“Printers and MFPs are Essential Components of an Environmentally Sound IT Strategy” – by Keith Kmetz, Program Vice President, IDC’s Imaging, Printing and Document Solutions Research Practice:
Environmental sensitivity is a “must have” in today’s corporate climate. Companies’ sustainability initiatives are often influential in maintaining or even winning new business opportunities. Not only do companies need to demonstrate their environmental sensitivity with their own internal processes, but it is also necessary to extend this sensitivity throughout their business supply chain. Part of such a sustainability campaign can be accomplished with printers and MFPs that offer a number of features that are sensitive to energy use, carbon footprint, recycling and waste.
But why are printers and MFPs important to an overall environmental IT strategy? Because there are many elements of the print ecosystem that have a direct environmental impact…from specific printer and MFP product set features; energy consumption; packaging; recycling programs as well as its unique aftermarket supplies model. Choosing the right printer or MFP could potentially bring enormous environmental gains to an organization. Some examples that highlight this environmental impact include…
- Hundreds of millions of trees are consumed annually to produce the nearly 1+ trillion printed/copied pages in the US market
- Thousands of gallons of water are used to produce one ton of printer/copier paper, depending on the size and type of paper
- Most printer toner cartridges are not recycled and are dumped in landfills. An average print cartridge can take hundreds of years to fully decompose.
From the IT buying community, IDC research has shown that the environmental impact of print cannot be underestimated from a business standpoint. We are seeing more environmental requirements in bid opportunities, particularly in markets such as health care, education and government. Thus, the offering of environmentally-sensitive printing products is crucial to what gets purchased or acquired in these markets. Additionally, IDC research has shown that customers will pay a slight premium in order to get the environmental capabilities it desires. In general, there is also a prevailing attitude that companies want to buy from other companies with “green” IT offerings and strategies. The relationship helps to present these companies as a “green” organization that, in turn, aids in building business with other IT buyers who also want to present their organization as environmentally responsible.
So let’s take a look at print-related capabilities that contribute to a more sustainable organization.
- The printer and/orMFP feature set. We see a number of common product features that should be considered when companies are considering a moreenvironmentally-sound printing infrastructure. Many of these features are easily implemented and include…
- Using the duplexing function to potentially cut paper consumption in half by printing on both sides of the paper. The use of the scanning feature can also help cut future paper consumption by eliminating paper-based processes (e.g., fax, mail, etc.) as a digital document distribution vehicle.
- Energy consumption features such as a general low energy consumption level when in operation as well as a sleep mode that reduces energy consumption when the printer or MFP is inactive. The device should also be Energy Star certified, so that the printer and MFP meet specific energy standards based on typical use profiles. There should also be a track record of consistently lowering printer/MFP energy consumption levels over time.
- Reduced-waste toner cartridges. Printers and MFPs use cartridges that contain the toner required to create the image. The number of pages that can be printed with a toner cartridge can fluctuate wildly from device to device, so potential buyers should take care to check out these ratings. Additionally, most toner cartridges not only contain the toner material, but also the photoconductor drum, rollers as well as metals, rubber and glass. This can easily add up to 50-60 parts within the cartridge that all have to be replaced when the toner runs out. Because of its complexity, this type of toner cartridges are not easily recyclable. By using separate longer life component technologies, the useful life of all components can be maximized, in some cases lasting as long as the machine life. This enables a much simpler cartridge to be used, consisting of toner and only a few pieces of reusable plastics in comparison to an all-in-one cartridge with 50-60 parts. Toner-only cartridges are much easier to recycle, as well as using far fewer resources to manufacture and distribute.
- Print driver and network management tools have several integrated environmental features (e.g., toner save mode or automatic duplexing) to help reduce waste and drive more efficient device use.
- Reducing the printer/MFP weight, number of parts and noise of operation can all contribute to a more sustainable print environment. The process of manufacturing the printer/MFP and supplies should include the removal of any toxic materials from any point in the process (e.g., manufacturing/operating the equipment, waste, plastics/metals in the final product, etc.)
- Shipping and lighter, smaller packaging. Printers and MFPs should be packaged with environmentally-sound materials that can be easily recycled. On the other hand, the packaging should avoid or limit the use of materials that harm the environment (e.g., Styrofoam, glues, etc.). In addition, products should be shipped in a manner that is most sensitive to environmental concerns and cost effective (e.g., light weight, small size, transportation exhaust, etc.).
- Recycling. A sustainable print strategy should include the mechanisms for recycling at all levels. This might include…
- Recycling the equipment at end of life,
- Recycling used toner cartridges and other print-related supplies, and
- Printers and MFPs that are designed to support printing on recycled media.
End user customers can also seek to address environmental concerns after the installation of the printer and MFP equipment. Such actions include sourcing paper made from certified forests or implementing a managed print services engagement with their provider to ensure that printing equipment is used judiciously and at peak efficiency. A managed print program can also help companies gain a more sustainable print environment by reducing the cost and use of print-related energy, paper and supplies.
Additionally, the company should also ensure that their own organizational processes demonstrate sustainability and demonstrate ongoing improvement of its environmental programs to monitor progress. Such elements include…
- Using renewable energy,
- ISO certified factories,
- Programs dedicated to wise use and replacement of natural resources (e.g., trees, water, oil, fuel, energy) and incorporating policies such as “closed loop” or “zero waste to landfill” that guide the company’s operations.
- Targeting certain goals with a specific future time period (e.g., x% reduction in carbon emissions by year 20xx)
- Promoting the company’s own environmental history and recognition
In conjunction with its own efforts, companies should seek out suppliers who have incorporated similar processes in their facilities.
We don’t believe that the emphasis on sustainability and the environment will go away in the future. In fact, we believe it will intensify. IDC focus group research has indicated that younger office workers more environmentally conscious than their older counterparts. As this younger workforce becomes placed in positions of authority in upcoming years, we anticipate that environmental initiatives will increasingly become the norm in how offices operate. While we don’t ever anticipate “the paperless office,” effectively managing the office print environment by reducing the use of paper, toner and the number of printers and MFPs in use will offer positive financial payback for organizations that do so.