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The business of sustainability…our panel give us their insight

Often defined as a megatrend, sustainability continues to become more important for all companies, across all industries. This month’s panel share their thoughts on corporate responsibility and sustainable procurement practices
PrintIT Reseller: How have you embedded CSR into your business operations and strategy?
Lars Hargaard, Marketing Director, OKI NW Region Europe:
“As a key player within the global printing industry, CSR is not a choice, it is a must. Printing can be perceived as a threat to our environment, so it is an integral part of our strategy and daily operations to ensure we maintain well defined standards for clean production methods, energy consumption, reuse of consumables, transportation etc.”
Jeremy Spencer, Director of Marketing,Toshiba Tec:
“Our pioneering Carbon Zero scheme was launched in 2009 as an initiative to offset our own environmental impact, and the scheme was then offered up to our partners, so they could do the same.
“We started working with customers to expand on the carbon neutrality of our products and services to consider other green initiatives that helped further. We also took the significant step of making our own business more environmentally friendly with the successful adoption of the stringent PAS 2060 standard.”
Carlo Longhi, Director for Channels,Xerox:
“Corporate Social Responsibility is part of our business DNA, and we believe what’s good for society is good for Xerox.
“We’ve embedded our CSR initiatives into our business operations and strategy. Six per cent of our total supplier spend is with small businesses, minority-, women- or veteran-owned businesses, while six per cent of our employee population are military veterans. We also invest in the communities where we work for reasons beyond fulfilling our obligation as corporate citizens – we do it because it makes our company stronger and more competitive. Since 2017, more than 91,000 hours have been volunteered by our employees to local community projects.
“From an environmental perspective, we continue to deliver on our promise to make environmentally-friendly choices when it comes to our products and processes. Last year, 100 per cent of products, parts and consumables returned by customers at end-of-life were diverted from entering landfills. Instead, we re-manufactured, reused, recycled, or provided the waste to suppliers who were able to convert it into an energy source. We also ensure that all of our newly-launched, eligible Xerox products satisfy the EPEAT and EPE Energy Star eco-labels.”

Trevor Northfield, National Operations, Sharp UK:

Trevor Northfield
Trevor Northfield

“We have made sure to embed CSR across the whole of Sharp UK and drive many local and national initiatives. Our team are highly motivated by environmental conservation as well as activities to support charities across the country and within the areas in which we operate.

“Given Sharp’s extensive work in the education sector, our teams spend a lot of time working to enrich the lives of pupils through charitable efforts. We are also closely involved with a school in Ghana, to which we regularly donate everything from financial contributions to furniture.
“Another way we help is to offer free of charge consultancy to support small businesses – this ranges from advice on cost-effective office technology solutions and software services all the way to financial advice.
“A growing initiative is our employee volunteering programme where we give our team the opportunity to spend a working day volunteering for a local charity or community project that they are passionate to support.”
Gemmer Crozier, Sustainable Development Co-ordinator, Brother UK:
“Being a responsible business is embedded in our DNA and runs right through our corporate culture. The Brother Group Global Charter’s three principles underpin everything we do as a business and sets best practice on how everyone in the company is expected to behave every day. These are trust and respect, ethics and morality and challenging spirit and speed. We’re also aligned with the 17 United Nations SDGs.
“When it comes to the impact of having an embedded CSR focus within our business, we place significant emphasis on the individual responsibility of our colleagues – asking them to consider sustainability in every action they carry out. We understand the importance of being a responsible business. It’s not just a tick box for us, it’s a commitment to promoting best practice in how we treat our people, our customers and suppliers, the environment and the broader community in which we operate.”

James Pittick, Director of B2B Indirect Sales, Canon UK:

James Pittick
James Pittick

“Our corporate philosophy and culture stems from the Japanese word Kyosei, which means ‘living and working together for the common good’. All our business endeavours, including our relationships with partners and customers, are based on this philosophy.

