By Dale McIntyre
Sustainability is a hot-button issue, and its importance is only growing. In 2011, just 20 percent of Standard and Poor’s 500 companies published environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reports; by 2013, that figure had risen to 72 percent.
Consumer preference is helping to drive this change. According to Nielsen, brands with a demonstrable commitment to sustainability grew by more than 4 percent globally in 2015, while their competitors grew by less than 1 percent. Moreover, 66 percent of people surveyed agreed they would be willing to pay more for sustainable goods.
One need only look at the backlash against Volkswagen — with sales declining across multiple markets following its 2015 emissions scandal — to see how damaging it can be to neglect or fake this commitment. In today’s market, accurate and detailed information on sustainability is no longer a competitive advantage; it’s a business essential.
It has other advantages, too. A McKinsey survey found that more than 90 percent of executives saw risk management as one of the primary triggers of their sustainability initiatives, with soaring commodity prices being a particular concern.
But while many companies have adopted eye-catching green initiatives, one of the simplest environmental and cost-saving solutions can be found closer to home: reducing office printing volume.
Then, there’s the cost of the ink and toner to consider. Producing one laser cartridge requires a gallon of fossil fuel, and 350 million cartridges are thrown out each year. The environmental costs of printing are astronomical, but the costs closer to home are often more surprising.
Most business leaders cannot correctly estimate the number of printing and copying devices around their offices to within 25 percent, and many probably don’t realize they should care to begin with. But with some companies spending 12 percent of their annual revenues on printing — and an average spend between 1 and 3 percent — this is one cost center that demands more attention.
1. Dive deep into your data to find trends. As with most business problems, an effective print management strategy requires comprehensive data about the organization’s habits and resources. This data should go beyond the invoice from a managed print services provider, which sometimes accounts for as little as 10 to 15 percent of the total cost of printing.
Businesses must dive deeper to get the full picture. The data will answer several important questions: Who is printing? What are they printing? What applications are they printing from, and why? Print management software makes this process easier by allowing business leaders or IT managers to review how many of those documents are essential for business.
2. Define what “necessary” printing entails. Eliminating printing completely is not realistic for most businesses, but it can almost always be reduced. For example, do employees really need to print emails or web pages? You would be surprised how much print volume comes from these sources. By revealing the program that originated a print job, print management software can facilitate proper adherence to your organizational policies and guidelines.
The objective should be to encourage employees to adopt efficient alternatives and eliminate unnecessary printing. After you define the business processes and workflows that may require printed documents, you can encourage monochrome printing instead of color (which can cost as much as 60 cents per page). Small changes like these can add up to big savings.
3. Implement a policy in stages. Trying to overhaul the entire company printing policy all at once could become a major headache — and an uphill battle. It’s a lot easier to phase in changes gradually. Start with areas where immediate savings can be achieved, such as enforcing double-sided, monochrome printing as a standard default device setting.
You could ask employees to reduce their printing by one or two pages per day, and encourage them to think before printing in color. Once people get used to a more thoughtful mindset with regard to their printing habits, it will be much easier to roll out the next stage.
4. Introduce an internal “green” campaign. Don’t just tell employees they have to reduce their printing; launch an internal green campaign to clarify the importance of the initiative. These efforts can focus on cost management, energy conservation, and broader environmental benefits.
Choose a message that fits your company culture, use data to back it up, and educate people about how their actions will help the company achieve its objectives. Illustrating the bigger picture will help to bring employees onboard with what they’ll rightly perceive as a noble cause.
5. Celebrate success. An effective strategy needs more than relentless targets; it will flourish through acknowledgment and celebration of small wins. Share the results of the first three or four months of the policy, breaking them down into cost-savings and page-count savings, and explain what those extra resources mean for the company.
If the company saves enough to invest in new equipment, share that information with employees so they understand how their more mindful printing behaviors contributed to the organization’s success. Regular celebrations of these achievements and milestones will help to improve people’s perceptions of the changes taking place, which can also improve company morale.
Not only do savings of this scale make companies more competitive, they can also improve hiring. In 2015, Millennials became the largest generation in the U.S. workforce; they will comprise around 75 percent of all American workers by 2025.
And what do those young workers want more than anything? A job that matches their ethical and environmental values.
Print management might not seem like a sexy or even consequential issue, but in reality, the right print strategy can do wonders for a business by cutting costs dramatically, engaging Millennial employees, and helping to build a positive, team-oriented atmosphere. Even the joggers in Central Park will be grateful for it.
Dale McIntyre serves as a vice president at Pharos Systems International, an enterprise print solutions provider based in Rochester, New York. Dale provides strategic leadership in the areas of sustainability, brand, and customer engagement. He regularly shares his unique sustainability perspective on print strategy through blogs, webinars, and appearances.