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

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Sustainability is set to be the leading priority for businesses by 2025 as nine in ten businesses say their company’s net-zero goal influences supplier selection

Sustainability will dominate the print industry in the next three years as vendors’ environmental credentials play a growing part in customers’ supplier selection process. Quocirca’s Sustainability Trends Report 2022 finds that IT decision-makers (ITDMs) in UK and US businesses are prioritising sustainability as they aim to deliver operational efficiencies, meet regulatory standards, and satisfy customer expectations. In response, the industry will continue to focus on reducing emissions and transforming operations in order to drive competitive advantage and create customer, employee and partner value in the sustainability sphere.

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:

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

Quocirca research director Louella Fernandes comments: “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.”

Regional and company size variations

Quocirca’s research identified variations between the US and UK, and between small (500-999 employees) and large (1000+ employees) organisations.

Twenty-eight percent of organisations surveyed have fully implemented a sustainability strategy, but this proportion rises to 38% among respondents from US organisations; in the UK the figure is just 19%. However, 46% of UK respondents named reducing environmental impact in their top three business priorities for 2022, but only 25% of US respondents agreed.

Thirty-six percent of small organisations have a fully implemented sustainability strategy, compared to only 20% of large companies. This correlates with the finding that 47% of small organisations say sustainability is important to business performance now, compared to only 36% of large organisations. Similarly, 95% of smaller organisations say that their net-zero goal influences supplier selection to a great or moderate extent, compared to 82% of larger businesses.

“Vendors should ensure that sustainability factors are clearly in evidence when engaging with smaller business,” notes Louella. “Customers need tangible data, transparently communicated, so they can select the technology partner that will deliver the most appropriate solution for their business.”

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% of ITDMs say that seeing providers offer sustainable products and services is the most important. They view energy efficiency (41%), sustainable ink and toner (39%), and holding environmental certifications (35%) 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 Fernandes concludes: “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.”

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. The vendors participating in the report are: Brother, Canon, Epson, HP Inc., Konica Minolta, Kyocera, Lexmark, Ricoh and Xerox. This report is part of Quocirca’s Sustainability Leader Series of Reports which is available to Quocirca clients and will contain an in-depth exploration of vendors’ sustainability offerings.

Download a complimentary executive summary and/or view the report infographic.

About Quocirca:

Quocirca is a global market insight and research firm providing strategic market analysis and intelligence to print industry business and technology leaders. Quocirca specialises in analysing the convergence of print and digital technologies in the future workplace.

Since 2006, Quocirca has played an influential role in advising clients on major shifts in the market. Our consulting and research is at the forefront of the rapidly evolving print services and solutions market, trusted by clients who are seeking new strategies to address disruptive technologies.

Trusted by global industry organisations, Quocirca offers a wealth of specialist knowledge across the connected print ecosystem. Our extensive research activities are backed up with rigorous analysis and a robust primary research programme.