“We also commit to the UN SDGs, 12: Responsible Consumption and Productions and 13: Climate Action.  These goals not only complement our corporate philosophy, they also act as guiding principles for our approach to a circular economy. In addition, we manage natural resources in ways that contribute to the circular economy including increasing sales of reconditioned products. We also have strong systems and processes in place to responsibly manage environmental impacts across our operations.”
Martin Fairman, UK&I Managing Director and Channel Director, Lexmark:
“A focus on sustainability is at the core of Lexmark’s culture and we take great pride in our CSR initiatives, which we’ve embedded into everything we do.
“For example, we have a long history of creating environmentally friendly print devices, and every single device built since 2012 is Blue Angel certified. From an operation perspective as well, we’ve continually looked to find more environmentally friendly ways of doing business. Since 2015 we have lowered water consumption by 20 per cent, greenhouse gas emissions by 16 per cent and maintained a 75 per cent waste recycling rate.”

Gillian Anderson, Employee Experience Manager, Konica Minolta:

Gillian Anderson
Gillian Anderson

“Our CSR strategy focuses on championing change, we do this through building transformative partnerships, embracing diversity and inclusion, supporting a culture of health, safety and wellbeing and demonstrating environmental change. As a socially conscious business, we are making CSR a priority and embedding it into our operations and strategy, this includes using our products to drive social and environmental change, developing a culture where our employees can be at their best and helping our customers meet their own sustainability goals.”

Daniel Quelch, UK Sustainability & CSR Manager, Epson Europe:
“Our Japanese roots greatly influence our approach to CSR. Much of our success in this area can be attributed to Epson’s Japanese principle of monozukuri – the art and science of manufacturing – which fosters sustainable manufacturing. This means that at Epson, CSR is all about delivering value to our employees, customers, society and environment at every step of our operations.
“In practical terms, this means we have adopted the SDGs defined by the United Nations and formulated sciencebased targets for our greenhouse gas reduction initiative. As part of the effort to reduce our corporate footprint (and in Europe, this accounts for the majority of our eco footprint), we have introduced light sensors, LED lighting and electric vehicle charging to encourage employees to travel sustainably. Internally, we have developed online e-learning training courses for employees, to give them all the skills needed to champion sustainability in their teams and departments.
“Our approach to CSR also extends beyond our walls, we ensure we work with green partners so that our supply chain also has a reduced environmental footprint. Our sales teams lead with eco messaging, and we’re seeing that our channel partners and end-users are becoming increasingly environmentallyconscious as a result. This has inspired us to also provide educational training for our resellers on sustainability, to help them also meet the growing customer demand in this area.”

PrintIT Reseller: Do you consider strong environmental performance to be a valuable source of competitive advantage?

Lars Hargaard: “In the current climate it can be to some extent, but it is probably more of a showstopper. If you don’t meet certain criteria, you are not allowed to bid for tenders etc.”

Jeremy Spencer
Jeremy Spencer

Jeremy Spencer: “When we started the Carbon Zero scheme, it was definitely a differentiator as we were the first to undertake such an initiative. For the wider industry, environmental concerns perhaps fell to one side in the immediate years after the financial crisis, but they have certainly returned now. So, as a pioneer, it remains a clear competitive advantage for Toshiba – although I have to say we would be doing what we do anyway now, because we believe so strongly in the ethos behind it.”

Carlo Longhi: “Combatting climate change – at a consumer and political level – has been high on the UK news agenda over the past several years. The focus is now turning towards corporate organisations who are increasingly being called on to lead the charge. In fact, a recent report revealed that 66 per cent of consumers are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand, making sustainability businesscritical.

“Development of sustainable practices lends itself to operational efficiencies that streamline work processes and conserves resources, which in turn enhances employee productivity and reduces cost. What’s more, being known as a sustainable business can attract investors, as well as a talented workforce. People want to be associated with the positive, and if you can showcase your company’s sustainable choices, you can attract the calibre of people whom you wish to employ.

“Ultimately, embedding sustainability into your business shouldn’t be seen as a trade-off between good citizenship and maximising profits. Making sustainable investments in the short-term can translate into long-term financial benefits that can actually boost your bottom line.”

Trevor Northfield: “This is a growing hot topic and the environmental performance of our products and services is now critical to secure tenders. We are mindful to emphasise our capabilities in this area as this can be essential to securing new business and retaining customers too.

