approach, and includes hundreds of real examples from around the world, to help you really ‘get’ the circular economy.  Even better, you’ll be inspired with ideas to make your own business more competitive, resilient and sustainable. 

Please let us know what you think of the podcast – and we’d love it if you could leave us a review on iTunes, or wherever you find your podcasts.  Or send us an email

Podcast music

Thanks to Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow, otherwise known as the brilliant, inventive and generous folk duo, O’Hooley & Tidow for allowing me to use the instrumentals from the live version of Summat’s Brewin’ as music for the podcast. You can find the whole track (inspired by the Copper Family song “Oh Good Ale”) on their album, also called Summat’s Brewin’.  Or, follow them on Twitter.

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77 Steve Haskew – the world’s first Kitemark for remanufactured laptops