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PRINT IT Reseller Magazine Issue 116 – Time to step up climate action: part two

PRINT IT Reseller Magazine Issue 116

COP28 has revealed that much more needs to be done if we are to limit global warming to 1.5°C before the end of the decade. Notably, the first ‘global stocktake’ of the world’s efforts to address climate change under the Paris Agreement has shown that progress is too slow across all areas of climate action. Here, some of the sector’s leading vendors discuss strategies and initiatives designed to reduce the environmental impact of printers and MFPs.

PrintIT Reseller: Does carbon offsetting do more harm than good? Are carbon reduction strategies a more effective means of achieving targets to reduce GHG emissions and what are you doing in this area?

Daniel Maddox, Managing Director, Evolve Document Solutions: Buying carbon offsets might sound like a good idea, but I think it can definitely backfire. Some companies use it to look greener than they really are, and it makes people think they can keep on polluting as long as they pay someone else to sort it out. The risk here is that it can stop us from making the big changes we need to reduce emissions at source.

Also, some offset projects aren’t as good as they sound. They might not actually make a difference. Take planting trees, for example. Some of the carbon they save might be released into the atmosphere anyway.

For Evolve, I believe using as little energy as possible rather than relying on offsets is better. We don’t buy offsets. But if we did, we’d choose carefully to ensure they’re the real deal.

Focusing on cutting back the greenhouse gasses we produce is way more effective than just trying to offset them. Carbon reduction strategies force companies and countries to change how they do things – switching to cleaner energy sources and making things more efficient. These changes make a permanent difference.

Carbon offsets should be a last resort if there’s absolutely no way to avoid causing those emissions. Carbon reduction is where we need to put our energy and money if we truly want to tackle the climate crisis.

Ryan Green, Digital Services Director, Carbon: Both approaches play crucial roles in achieving net-zero emissions. Carbon reduction directly reducing emissions is essential for long-term sustainability. It addresses the root cause and promotes positive change.

Carbon offsetting, while valuable, cannot replace direct emissions and energy reductions, it is my opinion that offsetting should complement reduction efforts, not substitute them. At Carbon, our mission is to help businesses cut costs and reduce carbon emissions through sustainable managed print and implementing digital transformation solutions. We advocate for both carbon reduction and offsetting, emphasising an importance to our clients of making informed choices and taking collective action.

Michael Bailey, Chairman, EBM Managed Services: Offsetting carbon emissions is an effective strategy for mitigating our environmental impact by either reducing emissions or sequestering CO2, alongside initiatives like tree planting and providing eco-friendly resources to communities, particularly in developing nations.

Recently, we’ve opted to endorse a diverse array of verified carbon reduction projects globally. While carbon offsetting is beneficial, it isn’t a comprehensive solution. Ideally, in a perfect world, all carbon emissions would be minimised to zero or near-zero at the source. Within our industry, achieving this goal entails adopting practices such as sourcing zero-carbon electricity, transitioning to electric vehicles, promoting carbon neutral manufacturing processes, and implementing sustainable packaging, among others.

Tracey Taylor, General Manager, First Copy: At First Copy, we’re careful not to suggest that our partnership with Ecologi to plant trees for installs and enquiries is carbon offsetting. While it sounds good to some, carbon offsetting cannot be seen as a way for businesses to carry on as before or cause a distraction from reducing GHG emissions in the first place. At First Copy, we are looking at ways to reduce our own emissions and support customers to reduce theirs, including investing in electric vehicles and undertaking a carbon audit to understand our position in 2023. We have invested in carbon reduction projects as an extra step only where we have not yet been able to eliminate emissions at the source.

Martin Randall, Sales and Marketing Director, Vision: I think the thing to remember is that most companies are at varying stages of their sustainability journey. There’s been a huge increase in awareness around carbon neutrality and net-zero in recent years, and whilst most know they have a part to play in shaping a more environmentally sound future, many don’t know where to start.

Carbon offsetting has a part to play in this, particularly in the short-term as the reality is most businesses aren’t going to achieve net-zero in the near future. Carbon reduction planning is an essential part of the process, which is something we’re doing as an organisation, but for those who want to achieve carbon neutrality, offsetting is a valuable tool to bridge the gap and offset their emissions. Obviously not all offsets are equal, so ensuring any offsetting is done through certified initiatives is the way to go.

