Better tech for everyone: How Wamda Saeid Elsirogi delivers a united vision for sustainability in Europe

6 min
Five people’s hands, laptops, phones and assorted stationary and paperwork on a table, viewed from above.

Legislation, policymaking, regulatory compliance… wait! Don’t go!

It’s completely understandable to click ‘save for later’ when an article including any of these words finds its way into your social feeds. Usually, they’re the kind of read that takes some pretty heavy mental lifting and, dare we say it, can be a little dry. Yet, policy and regulatory is very much the world of Wamda Saeid Elsirogi ­and she is about as interesting, warm and funny as a person can be. And we’d certainly notice the difference in the world were it not for her expertise in these areas, as well as skills of diplomacy, and strategic thinking, (and those of the people she works with).

Probably the best way to explain how Wamda and her peers impact the world is to ask you to think about the technology you use every day. So…

Are you sitting at a desk? In front of a laptop, perhaps? Maybe it’s docked and you have a separate keyboard and mouse. Your phone sits beside you, just next to your printer. You grab your headphones to prepare for a call. It’s been a long day and as your smartwatch fires you an alert, you see the time and look forward to reading your new book on your eReader on the way home. Now total up how much hardware is within your reach. In this example it’s nine but could easily be more. After all, there are the chargers to consider.

Each one of these items may bear the name of a different brand but all must to be safe to use, contain no hazardous materials, have been manufactured in an environmentally compliant way and can be disposed of responsibly through e-waste or recycling programmes in your respective country. But we don’t really give much thought to that as we sling our laptops in our backpacks or sneakily use the office printer for our kids’ homework.

A head and shoulders image of a smiling dark haired, dark skinned woman. Her hair is tied back and she wears pearl earrings. Over her black lace top is a silver necklace.

Wamda Saeid Elsirogi, Senior Manager of Sustainability Regulatory Affairs, EMEA and Chair of DIGITALEUROPE’s Sustainability Policy Group.

But Wamda does. Every single day. And because she and many others do, you don’t have to. But, honestly, you probably should. The work they do has the kind of global importance that you will eventually feel in your bank account – whether that’s in the prices you pay for your tech, or the salary you are paid each month. The companies involved in making tech are big employers and sustainability compliance (or not!) can make an enormous difference to their bottom line. And the prices they charge can impact millions of other companies who need to use that tech to go about their business.

A senior manager at Canon, Wamda looks after Sustainability Regulatory Affairs in Europe, Middle East and Africa, but she has also recently been appointed as chair of DIGITALEUROPE’s Sustainability Policy Group (DSPG). You may never have even heard of it, but it’s an organisation that speaks for the interests of a phenomenal number of European businesses – some 45,000, in fact. Plus, over 100 global corporations and 41 trade associations from across Europe. It’s kind of a big deal. Why? Because when proposals around changes to technology law or regulation arise, members can offer a different perspective on them, feeding back the realities and impacts of such proposals for their businesses and putting forward alternative strategies or giving valuable insights. In the case of companies like Canon and other corporate members, this can even be through a global lens.

Right now, as you might imagine, working with these proposals is colossal undertaking. “Over the last two years – in particular, last year – we've seen a lot of files [proposals] on sustainability. It's been a tsunami of regulation,” says Wamda. She’s not exaggerating. Every policy, regulation or compliance framework that governs even the smallest component parts of your tech starts life as a proposal. And these can come from governments, parliaments, a public campaign or any number of other interested parties. Each begins life because a need has been identified and requires addressing but – and here’s the really important bit ­– just because a proposal is made in good faith and with great intentions for product sustainability, it doesn’t make it perfect.

If a proposal impacts one spare part of one component, you need to re-evaluate the whole product – it's never just a simple adjust.”

“We try to positively shape and influence as we go along,” she explains. The aim of the DSPG is to basically support the co-legislators for a meaningful legislation. We’re 100% behind circular economy and the EU Green Deal, for example. But all legislation needs to be properly done, be efficient and reduce the reporting burden.” It’s not unusual for the representative members of the DSPG to be working on upwards of 40 Europe-wide proposals at a time, each with their own level of complexity and each impacting business in different ways.

In this respect, Wamda finds herself wearing two distinct hats. As chair, she seeks to ensure that everyone at the table has their voice heard, but with careful clarity she is also representing Canon and brings the company’s interests and perspectives to these debates too. Somewhat surprisingly, this creates absolutely no conflict for Wamda, whose pragmatic and open approach to the negotiating table is just one of the reasons she was elected to the role. “The number one rule for me is you allow each member to express what they want, and what is important for them. And the way forward is actually a compromise – bringing all of these voices together.”

A young white woman with long hair, wearing a yellow shirt and blue blazer stands outside an office and smiles as she checks her phone.

Every policy, regulation or compliance framework that governs even the smallest component parts of your tech starts life as a proposal.

It's hard to imagine all these companies, many of whom are in direct competition, coming together to debate how a proposed piece of legislation will affect them. Or, as is often the case, how it can be improved for the good of all. Because, it has to be said that DIGITALEUROPE isn’t just about getting the best deal for the companies themselves. Front and centre of Wamda’s mind when considering each proposal is how each change that Canon will have to make in response to it will affect our customers and partners. Will it result in a problematic price increase? Or slow down our ability to get products to market in the first place? Does the proposal place an unnecessary burden on customers or partners that will need addressing?

“I tend to work very closely with our colleagues in Japan, because quite often a lot of what being proposed can impact product design, durability, repairability, spare parts, extending the warranty, says Wamda. “Because if a proposal impacts one spare part of one component, you need to re-evaluate the whole product – it's never just a simple adjust.” These are all key elements of quality, trust and reputation, as well as having a very real impact on how Canon, and the other corporate members of DIGITALEUROPE, manufacture products for the global market.

Together with Canon EMEA’s Government Affairs Manager, Annalisa Monaco, Wamda estimates that she has been able to contribute to around 90% of all sustainability legislation over the last three years. It’s an incredibly impressive number and one that matters because it means that the pair are speaking on behalf of Canon and our customers and partners on every relevant sustainability conversation that is happening among EU legislators. And that Wamda has built and secured a trusted role in this space is vital to this success.

“When you sit on the other side of the table to the co-legislators, you have to put yourself in their shoes and consider where they are coming from. And once you understand, you can try and meet them in the middle. Yes, it’s a lot of work,” she laughs. “And the most essential part is that continuous journey of learning. But it's challenging but rewarding at the same time.” As she heads into the summer and the elections for European Parliament, Wamda is ready, with priorities set around sustainable product design, packaging and PFAS chemicals. When parliament reconvenes in September, she and her DSPG colleagues will be ready to hit the ground running.

Learn more about DIGITALEUROPE and sustainability at Canon.


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