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How sustainability is changing attitudes to workplace printing

How sustainability is changing attitudes to workplace printing

February 15, 2023
Articles, Future of work, Sustainability

A maturing approach to corporate sustainability is driving the creation of more concrete goals and higher expectations of print suppliers, according to Quocirca’s Future of Work Spotlight on Sustainability 2025 report. The study, based on the views of 1,021 office workers and 521 IT decision makers, finds that sustainability is increasingly viewed as both an important business objective and a key supplier selection criterion. The report reveals the employee demographics where sustainability considerations have the highest profile, and the impact environmental concerns are having on digitisation programmes.

The study also offers insight into the future role of print/paper in the office and how this is being influenced by sustainability objectives. For example, three quarters of respondents say that they expect to reduce paper consumption by 2025; however, 30% still say paper will be important to their business. This points to a future where offices will be paper-lite, not paperless.

Key findings from the report include:

  • 71% say environmental issues and sustainability will be important or extremely important to their business by 2025.
  • Digital transformation programmes are accelerating in 61% of organisations (rising to 74% in the US), with the biggest motivation being reducing environmental impact.
  • Two thirds (66%) say that it is extremely or very important for a print supplier to be a leader in sustainability.
  • 45% of those in director, VP or head of department positions believe environmental issues will be extremely important to the business by 2025.
  • Sustainability leaders are more likely to be accelerating digitisation, adopting fully cloud-based print management, and anticipating the use of video/AR/VR technology.

Sustainability must compete with and complement other business priorities

While sustainability is clearly climbing the business agenda, it will need to hold its own as a priority in a turbulent corporate climate. Among a series of potential business priorities that ITDMs will focus on over the next three years, companies rated reducing environmental impact lower than issues such as raising revenue, customer acquisition and retention, and improving business efficiency.

Print suppliers aiming to build a case for sustainability must also be mindful of related priorities and ensure they demonstrate how sustainable practices and products can help organisations achieve both their commercial interests and their environmental aspirations. However, the study offers evidence that these are starting to align, as 71% of respondents believe sustainability will be important to their business by 2025. This is leading businesses to identify and pursue more concrete sustainability goals – such as energy, waste and raw material reduction – so they can demonstrate progress to customers, employees and wider stakeholders.

Identifying receptive stakeholders for sustainability-led sales

MPS providers must work to identify and engage with the key stakeholders on sustainability issues. Quocirca’s research shows that senior executives are increasingly likely to be receptive to propositions based around sustainability, as 45% believe the issue will be extremely important to their business by 2025.

Analysis shows that larger companies are more likely to consider sustainability an important issue now and in future. This reflects the increasing regulatory focus on environmental, social and governance factors, and rising expectations among customers and investors. Nevertheless, even among smaller organisations, sustainability is recognised as important by a notable proportion, with 35% expecting it to be critical by 2025.

Sustainability leaders are demanding more from MPS providers

Sustainability Leaders are defined as those organisations that rate environmental issues as “extremely” or “very” important (47% of research respondents). They are exhibiting notably different attitudes to those who deem them only “quite” important (36%), whom we have termed Progressives, and to the 16% of Beginners who think environmental issues are not important at all.

Interestingly, Sustainability Leaders are more than twice as likely to say that printed paper is very important to their business (42%), but they are also much more likely to be accelerating digitisation plans, expecting to manage their print environment entirely in the cloud, and believing it likely that workers will mainly communicate through video/AR/VR technology. They also have markedly higher expectations for supplier performance across the board, from the ability to optimise print infrastructure for hybrid work to security expertise and cost reductions. Naturally, they also expect their suppliers to be sustainability leaders in their own right.

Leaders are particularly interested in the ability of their print supplier to provide MPS, IT managed services and cloud print services, as well as to support them in their sustainability initiatives.

What does this mean for MPS providers?

Theoretically at least, this means MPS providers with a strong environmental message should be pushing at an open door if they can make robust proposals for investment in sustainable managed print services.

The drive for more measurable sustainability initiatives that organisations can track and report on is happening in tandem with digitisation initiatives. The two can certainly go hand-in-hand if MPS providers focus on proposing optimised, hybrid infrastructure and collaborative software solutions that minimise resource consumption and can adapt to changes in office use. Providers need to be on top of device credentials and the circular economy performance of hardware suppliers so they can support claims with evidence.

This study also underlines the importance to MPS providers of understanding where their customers are on their sustainability journey and engaging with the right stakeholders – especially at senior level – who are increasingly receptive to products and services that demonstrate strong environmental credentials.

Overall, sustainability is set to be an increasingly decisive factor in investment choices for businesses of all sizes, meaning MPS providers are advised to ensure they have the solutions and data needed to create credible propositions that deliver measurable environmental benefits.

Learn more in Quocirca’s Future of Work and Sustainability report

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