Daniel Gilbert, Managing Director, Key Digital: While carbon offsetting can provide seemingly immediate benefits, I don’t believe it should be viewed as a substitute for reducing emissions at their source. It should complement efforts in the transition period to cleaner energy sources and improved efficiency, while offsetting only the carbon that cannot be removed.

Failing to address the root causes of emissions and potentially enabling continued negative actions means progress is never achieved. If there’s money available for carbon offsetting then there should be equal amounts, or more, invested in reducing emissions.

There are valid arguments on both sides, but they serve different purposes. I would advocate for a focus on directly reducing emissions as a first priority as that will yield longer-term benefits and then offset the carbon that cannot be removed. I think all of us becoming advocates for greener more sustainable policies is what will drive change in this area, both in Key Digital and as consumers. We are continually analysing the vehicle emissions of our service teams and plan deliveries and service visits to be more efficient. We have recently invested in hybrid response vehicles and look toward 100% electric vehicles as range improvements are made.

PrintIT Reseller: Have you changed your offering in favour of supporting the circular economy and reducing the carbon cost of acquiring printing devices? Think favouring remanufactured devices and/or those which contain recycled content, or products designed to be in use for longer with extended warranties etc.?

Daniel Maddox: We understand businesses are asking for greener ways of working, and we’re listening. Instead of just pushing a brand new kit, we’re all about those circular economy principles nowadays.

This means we also focus on refurbished machines that are as good as new but kinder on the planet and your wallet. Plus, we check for printers made with recycled parts and those built to last, with warranties that give customers peace of mind. It’s about helping you get the printing you need, but in a way that’s easier on the environment.

Ryan Green: We believe as we move forward, a focus on circularity, remanufactured devices, recycled content, and extended warranties will play a crucial role in creating a more environmentally responsible approach for our customers when acquiring printing devices. At Carbon we keep to three key principles – reduce, reuse and recycle.

By refurbishing used devices to extend their lifespan, we reduce the need for new manufacturing and minimise waste. These devices can also be a cost-effective and sustainable choice for small businesses.

We have also made a conscious business decision to partner only with manufacturers and vendors who provide recycled content. By that we mean who prioritise new devices that contain recycled materials. By incorporating recycled plastics and metals into printer components manufacturers can help reduce the demand for resources. We also evaluate all the products we recommend making sure they are designed for durability – by that I mean sturdy construction, repair-friendly modular components, which in turn contributes to longer product lifecycles.

By providing extended warranties and local service and support it encourages our clients to keep their devices in operation for longer – maybe five-year leases rather than three-year. This prolongs the device’s life and reduces e-waste.

Another area that is often missed by our competitors is end-of-life management, companies should consider the end-of-life phase of their products. By implementing a take-back program, recycling initiatives, and responsible disposal practices, Carbon ensure that our devices don’t end up in landfills. Proper recycling and material recovery are essential components of circularity.

While not directly related to circular economy principles, we also firmly believe energy-efficient printing devices also play a crucial role in reducing the carbon footprint. Encouraging energy-saving features and promoting responsible energy use can benefit both the environment and cost conscious clients.

Michael Bailey: Since 2018, EBM has been actively reducing its carbon footprint. Becoming carbon neutral was our first major step in sustainability. A goal which we successfully achieved a while ago. In this process of becoming more sustainable our thoughts naturally passed over to the supply chain and the suppliers involved. We reviewed each supplier to see the ethos behind the business and if it existed or if it was corporate box ticking. The outcome was prioritising partnerships with manufacturers such as Epson and Kyocera which embraced sustainability at their core and are known for their robust environmental policies.

Tracey Taylor: As a mono-branded partner we are partially led by the technology made available to us via our OEM, but we are lucky to work with a partner that has been at the forefront of sustainability for a long time.

We regularly supply refurbished machines, and we are pleased to see that new generation devices contain more recycled content and tend to become ever-more energy-efficient, but we make no apology for pushing for continual improvement.

Martin Randall: With regard to the circular economy, we’ve certainly started seeing an increase in clients asking if we can deploy refurbished equipment as a percentage of their new fleet, so we are absolutely supporting this and will continue to do so.

We also offer toner and consumable recycling services to complement this. To support our clients with reducing their carbon footprint, we’re proud to offer comprehensive workspace audits which assess their volumetric data, floorplans and more to rationalise their fleet, in terms of device type, energy consumption and where their devices are sited. All of this helps to ensure that the solution we’re delivering is as efficient as possible. Our fleet management software also utilises predictive analytics to proactively dispatch consumables, so customers can feel confident they’re only using what they need.