“The business we pitch for invariably incorporate a points system that includes a sustainability section, or at least this is a major consideration for customers. Trends over the past few years have led to deficiency in this area potentially being the difference in securing a sale.”

Gemmer Crozier
Gemmer Crozier

Gemmer Crozier: “There is no longer any question over whether good environmental performance, as well as high ethical standards in every other aspect of CSR, provide a commercial advantage – it absolutely does.

“We know that it is a key factor in both consumer and business decisionmaking and transparency around supply chains and ethical practices has become a major selling point. We offer all of our customers a free recycling service for all of their print toners. This offers them complete transparency on where their waste ends up, something that customers are increasingly demanding as part of their procurement processes. It helps them to be more sustainable, which they can then show to their partners and customers.”

James Pittick: “A strong environmental performance helps to create value and brand differentiation, which in turn drives product innovation. By committing to environmental performance, you can reduce reputational and regulatory risk; waste and inefficiency; and minimise the environmental impact of the products. Fundamentally, operating in an environmentally aware manner can also reduce cost, creating a leaner and more competitive business.

“Society as a whole is highly engaged and conscious about sustainability issues and purpose. Translating this into the workforce, partners will improve talent attraction and staff retention by demonstrating their commitment to environmental principals. A greener business is a more attractive business. Having these commitments can improve customer engagement and sales, helping partners win and retain business.

“Some customers request partners have certain accreditations (for example, ISO 14001) before they’re invited to join the bidding process. If a partner does not have this certification, or other similar sustainability accreditations, they could find themselves out of the running for key contracts. It’s not always a case of using environmental accreditations to gain a competitive advantage, but a step that must be taken to keep pace with the competition.”

Martin Fairman: “Across the board, organisations are looking to do their bit in helping to reduce environmental damage, so enabling customers with a simple, hassle-free means of participating in CSR initiatives can be a strong selling point. We pride ourselves on the delivery of our global Lexmark Cartridge Collection Programme. In 2018, more than 40 per cent of the total toner cartridges shipped worldwide were Lexmark customers returning their used cartridges for recycling – with none going to landfill. Our goal is to reuse 60 per cent of returned cartridges and supplies by 2022 (we’re currently at 53 per cent).”

Gillian Anderson: “Strong environmental performance provides many advantages, all of which make businesses more competitive. By controlling our environmental aspects and encouraging our supply chain partners to control theirs, we create business efficiencies, which leads to significant cost savings. Our customers are becoming more environmentally aware and as a result, the focus on sustainability within tenders has increased significantly. By having robust environmental management controls we are able to demonstrate to customers that we can meet their exacting requirements. We also provide products and services that help customers in meeting their own environmental goals by helping them reduce resource consumption such as energy and paper. For example, our new bizhub ECO product ensures customer devices are set-up to minimise environmental impact and allows them to offset carbon.

“Finally, by being a genuinely environmentally conscious company, it will allow us to attract the best talent to drive growth and the capacity to safeguard our and the planet’s future.”

Daniel Quelch
Daniel Quelch

Daniel Quelch: “Yes, absolutely. I believe that this factor will soon be the difference between business success and failure. However, for us, the main drive towards sustainability comes from our heritage. It has been in our thinking for 75 years – from the opening of our first manufacturing plant – and continues to be embedded in the foundations of our business. While around a quarter of customers say they buy from Epson because of our environmental credentials, our primary focus is on developing high-quality products, with sustainability being an added value.

“We have recently reviewed our environmental performance in the second edition of our voluntary, nonfinancial European sustainability report, ‘ The Green Choice ’. We are taking guidance from sustainability experts and use this annual report to ensure that our efforts continue to align with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and the UN’s SDGs.

“Whether it provides a competitive advantage or not, our products defy common misconceptions of low-energy consuming devices costing more and compromising on quality or productivity. For example, our business inkjet printers use up to 96 per cent less energy than comparable laser models, while achieving a printing speed of up to 3.5 times faster. To help buyers make an informed choice, we have developed an energy and CO2 savings calculator, where they can easily compare the environmental impact of other printers to Epson inkjet units.”

PrintIT Reseller: As expectations on corporate responsibility increase, to what extent are sustainable products and business practices driving buying preferences?

