Print Sustainability Trends, 2023
October 17, 2023
There is growing urgency among companies to implement sustainability strategies and it is increasingly influencing print infrastructure buying decisions, according to Quocirca’s Sustainability Market Trends Study 2023. As a wider range of stakeholders in senior and mid-management exert greater influence over sustainability initiatives, buyers have high expectations of supplier and device performance.
Environmental performance has risen rapidly up the corporate agenda as the climate emergency deepens. Adding to the ethical imperative to reduce the impact of business activities on the environment is the implementation of a raft of regulations. The EU’s corporate sustainability reporting directive (CSRD) is just one of a number that are prompting companies to scrutinise not only their own performance, but also that of their supply chain. This has a trickle-down effect, because even though a business may not be directly in the scope of a regulation, it is likely to be supplying a company that is, and that will consequently be asking questions about the sustainability performance of its suppliers.
Reflecting this, Quocirca’s latest research found that seven in ten decision makers say it is important that suppliers demonstrate that they are reducing their own environmental impact, and the same percentage say it is important their supplier provides a range of sustainable products and services. Notably, 69% of businesses say they formally track the environmental performance of their print supplier.
However, despite the rising focus on sustainability, decision-makers say that they are not finding it easy to access the information they need. More than a quarter say a lack of data from vendors about the environmental impact of printers and MFPs is a barrier to achieving their corporate sustainability goals. A related finding showed that only 31% of organisations are extremely satisfied with the sustainability information provided by suppliers, indicating that 69% feel vendors could do better.
Providing better data on the sustainability performance of their business and products should be a priority for print vendors, because the large majority (95%) of those surveyed say their own company’s sustainability goals influence their choice of supplier, with 46% saying it impacts choice to a great extent. Consequently, there is a clear need for vendors to offer more clarity around the sustainability credentials of their products; demand for relevant data and analysis will only increase in the future and vendors that can’t offer it will lose their competitive position.
Corporate sustainability initiatives are accelerating
The growing focus on suppliers is part of a general acceleration of sustainability initiatives. Quocirca’s study found that more than three-quarters (77%) are accelerating their sustainability strategies, rising to 81% in Germany and 84% in the US. While regulation provides a logical motive for action, there is also clear recognition that good sustainability performance makes good business sense, with 62% saying sustainability is important to business performance now, and 85% believing it will be important by 2025.
Looking at key drivers for undertaking sustainability initiatives, the study showed that improving operational efficiency, saving money, and meeting industry standards are the top three reasons organisations cite for making environmental performance investments.
However, while 80% say they are willing to pay a premium for products with environmental features, the cost of such products is still cited among the top three challenges faced by organisations attempting to reduce their environmental impact.
Sustainability initiatives are mainly paper-driven but buyers should think more broadly about sustainability print infrastructure
The study found that the most common strategies implemented to reduce environmental impact around the print infrastructure are focused on reducing paper consumption. The top three practices in place are adopting print policies to encourage responsible printing, adopting digital workflows (both in place for 44% of respondents), and using paper from certified sources (40%). Fewer companies are currently using remanufactured or refurbished hardware, or leveraging environmental analytics – these are in place at only 31% of businesses.
Companies view the digitisation of paper-based processes as a central pillar of sustainability – 70% say it is important to achieving their objectives, second only to the adoption of a cloud platform, rated important by 75%.
The pursuit of a “less-paper” workplace and limiting consumption through pull printing and process digitisation is a logical focus area for businesses seeking to reduce environmental impact. However, companies should explore the entire range of options for reducing the impact of the print infrastructure from cradle to grave. Many businesses are currently investing in workplace technology to meet hybrid, distributed working requirements, meaning this is a logical time to modernise the print infrastructure with a view to meeting sustainability goals, as well as improving efficiency, security and reducing costs.
Companies should explore print infrastructure modernisation as a win-win for meeting sustainability goals. The industry has a long history of embedding circular economy principles into its value chain. Buyers can benefit from advances in technology and service provision that will help them meet energy efficiency, waste reduction, and wider environmental impact targets.
Please see Quocirca’s report, Sustainability Trends, 2023 for more insights.
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