Interview with Asurion Europe CEO Gavin Miller

Gavin Miller, Asurion Europe CEO, on Charting Sustainable Paths, the Role of 'Right to Repair' & Responsible Electronics Manufacturing & Disposal Policies

Asurion is often described as a ‘tech care company’. But what does that mean? For Gavin Miller, Asurion Europe CEO, it means that the company proudly offers device insurance and also helps with the maintenance, repair and installation of everyday technology, such as phones, laptops and the fast-growing range of connected devices. 

“Our devices have become highly important to our daily lives, so we aim to make sure that customers can quickly resolve any issues – from smashed screens to inaccessible accounts – without major stress and inconvenience,” says Miller. “We all know how it feels to lose connection midway through a call! But we also help people to set up their devices and optimise them, so that they get maximum value.”

Asurion currently serves more than 300m customers and over 100 partners across the planet. As CEO of Asurion in Europe, Miller is bringing Asurion’s tech support products to the European region.


Hi Gavin! How does tech care support sustainability objectives?

“By helping to keep customers’ tech running as smoothly as possible, we’re also helping them to keep devices going for longer. Electronic waste (e-waste) – for example printers, phones, laptops, tablets, even e-cigarettes – is one of the fastest growing waste streams globally and the UK generates the second-highest amount per person.

“When the first mobile phones arrived in 1973, I don’t think any of us could have imagined that in just five decades there would be more than 15bn mobile devices in the world, expected to rise to 18.22bn by 2025. To date, there’s a been a real appetite for renewing your phone every couple of years, but now we’re coming to the realisation that we can’t just keep taking and taking – we’ve got to think about where the resources we’re using in these gadgets are coming from. 

“Some experts estimate that the minerals and metals being used could run out by the turn of the century if we’re not careful. So that’s why we’re encouraging people to care for the phones they have. More than 80% of a smartphone’s carbon footprint comes from making it in the first place, so the more often they’re replaced, the greater the impact on the environment. 

“Globally, at Asurion, we reuse over 99% of the devices returned to us, repairing approximately 4.5m items every year. To date, we’ve repurposed 138m mobiles. We’re continuing to grow in our ambition.”

Do you have any evidence on the value of investing in tech support and protection?

“Our estimate is that if you extend the life of your phone for a year, by working with a device protection specialist to make sure it’s operating at full capacity, and then trade it in when you purchase a new one, you could save yourself money, while preventing an average of 99 kilos CO2e entering the atmosphere (through the replacement device). That scales up to over 4.5m tonnes CO2e across the nation and is equivalent to 0.9% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.”

 

What more can we do to reduce e-waste?

“Our record on e-waste is dire, so we do need to take urgent action. Solutions need to be as simple as possible and ideally incentivised, so that responsible recycling or disposal is less burdensome for consumers. As it stands, consumers often need a car to get their electronics to Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRC); the UK is the European country with the least HWRCs per inhabitant and one of the lowest per 1000 km2. That’s where retailers can play a big part in filling the gap and giving their customers an alternative option – and trade-in is an excellent example of an easy and incentivised solution offered by retail and tech companies that is now a well-established and popular solution. Of course, we offer our own trade-in solution too!

“We need as many routes to responsible disposal as possible and every entity involved in creating and commercialising these products, or developing policy for electronics and waste disposal, must play a role. ‘Right to repair’ legislation is a good example of this, where policymakers are preventing manufacturers from making repair extremely costly, challenging, or even impossible, thereby encouraging replacement purchasing. It is a step in the right direction, even if there is some way to go before this suitably covers our most used products, such as smartphones and laptops.”

 

What do the next 12 months hold for Asurion Europe?

“Our digital dependency is only going to get deeper. Appetite for smart devices is growing, with one survey concluding that the average person has access to more than nine connected devices. With hybrid working now a norm, these devices not only help us to keep our homes safe and running smoothly and efficiently, they also help to create a professional working environment. It’s especially valuable that some of these products are helping to reduce energy consumption, saving customers money too. We want to help people use all this new tech effectively and get the most out of it – rather than generating a whole new hoard of underused, or even unused, electronic products.”

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