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Sustainability: The New Frontier for Channel Partners

Sustainability: The New Frontier for Channel Partners

July 10, 2023

Channel partners are making progress with internal sustainability initiatives but need more help from print vendors to support customers’ environmental goals.

Quocirca’s Channel Sustainability Study, 2023 reveals that the print channel is taking steps to implement sustainability strategies, with 71% reporting that they have some form of company sustainability strategy in place. The dominant driver for channel sustainability initiatives is to meet customer expectations (52%), while a quarter report that it is driven by a need to differentiate products and services (25%) and the same proportion say that their aim is to unlock new revenue opportunities. More than two-thirds (69%) of channel partners say customers are showing strong or moderate interest in sustainable offerings.

The survey, undertaken among 114 channel companies including MPS providers, Office Equipment Dealers, IT resellers and distributors, found that the industry is proving resilient to challenging circumstances, with 53% reporting increased revenues in the last financial year. However, with 51% expecting print volumes to fall in the year ahead, channel partners need to prioritise sustainability in a proactive way – both looking at their own sustainability practices and also providing support and guidance to customers.

Currently, respondents estimate that an average of 12% of channel revenue derives from sustainability-led sales, but they expect this to rise to 22% by 2025.

The results show that channel companies are clear about the potential they see in sustainability-led sales, with growing demand from customers. The challenge now is how to evolve their go-to-market strategy and messaging to resonate with customers and prove their credentials in what may quickly become a very competitive market. Support from vendors with tools and data is crucial if channel businesses are to demonstrate genuinely differentiated solutions and services backed by evidence of sustainable performance.

Channel partners need vendor support to capitalise on sustainability-led sales opportunities

Two in five (39%) channel companies say that sustainability criteria feature in some or all the RFPs they respond to, and 92% say that customers are prepared to pay more for solutions with stronger sustainability, at least some of the time.

Despite this, only one-quarter (24%) already hold accreditations related to sustainability (for example, BCorp, ISO14001, or CDP). A similar proportion (25%) are working towards such accreditations, leaving half lagging behind on sustainability certifications.

The key areas of interest for customers are energy-efficient hardware, cited by 65% of respondents, followed by long-life consumables and toner (35%) and minimum end-of-life waste (30%). These priorities are largely reflected in the topics on which channel partners most want support from vendors:

  • Clear and detailed metrics on product lifecycle impact (38%)
  • Help identifying ways to advise customers on saving energy across a print fleet (36%)
  • Carbon footprint assessment tools (35%)

Also important to channel partners is information from vendors to support sustainability-focused deals (33%), and financial deal support (31%). Only 20% of respondents say they are fully satisfied with the support they are receiving from vendors on sustainability.

Better support from vendors is going to be crucial, with businesses becoming more mature in their approach to sustainable purchasing as regulations, standard sustainability metrics, and reporting requirements have emerged.

Channel partners have a significant opportunity to add value to their customers, who will be looking for advice and guidance to support their sustainability goals.  Customers are increasingly looking to acquire print technology that is efficient, secure, and sustainable throughout its entire lifecycle. Partners can address these requirements with sustainability assessments to support the modernisation of the print infrastructure – such as replacing legacy, energy-intensive technology with more energy-efficient devices, and solutions that minimise wasteful printing. By playing their part in the drive for sustainable business, supported by vendors, channel partners can attract new customers and gain a competitive edge.

Read more in Quocirca’s Channel Sustainability 2023 Report

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