Daniel Gilbert: Our team of experienced support professionals offer print deployment strategies to optimise the lifecycle of equipment needs to reduce changing devices. As printing habits have changed, our fleet management team analyse our customers’ requirements and such offer contract extensions or redeployment of devices based on the manufacturer’s maximum duty cycles.

We work with a select number of manufacturers ensuring we are providing devices that are durable and long-lasting, providing benefits to both Key Digital and our customers. This not only reduces the frequency of device replacements but also promotes resource efficiency and minimises waste generation.

We have chosen to partner only with best-in-class manufacturers, including those that use the highest levels of recycled content or use low carbon heat-free technology.

At Key Digital, we take a holistic approach in our commitment to supporting the circular economy and I feel that is reflected in our offering. By embracing sustainable practices, we can contribute to a more environmentally friendly future while still meeting the needs of our customers.

PrintIT Reseller: Have you expanded your customer offering to include sustainability-centric value-added solutions and services?

Daniel Maddox: We’re not just about selling photocopiers and maintaining them anymore. Our customers want to shrink their carbon footprint, so we’ve upped our game with various sustainability services.

Our most significant change is the introduction of Agility, our proprietary document management software. This is a great way to reduce paper use where we can. This service helps our clients manage their documents digitally, cutting down on printing and their carbon footprint. It’s innovative, simple to use, and super sustainable.

We can help customers determine where printing habits are efficient with customer audits. Our audits look at what’s best for the environment as well as the budget.

We’re also big on education and training. We don’t just drop off a photocopier and wave goodbye. We onboard our clients with detailed advice on how to use their devices in the most energy-efficient way possible. It’s about empowering them to make those small changes that add up to big differences.

Ryan Green: Yes, as well as offering energy-efficient printers that consume less power during operation, another key focus area that goes beyond the hardware is that we are actively promoting paperless workflows by integrating digital document management systems with our devices. We also educate our customers on the environmental impact of their printing habits and offer tips on how they can reduce waste.

Sustainability isn’t just about striving to be eco-friendly, it’s also about smart business practices. We prove to our customers how they can achieve operational cost savings by implementing sustainable practices. Our carbon footprint assessments for photocopier, print usage and digital processes, help our clients make informed decisions.

By leveraging our expertise in digital transformation, we offer additional value digital services including:

Workflow automation – streamline processes by automating repetitive tasks;

Digital alternatives – transitioning from paper-based processes to digital forms;

Cloud integration – to help businesses migrate to cloud-based MPS solutions for scalability and flexibility; and

Data analytics – assist clients in deriving insights from their data for informed decision-making.

We work in close partnership with our clients to create customised digital roadmaps that align with their business goals. Our experience has shown that prospective customers look for suppliers who embrace innovation across their entire business, not just from the print side.

Michael Bailey: Building on the milestone of the business becoming carbon neutral, we sought ways to extend our environmental impact reduction efforts to our customers by introducing ‘carbon neutral printing with EBM’.

This initiative was inaugurated with the introduction of ethical disposal and recycling options for used inks, toners, and consumable parts. Additionally, we offer to offset any carbon emissions generated by devices under our service plans.

Tracey Taylor: We have planted trees for installs since 2022 and many of our customers also take part in reforesting schemes tied to how much they print. In common with others in the industry, we offer audits to support customers in reducing the amount of energy they use and the number of wasted pages they produce, supplying the print management they need to achieve improvements.

Our portfolio has grown significantly over the past few years to include software for flexible working, digital transformation and remote servicing, all of which can support our customers’ ESG policies.

Martin Randall: We’ve recently undertaken a carbon inventory exercise to understand our footprint as an organisation, which sets the foundation for our carbon reduction planning and offsetting. As a reseller that supplies a number of corporate and public sector organisations, we’re seeing sustainability requirements becoming much more prominent as part of the procurement process, and we’re keen to be a leader in the field when it comes to delivering an environmentally sound service.

The next step is to achieve carbon neutrality, which will be significant in terms of providing prospective clients with the assurance that working with us will be contributing to their own carbon reduction efforts. We’ve had an interest in sustainability as an organisation for some time and have been offering services such as device and toner recycling for a number of years. In addition, we have successfully introduced our clients to green initiatives such as PrintReleaf, a unique and innovative service for businesses who aim to mitigate their environmental impact, by planting trees based on their calculated paper usage.

