Information Technology

The humble office printer should be your business’s eco-warrior

By Henning Ohlsson, CSR Director Epson Europe
Information Technology
Published: 1 December 2017

Priorities are changing and today business success is no longer just about turning profit without focus on societal or environmental impacts. Not only are businesses starting to perceive sustainability as an opportunity but governments are looking to the private sector to deliver on the Paris Agreement and align business strategies to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition, collaboration is becoming increasingly critical with businesses having to work together to ensure from factory-floor to the office, sustainability is encouraged as much as possible.

The concept of the Triple Bottom Line is not new but it is more meaningful than ever. First coined by British business author, advisor and entrepreneur John Elkington in 1994, the idea was to encourage companies to bring together social, environmental and financial performance within their accounting framework. Today, however, businesses are increasingly realising the interconnectedness of societal and environmental impact with business results – and ever more so with the introduction of non-financial reporting requirements on a European level. Business does not exist in a vacuum and strategy must increasingly be governed by policy changes and is ever more judged by sustainability efforts. Business strategy is becoming a balancing act: a strategy that takes into account the big picture of people, profit and planet, yielding substantial savings and opportunities if correctly harnessed.

According to recent research, 94% of European businesses think sustainability is an important issue[1] and as sustainability continues to rise up the boardroom agenda businesses are seeking to develop a complete approach to sustainability, incorporating both big and small changes to the business model, way of operating and infrastructure with substantial impacts on the Triple Bottom Line.

However, this new approach does not mean overhauling everything in the workplace. Something as small as switching your printer from laser technology to inkjet technology can make a big difference in terms of savings (both environmental and cost) and a company’s footprint.

Printing in the workplace shows no sign of waning. In fact, according to recent research, 77% of UK office workers still want printer, scanner and copier equipment in their office[2].

As people start to recognise the sustainability savings that can be made from making the technology switch, business inkjet has increased its overall share of the combined laser/business inkjet market by over 6% from 2011 to 2015. According to industry analysts IDC, inkjet printing is forecast to account for 34% of the total business printer market by 2019[3].

Perhaps a surprising fact, but switching to inkjet technology can yield big sustainability savings for businesses of all sizes. Printing technology can have a substantial impact on a company’s Triple Bottom Line – important when it comes to non-financial reporting. Inkjet technology produces 99% less waste than laser; consumes 96% less energy than laser; and, produces up to 92% less CO2 than laser[4].

If we put this into context, if every business made the switch to inkjet printing, enough energy would be saved to run over half a million households across Europe[5], equivalent to a city the size of Lyon, Manchester, Dublin or Lisbon. This could be quite a substantial step towards achieving the EU’s transition to a low carbon economy for the future, the goal being to cut the EU’s carbon footprint by 80-95% by 2050.

Businesses are starting to realise the benefit of choosing inkjet technology. A German hospital waste management company chose to implement inkjet printers for their environmental benefits. The results speak for themselves: they were able to achieve their environmental goals and reduce energy consumption by 80%, reflected in their reduced expenditure on energy bills.

As the European landscape continues to evolve, businesses will increasingly reap the benefits and opportunities provided by sustainability across the “three Ps” (people, planet and profit). This is no longer a “nice to have”. With increased pressure from investors, the supply chain and customers, businesses across all segments will have to seek solutions, both big and small, to integrate into the fabric of their office infrastructure. In Europe, businesses will have a key role to play in achieving both the EU’s energy targets and the desired outcomes of the UN’s SDGs. Encouragingly, little changes can have a big impact on environmental footprint. It’s imperative for major technology innovators to continue to provide technology that will have a positive environmental impact and ensure changing to environmentally friendly alternatives is hassle free for businesses looking to reap the benefits.

[1] Quocirca Print Sustainability Survey (2016) commissioned by Epson Europe
[2] Raconteur, Future Workplace report, July 2017
[3] IDC 2015
[4] BLI 2017
[5] Figures per European country: Germany (170,000 households); UK (60,000 households); France (56,000 households); Italy (95,000 households); Spain (24,000 households); WE15 & Greece (507,000 households)