Making print sustainable

What are the current trends in sustainable printing – and how can dealers sell those trends to customers? Dealer Support explores the subject

We all know that printing technology – a firm staple of almost any business – is evolving at a rapid pace to meet our modern needs. Problematic concepts such as how to dispose of both hardware and consumables are being dealt with head-on by printer manufacturers as waste reduction becomes more of a concern, with attentions also turning towards power usage and more eco-friendly paper options.

Sustainability being a hot topic, the multitude of businesses involved in this sector is always striving to improve their products. So what are the current trends in the world of sustainable printing that dealers should be fully aware of? The industry experts share with us what the company believes to be the most important aspects of this topic.

“New printer models – be they desktop or mobile – are now more energy-efficient, faster to use and less costly to run; business inkjets, in particular, are gaining ground in the market because of their eco-savings,” says Andy Johnson, head of product and solutions management at Brother UK which, back in April, won the prestigious Queen’s Award for its work in sustainable development. “Managed print services (MPS), which can help organisations be more sustainable with their printing, have become more popular in recent years too.” An MPS can allow a customer to minimise wastage through monitoring paper usage – and paper-saving efforts speak loudly to a company’s customers and stakeholders.

For Nigel Allen, marketing director at Kyocera, it’s also about using the right materials. “Using less plastic is a key trend as a lot of plastics cannot be recycled and are potentially very harmful for the environment. We’re not only seeing this come through in terms of packaging, but also in the products themselves.”

The upside to this is that many organisations are now banning the use of single-use plastics within packaging, going polystyrene-free and reducing how much paper-based product they use. “In time, I expect to see more companies getting on board with the use of transport packaging made out of cardboard and paper, rather than non-biodegradable materials,” Nigel continues. Kyocera itself does not use any plastic packaging within its toner boxes and the toner is, in fact, the only consumable used in the lifespan of its printers.

The main drive towards more sustainable printing choices is changing attitudes. According to Cone Communications nearly two thirds of millennials won’t take a job if the employer doesn’t have strong CSR strategies and practices in place; alongside this, findings by the Edelman Trust Barometer have shown that activities linked to sustainability and CSR can help enhance trust and, by extension, improve sales. Lessening the impact on the planet is not only attractive but also vital for a better-quality future. “Becoming sustainable with print practices is essential for firms to curb their overall environmental impact,” says Andy.

For businesses, becoming increasingly efficient – something organisations are generally trying to do – tends to go hand-in-hand with sustainability whether they are making a concerted effort to do so or not; it can almost happen by accident. As Phil Jones, MD of Brother UK, says, “Our fundamental purpose is to make the people and businesses we work with more successful, more quickly – which, in turn, has made our own business sustainable and adaptable over five decades.”

Everybody wants to yield a faster return on their investment and simple things can make an enormous difference. Market intelligence adviser, IDC, point out that having print devices where users have to pull their prints by using an ID card or passcode can help reduce ink, toner and paper wastage by 20%. In the article ‘8 steps to sustainable printing’ Epson says that documents which are printed and never collected currently comprise the biggest source of waste print. On top of this, IDC states that new devices save energy consumption by around 30% compared with those which are out-of-date.

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Businesses regularly utilising printers want options – whether this comes down to consumables wastage, managed print services or lower energy consumption – and dealers should put themselves in a position where they can communicate these options. Many organisations are attempting to go paperless and, rather than negatively impacting the print sector, it actually opens new doors. “Organisations’ relationships with sustainability will continue to evolve, pushing manufacturers and dealers to continue to make the shift from being traditional print suppliers to solutions providers that solve problems for their customers,” says Nigel. “Print has been leading the way in sustainability for some time; it’s about the whole product life cycle now, not just printing less or using recycled paper.”

There are a myriad of ways for businesses to make changes to the impact their printing practices have on the earth – some incredibly simple and requiring almost no effort, while others require investment that, ultimately, will save future costs and waste-to-landfill. Here are a few ideas that dealers can communicate to their customers in order to reach the right solution for that organisation.

  • Measure the existing environmental impact and problem-solve. Help the customer to consider the levels of damage they might already be doing. How much paper is wasted? How modern is their hardware? How many empty cartridges are being sent to landfill? Do they have any kind of MPS software to help keep on top of operations? MPS packages are an especially strong concept to discuss as they can gauge environmental impact and make it as easy as possible to be greener.
  • Encourage strong recycling practices. This goes beyond simply paper – although it is important to ensure this is recycled. Cartridge and even hardware recycling programmes can lead to monetary reward or part-exchange for the customer and a dealer which is able to offer this, or team up with another organisation which does, may well then have a long-term relationship with that customer.
  • Consolidate functions. These days there is no need to have separate machines for printing, scanning and copying. A customer will, ultimately, save money and energy using a multi-function printer (MFP) and have less of an impact on the environment.
  • Show off the best credentials. Offering products which are officially labelled as energy-saving or eco products – such as Blue Angel or ENERGY STAR – almost sell themselves. Also bear in mind specific CSR programmes which a manufacturer might have introduced, such as Xerox’s PrintReleaf partnership which helps reforestation.

Nigel’s philosophy for Kyocera – “…our first consideration is the environment with regard to our use of materials, energy and business” – is one which many businesses strive to follow, and resellers are the ones able to offer those opportunities which help to save money and the planet. Ultimately, when it comes to improving sustainability practices, there are only winners.

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