Adopt Corporate Social Responsibility And Adopt More Customers

by Jordan Darragh, Print Releaf

As businesses become more conscientious about how to contribute to the common good, corporate social responsibility (CSR) best practices make their way into the conversation. A growing trend, CSR still remains relatively ambiguous to many business decision-makers. It is time to unpack the highly popular term “CSR” and understand where best practices are headed, how they’re evolving, why CSR is growing in popularity, and perhaps most importantly, how it benefits customers in the imaging industry. 

CSR serves as an umbrella category to encompass all that an organization does to maintain and improve their standards for how they treat the environment and people. This would include stakeholders such as employees, customers, partners and investors. Depending on the size of the organization, there is often at least one person, if not a team of people, focused on CSR best practices throughout every aspect of a business from product to service, supply chain to culture, and more.

The bottom line is, organizations and the people working for them increasingly care about CSR because they personally care about the health of their people and the environmental impact generated from business operations. As a result, the common thought becomes, “if we improve our organization’s CSR, we can improve our performance, operationally and financially.” This idea continues to be represented almost universally throughout the business world — predominately within the Fortune 500 business community, which positions its CSR program as an integral part of its business brand and overall reputation. Go to any Fortune 500 company’s website and you are sure to see significant content about their commitment to CSR.

Where are CSR best practices headed in our industry?

Since CSR touches all aspects of a company, let’s first answer the question: Where are CSR best practices headed in the print industry? While there are many to choose from, there are three significant initiatives currently growing in popularity and demand: 

The reduction and reuse of materials, specifically the association between carbon and manufacturing and distribution, as well as efforts to reduce carbon emissions associated with operation of a product. 

The development of technology solutions, particularly in software and storage systems, to optimize workflows (e.g., migrating paper-based systems to digital) while reducing the environmental impact associated with paper-based systems and improving the employee experience.

The emergence of automated solutions that measure and improve CSR efforts and performance as a means to streamline the work required to collect, measure and report the success or failure of an organization’s CSR program.

The evolution and popularity of CSR best practices

What is trending now may eventually become refined to a gold standard across all businesses, and that is when we will see best practices emerge. As a service provider to customers, not only does a business become responsible for establishing and delivering solutions that meet a customer’s CSR goals, but it can also be viewed as a competitive advantage, introducing innovation and new opportunities to advance their solution. This business model is appealing to customers seeking the latest and greatest innovations that grow with their business while being environmentally thoughtful. 

Industry original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are focusing on material sourcing, reducing waste and being more conscientious in business acquisitions. They are monitoring the industry trends and identifying opportunities to gain a competitive advantage by improving their service and product offerings — which in the end, benefit the customer. Here are a few examples of companies implementing CSR programs in response to customer demand: 

Konica Minolta has developed environmental technologies that manufacture products using sustainable plastics, sourcing materials disposed of by the public (e.g., plastic bottles or water coolers). They are also introducing remanufactured multifunction printers (MFPs) in Japan and have begun to place eco-reporting directly on the control panel of their devices. These are just a few of the many initiatives that nod to a CSR program, again that is driven by customer interest and demand.

Likewise, Toshiba introduced a new MFP that can erase paper for reuse up to four times and, in turn, claims it can reduce the system’s total carbon emissions by 57 percent.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) seeks to reduce energy consumption on its devices by using packaging with recycled content or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-sourced fiber, enabling easy recycling of old ink and toner cartridges, and automating sleep mode on printers and MFPs.

Lexmark acquired Perceptive Software, a leading business process management (BPM) software solution provider, a few years ago for $280 million. Today, the Perceptive Software division is becoming an increasingly more significant part of Lexmark’s revenue and it’s no secret that the growth within the division runs parallel to the demand for workflow solutions moving the offline world to the online world. This can be seen, in part, as a direct response to consumer demand to print less.

The list goes on and on. The reality is, without this focus and reaction to customer demand, service providers (dealers and OEMs) are subject to competitive weakness. At the same time, those focused on “what’s next” are continuing to innovate and deliver leading-edge CSR solutions that strengthen, evolve and often automate CSR best practices.

What’s next in CSR and how does it benefit customers?

One perspective is that there is a common theme that runs through many of the trends, products and solutions already outlined and described: CSR best practices focus on reduction and/or improvement of cost baselines and workflows. Often it’s helpful to look at where we’ve come from to better understand where we’re going. 

Apart from the examples which are current in today’s marketplace, we saw great improvements surface about 10 to 12 years ago with the introduction of monitoring software from leading companies like PrintFleet, FMAudit and Netaphor. The ability to monitor and ultimately automate operational workflows for supply ordering, meter collection, service dispatch and billing represented a paradigm shift and significant overall improvement in the context of managed print services for MPS vendors and, moreover, their customers. This shift touches CSR since automation through technology reduces energy, which impacts the social and environmental footprint of an organization. 

While these software solutions, along with similar products, still serve as the backbone for MPS, new solutions have emerged and evolved to further refine an MPS solution with respect to CSR. Applications like Print Audit, ROI Manager and PaperCut provide solutions that reshape print behavior, volume and cost. This can be done via “shadow monitoring” or be programmed so that “rules-based printing” enforces and mandates outcomes that change print behavior, while achieving reduced baselines for volume and cost. Again, these solutions speak to CSR. 

Before, organizations had to manually enforce print policies to reduce their financial, operational and environmental footprint. While baselines for printing may be reduced, organizations continue to print. Forecasts for declines in office printing exist, but they aren’t as drastic as many believe. Gartner forecasts a total of 3.3 trillion pages to be printed in offices globally in 2016. That represents a 7 percent reduction in printing against recent market figures. While a reduction in paper consumption is forecast, that number still represents an enormous market and an enormous environmental footprint which CSR teams are left to measure, while creating means to reduce printing or minimize the negative effects of printing.

With the evolution of MPS and emerging emphasis on CSR, we have seen a rising demand for reporting. To keep it simple, let’s call it “green reporting.” Green reports are a prerequisite in many MPS enterprise solutions — a requirement that continues to trickle down in the marketplace. Reporting then becomes a requirement for a device, in terms of paper/energy consumption, for a vendor, for a sales rep to meet the customer’s request. Once the report is delivered, the report then becomes a benchmark for action. 

How can you reduce your impact, if not offset it? A significant part of the green report can be automated by companies such as PrintReleaf by determining a customer’s paper footprint. It provides an automatic means for the customer to offset their impact by reforesting their consumption through reforestation projects around the world. The forests are then audited and the trees verified for survival. While this is only one solution, it’s a solution that is signaling the next big thing in CSR: the continuous improvement and reduction of a customer’s environmental impact through automated, green reporting. 

From day-to-day office printing to the graphic print industry and beyond, the need for printing remains alongside the need to satisfy the CSR demands and wants of all stakeholders. By employing some of the print industry’s CSR best practices, MPS providers, both OEMs and dealers, who embrace current market demands and focus on adopting proven CSR solutions will be well positioned to win more customers while giving back to the environment and its people. 

This article originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of The Imaging Channel.