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Race to net-zero drives growing focus on print industry sustainability

Quocirca’s Sustainability Trends Report 2022 finds that IT decision-makers in UK and US businesses are prioritising sustainability as they aim to deliver operational efficiencies, meet regulatory standards, and satisfy customer expectations

Quocirca surveyed 212 IT decision- makers in UK and US organisations with over 500 employees across a range of sectors to understand the extent that they are incorporating sustainability into decision-making and identify the actions they are taking to improve environmental performance. The findings show that sustainability factors are growing in influence over supplier choices and prompting initiatives on paper reduction, hardware recycling, and implementing digital workflows, as businesses strive to meet their net-zero commitments.

Key findings include:

  • 36 per cent of ITDMs say reducing environmental impact is a priority for their organisation now; 40 per cent say it will be a priority in 2025.
  • 74 per cent of ITDMs say that their companies have set net-zero goals. 60 per cent of these targets fall due by 2030, 31 per cent by 2040, and 8 per cent by 2050.
  • 28 per cent of organisations have fully implemented a sustainability strategy. A further 43 per cent have a strategy that is not yet fully implemented.
  • 41 per cent consider sustainability to be extremely important to business performance now; this will rise to 68 per cent by 2025.
  • 50 per cent say their company’s net-zero goal influences print supplier selection to a great extent, a further 40 per cent say it influences choices to a moderate extent.
  • 71 per cent of ITDMs say their company plans to reduce paper consumption by at least 30 per cent by 2025.
  • 70 per cent are already recycling paper, 58 per cent are implementing digital signatures and 52 per cent are adopting digital workflows to avoid printing.

Quocirca Research Director Louella Fernandes said: “Businesses recognise that a considerable proportion of their environmental impact resides in their supply chain. To reduce it they need suppliers to minimise the whole lifecycle impact of products and be achieving net-zero goals of their own.

“Our research found that, by 2025, reducing environmental impact will be the top priority for businesses, eclipsing customer experience and cybersecurity concerns. A priority for customers must also be a priority for the industry and we expect to see vendors focusing heavily on sustainability as they position themselves as valuable partners on the journey
to net-zero.”

Green generation gap

The research found that respondents under the age of 35 are more likely to be working for organisations that have net-zero goals in place. They are also more likely than older respondents to say that net-zero considerations influence their choice of supplier. As this generation progresses to gain more decision-making authority in the workplace, focus on sustainability will continue to rise and suppliers will be under increasing pressure to improve product and company sustainability to meet these higher expectations.

Expectations of suppliers will shift from devices to corporate environmental performance Currently, 84 per cent of ITDMs say that seeing providers offer sustainable products and services is the most important. They view energy efficiency (41 per cent), sustainable ink and toner (39 per cent), and holding environmental certifications (35 per cent) as the most common considerations.

However, by 2025, ITDMs believe it will be more important for vendors to demonstrate that they have taken steps to reduce their own environmental impact. This will incorporate areas such as manufacturing, distribution and end-of- life strategies, where vendors will need to demonstrate strong performance.

Louella says that the print industry has a good record of pursuing sustainability through innovation, with initiatives to reduce device power and resource consumption embedded across the sector, and a growing drive towards circularity. “Looking forward, vendors need to confidently articulate their progress in areas such as increasing the amount of recycled material in devices and pursuing sustainable manufacturing and distribution practices. Demonstrating alignment with sustainable reporting frameworks will also play a part in assuring customers that they have a systematic and rigorous long-term sustainability strategy,” she said.

Quocirca’s Sustainability Trends Report 2022 contains recommendations for buyers and suppliers, and a summary of the key highlights of vendors’ strategy and achievements in sustainability.