How to make better choices for people by making better choices for business

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A recent statement in a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit made me stop and think. It read: “No more excuses: in a world in which 69 of the world’s 100 largest economic entities are corporations rather than countries, responsible supply chains are a moral imperative.” As surprising as it may seem, Walmart’s annual revenue of $482 billion places it above the economies of Spain ($474), Australia ($426) and the Netherlands ($337). Also, despite being a smaller economic entity, The Sinopec Group’s revenue of $294 billion sees it higher on the list than nations like South Korea ($291), Mexico ($260) and Sweden ($251). Though there are similarities in terms of economic power, companies clearly have far different mentalities than nations. Being mostly driven by profits, businesses of this size must accept the ethical obligations that come with their stature.

As governments and companies alike work to find the best ways to manage increasingly complex global supply chains, we, as businesses and consumers, buy products to meet our daily needs from brands we like and respect, without much thought as to the supply chains from which the products came. Today, we seem to have reached a tipping point where businesses of all sizes, as part of our society, need to pull out the ledger and take a moment to reflect on how to find new solutions to balance the triple bottom line.

Widely cited as the key to sustainability, the triple bottom line can be broken down into three dimensions; social, environmental and financial. Or even easier to remember, the three Ps: People, Planet and Profit. It has often been highlighted that it’s hard to truly fathom social impacts in comparison with environmental and financial, which can be measured more clearly through factors such as emmisions usage and profits. With this in mind, the triple bottom line is still a great way for businesses to analyse the success of their supply chains, both in terms of how they’re maximising profits, and how they’re having a positive impact on people and the environment.

This means,  in order to feel satisfied in their global footprint, businesses must ensure that all aspects of their supply chain correspond to these standards. One way of doing this is to make sure that the suppliers, partners and products we choose are meeting their responsibilities so we can meet ours. Let’s take one example that every business, indeed every person, can probably relate to: the printer.

As a company with a long heritage in innovating printing technologies and manufacturing printer products for businesses and consumers, we understand the challenges of businesses needing to print as part of their daily operations, and we understand the decisions they face when they need to buy or replace a printer fleet. Essentially, it often comes down to price and efficiency. But I would argue that the technology and the supplier you choose are equally as important, and just a little research can actually have a big impact.

Meeting society's needs

From humble beginnings, as a Japanese watchmaking company that was founded in 1942, Epson has gone on to become a global entity that’s often recognised for being one of the most innovative businesses in the technology industry. A lot has changed since our early days, but we’ve always stayed true to our roots, as a company that exists in cohesion with society and the natural world. Specifically, as a Japanese company, the culture of ‘monozukuri’ (the art and science of manufacturing) is at the core of everything the company does. It underlines the importance of manufacturing being in harmony with nature and the values of society, and of respecting resources; be they material or human. Epson has long integrated such principles into the way we work, as a fundamental management philosophy; but what is even more compelling is that the company owns its entire manufacturing chain, which is becoming rarer as global supply chains evolve – particularly in the field of technology.

A great example of this is our wholly-owned factories creating inkjet printers, demonstrating high standards for working conditions and minimising environmental impact and waste in our manufacturing processes. It is incredibly empowering to know that we produce our printing technologies and products ethically, and that all our employees have a safe and healthy place to work. Ultimately, this means that all of our end products also reflect our philosophy – of being ‘sho sho sei’. Translated from Japanese, this represents a desire and commitment to create products that are not only compact and of high-precision, but energy-saving too.

Our inkjet technology remains the very best example of this. It demonstrates that by taking an honest look at what our customers want and need, comparing that to different technologies, and then continuing to invest and innovate for a better outcome, we can make a difference. We now have the best offering on the market because our inkjet technology, compared to laser, provides lower cost and higher speeds (to meet the consumers’ needs) while saving energy by up to 96 per cent, reducing waste by up to 99 per cent and having significantly[1] lower CO2 output.

By creating leading technology that’s environmentally friendly, we’re able to not only meet the needs of our customers, but society too. All of this is going a long way towards helping us in our pursuit of a cleaner planet. With a goal of reducing our CO2 emissions by 90 per cent across the life cycle of all our products and services by 2050, we are committed to delivering on all aspects of the triple bottom line.

For Epson as a company, the social dimension of the triple bottom line is essential. The more we listen to our employees, customers and business partners and grow in harmony with local and international communities, the better our company, products and future will be. We believe it all comes down to choices. For businesses it’s shouldn’t be a choice between the bottom line and what really matters to people and society; it should be a question of choosing the right suppliers, partners and products to have a positive outcome on the triple bottom line.

Claire Robinson, Head of Business Sales UK & I, Epson
Image Credit: Totojang1977 / Shutterstock