Lars Hargaard: “Luckily we see a trend towards extended use of our products. Previously three to four years was a standard lifetime for a business printer, but now five to six years is common.”

Jeremy Spencer: “Sustainable products and business practices are becoming a core part of the buying process and we find these issues are increasingly encountered on tenders. We find buyers are asking serious and informed questions about a potential supplier’s environmental credentials – such as ISO 14001, which we have attained – as well as wanting to know what else they are doing to reduce environmental impact and, in so doing, help the buyer do the right thing.”

Carlo Longhi
Carlo Longhi

Carlo Longhi: “No sector has escaped the rising pressure to balance operational needs against environmental footprints. We are noticing customers across every industry now looking for ways to work smarter and faster while improving their bottom line and driving sustainability. In the last year, we have seen a spike in customers opting to control costs and improve sustainability metrics by deploying a mix of hardware, software and services designed to achieve those goals.

“As we edge closer to a digital future, we are increasingly assisting diverse customers across various industries in managing hard copy archives and converting their data to digital. Searching for cost savings and real-time results, customers are now opting for solutions that influence sustainable behaviour and eliminate unnecessary printing. Services such as the Xerox Print Awareness Tool apply analytics to customer’s printing providing insights into their print behaviour from cost, operational and sustainability perspectives.”

Trevor Northfield: “As the impact we have on the environment grows in importance, our customers are insisting on environmentally sustainable products and services that aim to reduce energy consumption. Our team is determined to match these growing trends and offer sustainable services.

“Aside from encouraging customers to print double-sided and recycle cartridges at every opportunity, we also point out that many of our products have in-built functions that conserve energy. For example, our digital signage solutions have a low power mode that is employed automatically when inactive for a long time – the products also have movement sensors that wake the device when a user approaches, ensuring there is no loss of functionality. A highlight of our environmentally friendly products is the Skywell atmospheric water generator. Cutting back on deliveries of plastic bottled water ultimately reduces the amount of plastic in circulation and demonstrates that there are other options for businesses that are serious about green initiatives.”

Gemmer Crozier: “We sell our solutions through a network of reseller partners, and demonstrating sustainable practices is quickly becoming an essential requirement for them to secure sales. We’ve supported some resellers on tenders where up to 40 per cent of the total score was owed to responsible business practices. End-to-end transparency is essential and those that are able to demonstrate best practice are in a strong position commercially.”

James Pittick: “Being sustainable is no longer viewed by customers as a ‘nice to have’. It’s an expectation. Long-term investment and a focus on product quality are at the heart of customers’ procurement processes, and sustainability is now a key part of this.

“Alongside our partners, we address customers’ sustainability requirements directly through Canon’s energy-efficient product designs, developing printers that are smaller and lighter to further reduce CO2 emissions and improve shipping efficiencies.

“Customer expectation has also driven the increasing popularity of our remanufactured devices. Canon’s EQ80 initiative, whereby it takes end-of-life printers and rebuilds them to as-new quality, has seen great success in catering to the rising demand for low-cost, sustainable devices.”

Martin Fairman: “Customers first want reliable and secure print solutions – but the opportunity to participate in recycling programmes without additional costs is real selling point. Like us, customers want to buy services safe in the knowledge that they are not doing any additional damage to the environment or breaching their own CSR or compliance targets, so sustainability credentials are important considerations when choosing a supplier.”

Gillian Anderson: “Sustainable business practices and products are becoming increasingly important. We have been refining our procurement processes and emphasising sustainability. During our prequalification process, suppliers who are unable to meet our environmental, safety, security, quality or CSR requirements will not progress regardless of price. However, we are always happy to work with our supply chain to get them to the required level. We are increasingly seeing this approach being adopted by our customers as well.”

Daniel Quelch: “In general, buying preference is still very much led by quality and price, but research proves that there is a growing majority of people who lean towards a brand or a product with sustainable features. By adding value through our sustainable products, we provide greater choice to end-users, whilst helping to solve some of our society’s greatest issues. Aside from making pledges at manufacturing and corporate levels to align with the UN’s SDGs, we have also put the onus on our channel partners to do the same.”

