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How can we move towards sustainable printing?

Good corporate citizenship means thinking about how we can reduce our use of energy and of resources more generally.

Environmental sustainability is one of the biggest challenges facing anyone managing technology, and print infrastructure is not exempt. 

Research by independent analysts Quocirca shows that environmental impact will be the top business priority for US and UK organisations by 2025, with 60 percent aiming to be net zero by 20601.

Companies are putting environmental, social, and governance (ESG) systems in place not only because they want to, but because they have to, whether that’s because of regulations on the disposal of equipment or expected EU rules on sustainability reporting requirements for listed companies.

There’s a reputational aspect to this too. Research by Deloitte in 2021 showed that climate change and protecting the environment was the top concern for millennials, and 60 percent of millennials and members of Generation Z feared that “business leaders” are not focused on protecting the environment.

So, what can you do to ensure your printing and document infrastructure contributes to your sustainable printing goals?

Eco-friendly printing is more than a mere paper exercise

Email footers imploring recipients to “consider the environment before printing” have become a cliché over the last two decades. But Quocirca’s research confirms that organisations see responsible, eco-friendly printing as part of the solution to making their operations more sustainable.

This can mean evaluating the impact of the ink or toner used to print, the cartridges themselves, and the energy required to run the printer.

But these are just the most obvious elements. There is also the energy and raw materials used in the production of those cartridges and in the devices themselves to consider, as well as the cost of transporting them. And discarded ink or toner cartridges – or simply neglected hardware – contribute to the rising tide of electronic waste. That’s why printers and cartridges are featured in the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan, which aims to ensure products are repairable or at least recyclable2.

Requesting that suppliers provide information on resources used to manufacture equipment, energy consumption, carbon emissions etc. is a starting point for working out your environmental impact and beginning to manage it. But a device-by-device approach is not enough.

Managers need to be able to visualise the problem as a whole. Which means being able to track usage and ensure efficiency, at the cartridge, device, and organisational levels.

This is where cartridge recycling schemes, managed print services and the intelligence built into power-efficient devices come into play. Equally important are print management platforms that can give you full visibility of your print usage as well as your document infrastructure, enabling you to tackle unsustainable printing behaviours throughout the full lifecycle of devices.

Make the impact of sustainable printing visible

Making printers more repairable is a good thing, but companies also need to be able to monitor them effectively to spot problems before they arise. And they need access to qualified technicians to carry out those repairs. If devices can be updated remotely, they can be optimised throughout the printer lifecycle, without the need for an on-site visit.

Being able to track cartridge and device usage also means you can demonstrate the business case for more targeted action to reduce waste, such as substituting electronic signatures for some documents and redesigning workflows. It gives you the evidence you need to persuade users to print responsibly, for instance, using eco-friendly double-sided printing and draft modes where available.

It also means supplies management can be streamlined, with ink and toner ordered only when needed, not just repeat ordered, stockpiled then forgotten. This raises the question of whether you can easily return used cartridges, and whether your supplier offers recycling or remanufacturing to ensure they doesn’t end up in the landfill.

This all ensures that your efforts to increase sustainability are data-driven, trackable, and visible. That’s important for device users, organisational sustainability leads, and for outside stakeholders whether they are shareholders or environmental groups.

So, if you want to move towards truly sustainable printing, head here.


1 - [https://print2025.com/wp-content/uploads/Quocirca-Sustainability-Trends-2022-Exec-Summary-0322-ToC.pdf]

2 - [https://ec.europa.eu/environment/pdf/circular-economy/new_circular_economy_action_plan.pdf]

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