Close The Gap: LCL's partner for greater social and environmental impact

Published by LCL Data Centers
February 07, 2024 @ 10:27 AM

In well-chosen, sustainable partnerships lie powerful levers. LCL therefore takes on the role of ambassador for Close the Gap (mission: reducing the digital divide worldwide) and Digital For Youth (mission: safe and easy access to a laptop for all children and youth in Belgium). By giving enterprises’ ICT equipment a second life, Close the Gap reduces waste and increases opportunities for those who have less. As a pacesetter, the data centre company shares that impactful story with its stakeholders.

And a story with impact it is: since its founding in 2003, Close The Gap has served 4 million beneficiaries globally through more than 7,600 projects in more than 50 countries. Each year, the non-profit organisation gives a second life to 130,000 appliances it collects worldwide. “That’s a lot and too little at the same time,” says Managing Director Didier Appels from the working studio in Mechelen. “A lot because that makes us the market leader, but little when you consider how much ICT equipment companies decommission every year. There is a lot of potential that we still want to tap into by reminding companies and organisations that they can do a great favour with their somewhat outdated ICT environment and fellow human beings.” The partnership with LCL is aimed at just that. Marketing & Communications Manager Valérie Van Roy: “We look beyond the boundaries of one’s own company. By making our customers and suppliers aware of the existence and usefulness of Close the Gap, we want to create leverage.”

For the record, Close the Gap is not looking for laptops and other hardware that have long passed their expiration date. “Our goal is to have a social impact with end users through the ICT materials collected and brought up to date: disadvantaged youth at home (Digital For Youth) or individuals in developing countries (Close the Gap). When we ship out 10-year-old, non-performing computers, we are pushing a problem rather than providing a solution.”

“By giving ICT materials a second life, we create an ecological and a social impact. With Close the Gap and Digital For Youth, we help underprivileged youth build a better future. We are thrilled that LCL wants to help make a difference and that we can count the data centre company among our donor partners and ambassadors.” - Didier Appels – Co-founder and Managing Director of Close the Gap

Data guaranteed to be deleted

And so Close the Gap looks primarily to corporations, organisations and governments as donating partners. “Often the devices they are taking for services rendered are still in good condition and recent enough. They also usually involve the same brands of high-end devices, allowing us to build the right expertise to repair defects. For those companies, we are a one-stop shop for all IT equipment, because we collect not only laptops, but also desktops, printers, tablets, screens, smartphones, and servers that we need for our projects. A big advantage for partner companies is that we have specific software to delete data and deliver an attestation for each device so that it is opposable to third parties.” 

Most of the appliances collected are completely refurbished and given a second life. What Close the Gap cannot reuse for its projects goes to a broker or is recycled. “We get part of our income from that as a non-profit organisation, another part comes from sales to our projects, although we do that well below the market price. For example, if the value of a four-year-old refurbished laptop is 400 euros, we offer it to our projects for 120 euros. Our motto is ‘high quality, low-cost device’. Not a ‘free device’. Experience shows that this, too, promotes sustainability: if you pay for something, you take better care of it and it is used longer.” 



A major responsibility of Close the Gap to partner donors is ensuring that the material ends up where it belongs, and where it has an impact. “At the slightest doubt, we take action. Each year we also publish an impact report on our projects. Initially, Close the Gap’s focus was on the digital divide between North and South. With the advent of Digital for Youth – founded by Close the Gap and DNS Belgium – domestic projects were added. Those are selected by the King Baudouin Foundation.” 

That ESG is encroaching on the agenda of more and more companies makes Didier Appels hopeful. “Companies that want to work on their ‘E’ or their ‘S,’ or both, may find their way to us. That’s where an ambassador like LCL can lend a big hand. And together we can tell their employees and other stakeholders a strong story where planet and people are central.”  

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