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What you didn’t know about your triple bottom line and your printing technology choices

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Libor Píška)

If you are a business leader or work in a business environment, chances are you’ve heard of the ‘triple bottom line’, also known as the ‘three P’s: Profit, People and Planet’. The framework has been a business staple for over 20 years, but have you ever wondered about its origins and why it has become so relevant today?

The Triple Bottom Line was first coined by British business author, advisor and entrepreneur John Elkington in 1994 to encourage companies to bring together social, environmental and financial performance within their accounting framework. Although definitions vary slightly, each of the three strands generally refer to the following aspects of corporate responsibility:

  • Profit – The economic value created by the company towards the host society after the cost of all inputs have been deducted
  • People – Beneficial business practices towards labour and the community of the region in which an organisation conducts its business
  • People – Beneficial business practices towards labour and the community of the region in which an organisation conducts its business

Prior to the mid-nineties, accounting was viewed as a separate and disconnected part of a business; whereas today – more and more – business impact is viewed in terms of its interconnectedness with other aspects, including societal and environmental impact. Back in the 1960s when this idea first became concrete, around the time of the creation of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (opens in new tab), people were only just beginning to think of business more holistically, in terms of how it operates in a wider society. In these times, corporate social responsibility (CSR) was a relatively new phenomenon.

But things are rapidly changing – and over the last few years CSR has become more prominent within organisations. For example, recent McKinsey research (opens in new tab) revealed that two-thirds of CFOs and three-quarters of investment professionals now agree that CSR activities create value for their shareholders.

The millennial generation is largely responsible for driving this change in mindset. According to the 2015 Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report (opens in new tab), 73 per cent of millennials globally are willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings and nine in 10 millennials (opens in new tab) would switch brands to one associated with a cause.

The result of this trend is that businesses today must prove their worth not only financially, but also in how they create greater business value for customers, investors, employees, wider society, and the environment. Non-financial reporting is one way that companies, such as Epson, have chosen to reflect this change, providing concrete information and facts with the utmost transparency. Later this year, we will issue our first non-financial report specifically for Europe, where non-financial reporting is increasingly becoming mandatory. This is predominantly being driven by regulatory changes such as the new Non-Financial Reporting Directive (opens in new tab), which requires companies with more than 500 employees to disclose certain information on the way they operate and manage social and environmental challenges. This sets a precedent for the introduction of legislation as a means to accelerate the shift from the ‘old’ notion of CSR towards a more holistic, forward-looking and strategic approach for businesses to account for the impact they have in their communities.

As a company that works with other companies on their business technology needs – from printing and visual to wearable and robotic technologies – one thing we’ve found is that it is often the least obvious areas where companies can show they are leading the way in efficiency, sustainability and reducing their environmental impact. When it comes to printing, for example, many businesses of all sizes are beginning to realise that inkjet technology, along with high-volume ink solutions such as replaceable ink packs, which were first developed by Epson, can enable greater efficiency through speed, cleaner processes, far less wastage and reduced power consumption. The environmental impact of traditional ink cartridges alone is substantial, given that 70 per cent of all (opens in new tab) ink cartridges are still not recycled or properly disposed of and that they take around 1,000 years to fully decompose in landfill sites.

So, although for many the printer may seem insignificant when it comes to non-financial reporting, taking steps to minimise the use of ink cartridges can make a considerable difference. This is especially true if you consider that inkjet, compared to laser printing technologies, can reduce waste by up to 99 per cent and energy consumption by 96 per cent, making it easy to see how the collective impact can quickly add up. Indeed, if every European business made the switch to inkjet printing, enough energy would be saved to run a city the size of Manchester, equivalent to over half a million households. The good news is that inkjet printing is quickly increasing in prevalence, with IDC predicting that it will account for over a third (34 per cent) of the total European business printer market by 2019.

At a time when there appears to be a renewed focus on CSR and the triple bottom line across the value chain, I am proud to work for a company where this is valued right at the top. Epson’s president – Mr Minoru Usui – has an ambition to transform our company from being a business company to a ’society company’. CSR is at the cornerstone of this ambition. We will continue to provide indispensable products to our customers based on our ‘sho sho sei’ (Japanese for compact, energy-saving, high-precision) philosophy. At the same time, we are putting sustainability at the forefront of our own production processes. We believe that this, and social responsibility, should be viewed as opportunities, rather than obligations, to innovate. That is why we are currently working to reduce CO2 emissions by 90 per cent across the lifecycle of all our products and services by the year 2050.

As a company, simply responding to the latest disclosure requirements internally is not enough. Our aim is to also support other companies by helping them to report on improvements to their triple bottom line as a result of making good, informed business technology choices. That way, CSR can continue to have an impact in wider society and, ultimately, make our world a better place to live.

Claire Robinson, Head of Business Sales UK & I, Epson (opens in new tab)
Image source: Shutterstock/Libor Píška

Claire Robinson is head of business sales for Epson in the UK and is responsible for driving sales growth. She is tasked with implementing intelligent business and end user solutions.