Japan, between 1603 and 1867, lived through what was called the Edo period, during which its society ran as an ecologically sustainable ‘closed loop system’. This meant that all waste was used in production and old items were repaired rather than replaced. The period was characterised by economic growth, strict social order and a stable population before coming to a somewhat controversial end in the mid-nineteenth century.
In today’s world, awash with myriad gadgets and technological devices – ranging from smartphones and laptops to smartwatches and fitness trackers – some people are attempting to return to this ideal. But zero waste looks realistically impossible in our modern day, particularly as more and more people live in urban areas and work in office environments.
However, though we are well past the Edo era, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider the cost to the earth when making business decisions, such as which technologies to choose or how to power our offices. This is where the idea of corporate social responsibility (CSR) comes into play, where businesses seek to comply with ethical standards as well as legal requirements.
Although progress has definitely been made in recent years – largely driven by the influence of the millennial generation and their desire to “make a positive difference through their lifestyle” – there is still a wealth of opportunity for companies all around the world to improve the sustainability of their operations and it doesn’t come down to just one factor. Today, in order to be sustainable, businesses need to focus on finding the balance between the financial, environmental and social output of their activities: to be successful, they must improve their triple bottom line. Despite being a concept that has been criticised for various reasons in the past – such as being restrictive and hard to implement in a real-world setting – the triple bottom line has generally garnered widespread support since the term was coined by British author John Elkington in 1994.
As such, many consumers are now showing their appreciation of ‘green’ initiatives through the companies they support and governments are also placing ever-greater importance on the environmental impact of business through regulation. For example, the European Union’s Energy Efficiency Directive requires ‘large companies to conduct energy audits at least every four years’, while the Non-Financial Reporting Directive requires companies with 500+ employees to disclose information on the way they manage social and environmental challenges. This means businesses now have a choice to make. They can either move with the times and start thinking about their impact on the wider environment, or stay the same and hope their customers don’t move on to greener pastures.
At Epson, we are seeing this dynamic manifesting for our customers when they procure and purchase business technologies, such as printers. And it’s not just large enterprises. Businesses of all sizes are being affected, despite just 18 per cent of SMEs being willing to accept additional costs related to improving eco-efficiency.
Keeping Earth in mind
As a global technology company with Japanese roots and printing technologies at our core, Epson is one business that is using innovation to begin to recreate what was seen in the Edo period and ‘close the loop’ in business solutions for its customers. It is our belief that products that are lighter, smaller, more efficient, use fewer resources and reduce energy consumption are a step in the right direction for both individual businesses and the entire planet. As a company, we firmly believe that the future of business printing must be sustainable. There are several steps firms can take to get there – such as considering consolidated devices, establishing rules-based printing and encouraging recycling practices – but our years of experience have taught us that the most effective solution for this is inkjet technology. We consider it one example of a turnkey driver for businesses looking to better their triple bottom line and enhance their CSR efforts.
But don’t just take our word for it: there are many reasons why inkjet is the future of sustainable printing. Inkjet technology now surpasses laser printing in all sustainability measures, as well as most efficiency tests, and companies are beginning to wake up to the added value of this technology. It can reduce waste by up to 99 per cent, it results in less CO2 than laser, and it uses up to 96 per cent less energy. To put these figures into context: if all businesses switched to inkjet printing tomorrow, enough energy would be saved to run at least half-a-million households across Europe, equivalent to a city the size of Manchester or Lisbon.
However, several misconceptions still exist around inkjet printing. Only 37 per cent of respondents to a recent Epson survey of 500 European corporations believe that inkjet has a “lower environmental impact”, while even less (36 per cent) believe it has “more efficient energy use.” The truth is that those who switch to inkjet printing will reap the sustainability benefits, while at the same time saving money when costs are compared to laser printing.
From the first sketch, right the way through until its entry into the recycling process, all of Epson’s products are developed with an ecologically sustainable life cycle in mind. Yet as with any drive for change, these sustainability improvements can only translate into concrete gains for the environment if businesses continue to make the switch to cleaner innovations, such as inkjet technology. Our research shows that the vast majority (94 per cent) of businesses across Europe believe sustainability is an important issue, but this intent needs to be translated into action.
The triple bottom line is about taking care of the three elements that really matter in business: Profit, People and Planet (the three Ps); and, although we are happy to lead the way, we ultimately believe that the responsibility is a collective one. Epson has made its choice and now it’s your turn to do the same.
Henning Ohlsson, CSR Director, Epson Europe
Image source: Shutterstock/Libor Píška