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Five ways to make your business printing more sustainable

Sustainability is no longer a business aspiration. Studies have made the case that sustainability should be now considered an essential competitive priority alongside quality, cost, reliability, timeliness, flexibility and innovation.

As well as those aforementioned studies1, 85% of consumers worldwide now say they're more likely to buy from a company with a reputation for sustainability2. Those that don’t scrutinise every area of their business for environmental improvements risk being left behind by customers and partners who see sustainability as a crucial part of doing business.

What you may not have considered, however, is how something as fundamental as your company's print processes can impact on your carbon footprint. You can demonstrate your commitment to eco-friendly printing by integrating environmental considerations into your buying decision. But how can I make my business printing more sustainable we hear you ask. Here’s our checklist of five ways you can make your business printing more sustainable.

1.    Check your supply chain

Experience tells us that businesses typically only evaluate a printer’s sustainability during and at the end of its operational life. But when you consider that 90% of a company’s impact on the environment comes from its supply chain3, the key to making a real difference is to consider the environmental impacts at every stage of its lifecycle. This includes product development, raw materials and manufacturing right through to packaging, warehousing, transportation and disposal.

Choosing sustainable suppliers as part of an ethical supply chain that treats people and the environment fairly and responsibly is a key component of any environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy. An ethical supply chain ensures freedom of association for workers, safe working conditions, no use of child labour and fair pay.  It also shows that you take a stand against corruption.

Responsible supply-chain partners also help protect your reputation against damage by association with businesses who don't adhere to the same high standards of corporate behaviour.

Your business can boost its eco-friendly credentials by working with suppliers that adhere to sustainable development goals and who also have proof of good ESG practices, such as a FTSE4Good listing [link] or Carbon reporting via the Carbon Trust's Carbon Disclosure Project.

2. Check your supplier's recycling process

To boost your green credentials even further, we’d advise choosing a print partner that makes it as easy as possible to recycle your used consumables. For example, do they give you a freepost label to return used consumables? Do they ensure that they’re all recycled in line with current regulations? And if their recycling process is fully automated for maximum efficiency, that’s a bonus too.

To read about the work of Cool Earth – a charity that protects against deforestation and supports indigenous forest communities – visit our environment blog. 

3. Check your print contract

For maximum eco-friendly printing, you should consider a managed print service (MPS). Choosing an MPS contract gives you greater visibility and control of your printer use and also optimises your printing fleet so it runs at its most efficient, in line with your evolving business needs.    

Not only can an MPS monitor and improve your consumption of power, paper and toner, it’s worth asking if it’s possible that your devices be returned to the manufacturer at the end of their working life to be disposed of in accordance with the EU's Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE).

One way to extend the life of your printers and maximise sustainability is to fix faults and upgrade using modular repairs. This allows you to replace individual components and add updates without replacing an entire machine.  An MPS should typically provide modular repairs as part of the package.

4. Check your paper

Even the paper you use can have a positive impact on your sustainability. Every year, four billion trees are cut down for the production of paper4. Figures suggest that paper accounts for 14% of global deforestation. That's the destruction of around 4.1 million hectares every year - an area the size of the Netherlands.5

An easy way of reducing your business’ environmental impact is simply to switch to recycled paper. Not only does recycling 1 tonne of paper save 17 trees6, recycled paper generates up to 50% fewer carbon dioxide emissions than paper produced from virgin fibres7.

Other ways of reducing your paper consumption include setting your printer to print duplex/double sided or by printing multiple pages on a single page.  And you could always add a message to your company email signature reminding staff to only print when absolutely necessary.

5. Check your printer features

In most offices, you can guarantee a pile of discarded printouts by each printer. Whether the job was sent to the wrong place or someone forgot to collect their documents, needless print jobs create waste – of time, toner, paper and power.

Choosing printers that offer user-authenticated 'pull printing' will help resolve this costly problem. With this feature, all print jobs are posted to a single queue and users can log in securely to any printer on the network – effectively 'pulling' the job to their location. This not only reduces the environmental impact of wasted print, it prevents the overloading of individual machines, which creates frustrating queues and excessive waiting time for other users. Files that aren’t collected after a set time are then automatically removed from the printer’s memory.

In addition, consider choosing printers with an eco-mode that let you reduce energy consumption without compromising on print quality and a sleep-mode that dims the screen to conserve power if a machine is left unused for any length of time.

Ultimately, reducing the environmental impact of your business can lead to big cost savings and can a hugely positive impact on reputation, tender wins and partnerships. So, simply by reducing waste, optimising the consumption of power, paper and toner and increasing the efficiency of your devices, you can quickly see returns.

1.    futureofsourcing.com: “Sustainable Procurement: What You Need To Know in 2020” – March 2020

2.     youmatter.world: "Supply Chains Cause 90% Of Companies’ Environmental Impacts. How Can They Be Improved?" -  March 2019

3.    www.mckinsey.com: "Starting at the source: Sustainability in supply chains" - November 2016

4.    environmentalprofessionalsnetwork.com: "The Environmental Impacts of Using Paper" - September 2014

5.    paperontherocks.com: "What is the environmental impact of deforestation for paper production?" - November 2018

6.    https://www.theworldcounts.com/stories/paper-waste-facts

7.    sciencedirect.com: "Recycling and De-inking of Recovered Paper" - 2014

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