Lars Hargaard: “Absolutely. It might be costly in earlier stages, but will pay off in terms of long-term relationships, increasing employee satisfaction and so on.”

Jeremy Spencer: “Working towards clear and defined environmental accreditations and standards is a great discipline and, having achieved these goals, I can confirm that it is absolutely worth the considerable investment in time and money.

“When we first started we recognised that we had to do something, and we did what we did because it neutralised the environmental impact of our business. Yet some ten years after we introduced the Carbon Zero scheme, on a fundamental level everyone here feels it is the right thing to do, as our efforts actually help saves lives. Beyond the cost, we and our partners are doing the right thing because we should.”

Carlo Longhi: “Attaining environmental accreditations and standards are part of our sustainable environmental, social and governance strategy. Working towards achieving environmental accreditations not only makes good business sense, but it also benefits our employees, customers and the planet.

“Ultimately, being ethical and sustainable is an important factor in remaining competitive and attractive in today’s world. Pressure from investors, consumers and regulators can directly affect your bottom line, and businesses must adapt to this new environment or risk being left behind.”

Trevor Northfield: “Environmental accreditations are a completely worthwhile investment as these can firstly reduce energy costs and ultimately help secure new business. Our customers – both current and prospective – are increasingly concerned about using sustainable services and partnering with companies that have a proven track record.

“This is where accreditations can prove the difference between for our sales team. Accreditations have the potential to pay for themselves very quickly!”

Gemmer Crozier: “Brother has been awarded the Queens Award for Enterprise for sustainable development – twice. This puts us in a very small club of multiple winners. Our UK operation has also been independently certified as zero-waste-to-landfill and we are the only North West business to maintain the industry leading standard for over nine years.

“These achievements are the culmination of a huge amount of investment in best practice to ensure we don’t just say the right things and conduct a few token initiatives, but that we live and breathe sustainability in everything we do. “This has been a worthwhile cost in two very important ways. First, it has given us a significant commercial advantage that comes with strong environmental and wider sustainable business credentials. But, more importantly, it has allowed us to create a business that is making a positive impact on our people, our local community and the planet as a whole – something we are deeply committed to as a business that is focused on true long-term sustainability.”

James Pittick: “Environment standards push businesses to constantly look for ways to innovate and reduce the environmental impact of their products. Working towards standards such as the EcoVadis accreditation, highlights that a business is committed to working sustainably and driving its standards upwards.

“Accreditations clearly outline a commitment to customers. They showcase Canon and its partners’ commitment to working together, helping customers reduce their environmental impact through cutting-edge, energy efficient products.”

Martin Fairman
Martin Fairman

Martin Fairman: “We don’t regard achieving environmental accreditations as a cost to Lexmark, as ultimately making sure we can reuse and recycle as much as possible will reduce our materials and manufacturing costs in the long run. Certifications also provide us with clear selling points and outside recognition of our products. For example, being able to say that we’ve met Energy Star requirements in over 90 per cent of Lexmark devices not only gives us a clear reference point but leaves customers safe in the knowledge that they are buying a product that will have minimal impact on their energy consumption.”

Gillian Anderson: “Definitely! Not only is certification a pre-requisite for many of our contracts but the standard provides a fantastic management system framework. For example, ISO 14001:2015 makes sure that we fully understand the context in which we work, and allows us to risk assess and control our environmental aspects. It then provides us with the tools to ensure we are continually monitoring and improving our performance. The standard provides us with the ability to make sure we are doing the right thing and the certification enables us to demonstrate this to others.”

Daniel Quelch: “Provided that the work towards these accreditations and standards pushes companies to review their practices and become more sustainable, it is definitely a worthwhile cost. It is important for us to educate, raise awareness and set industry benchmarks for others to learn from and build on, so we can assume collective accountability of how we influence a more sustainable future.

“We are ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 accredited and our products carry many sustainability accreditations, including TCO, Red Dot and Market Intelligence Award. However, accreditations should be the foundation of sustainability, and where possible businesses should look to go further. Epson does this, for example through our cartridge recycling scheme. By becoming part of something bigger such as the Responsible Business Alliance, we believe we can set industry foundations that others can learn from and follow.”

In next month’s issue, we include the channel’s perspective.

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