Daniel Gilbert: Sustainability is one of the main cornerstones of Key Digital. Not just environmental sustainability, but business sustainability too.

For a practice to be deemed as ‘sustainable’, it has to be able to be maintained indefinitely. This means making sound business decisions and understanding this with our customers too. It is in our best interest to keep the vendor-customer relationship as sustainable as possible, just as it is to make environmentally-sound choices.

Over the last five years, we have invested heavily in our service and software solutions that allow us to provide market leading support and response times in a more efficient, sustainable way. This leads to greater cost-efficiency for the customer and a better level of support.

We also work with our customers to explore the potential reduction of hardware through process digitisation and software applications.

We provide training and educational programs to empower our customers and their employees to adopt more sustainable practices in their daily operations. This can range from workshops on efficient printing practices to online resources and materials that provide tips and guidance on reducing environmental impact. We don’t like to be draconian in this sense, we prefer to win the hearts and minds of users while making them more productive.

PrintIT Reseller: It’s been well-documented that customer demand for more sustainable products and services is on the increase. How are your OEM/distribution partners helping you to differentiate with sustainable products, solutions and services, and could they do more?

Daniel Maddox: Definitely, our customers are way more switched on about wanting greener choices, which is brilliant. Our big suppliers and distributors are on board with this, too, which helps loads. They’re giving us more remanufactured options, machines and consumables that are fully, and part, recycled.

But, honestly, there’s always room to do better! We’d love to see even more focus on repairability and ensuring those eco-friendly models are as powerful as the rest. That would help us give our customers the whole package – performance and planet friendly choices.

Ryan Green: We have intentionally chosen to collaborate exclusively with companies that share our commitment to sustainability. Both Canon and Epson have made significant strides in this area, reflecting a broader industry trend. Our partners prioritise environmental protection throughout the product lifecycle, actively working to eliminate hazardous substances and reduce pollution.

Additionally, they are steadily embracing circular economy principles, exploring ways to recycle end-of-life products and incorporate them into new offerings. However, there is always room for progress. Notably, both companies are diligently addressing greenhouse gas emissions, implementing measures to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a greener future.

Michael Bailey: We believe that everyone involved can and should do more to improve sustainability. Whether this be the product itself or shipping and distribution involved. Being a reseller we are at a disadvantage of not manufacturing our own products. Therefore, limited to what’s possible in our own realms. Whilst being realistic to what we can do and should do, and what have limited control over.

Through our own choice just like consumers, we have chosen to prioritise collaboration with manufacturers who themselves prioritise environmental sustainability in both their operations and the products they offer. While these manufacturers consistently endeavour to enhance their products, it is imperative for all of us to play our role in reducing our carbon footprint. Could they do more? Certainly. And likewise, each of us can strive to do more as well.

Tracey Taylor: There is room for more transparency and universal standards to make it possible to directly compare competitive products – it isn’t always easy to see where good marketing ends, and good progress begins.

That said, we have seen much more information being shared in recent years and the situation is definitely improving. Our OEM is moving the conversation on from the printed page to a whole lifecycle approach, which can only be a good thing. We need to be looking at energy use, reuse and recyclability, de-inkability, distribution, servicing, data centre emissions and more – not just the number of pages printed.

Martin Randall: Aside from focusing more on incorporating recycled materials into the manufacturing process our partners also work with us to offer device and consumables recycling services. They also offer support and guidance through programs such as HP’s Amplify Impact program. I think these play a valuable role in supporting their partners of all sizes as they provide structure, targets and key milestones to hit (as well as educational content to help along the way). Since many organisations still don’t know where to start when it comes to sustainability, initiatives like this are really helpful in providing a framework for more sustainable operations such as carbon reduction planning, community engagement and much more!

Daniel Gilbert: Our partners have been instrumental in helping us differentiate ourselves in the market by providing a range of high-quality products perfectly fitting in the current market. They have invested in research and development to create products that prioritise environmental responsibility, whether it is through energy-efficient technologies, recyclable materials or sustainable manufacturing processes.

We have been able to incorporate these sustainable innovations into our product portfolio, meeting the evolving needs of customers as environmental messaging has become so relevant.

Continued collaboration and innovation are essential to further differentiate ourselves and our OEMs in the market. Striking the balance between traceability and transparency with clear and effective communication that is easily digestible to our customers will only enhance this further.