Recent Posts



Paper and the Circular Office

Documents are probably the most ubiquitous feature of the office, making on average 3% of organisational cost (Source: Gartner). Yet for many organisations, consideration of the environmental impact of printing and copying goes little further than setting duplex print as the default, introducing email footers asking staff to consider whether they need to print and installing paper recycling bins. More enlightened organisations specify energy efficient devices, which can certainly help reduce both energy costs and carbon emissions, but what happens if we apply circular economy principles to the exchange of information?

On the journey towards increased circularity, "going paperless” is already delivering benefits to both businesses and the global environment. As a first step, circular thinking encourages organisations to recycle the hardware and paper arising from office printing and copying. More advanced circular thinking focuses on optimising the flow of information into, around and out of organisations to minimise the need for hardware and paper: this requires the courage to challenge the status quo through adopting new practices and encouraging staff to change behaviours.

Wherever you are on your journey towards circularity, here are some top tips for reducing paper use in the office:

1. Avoid wasteful printing - Probably the most wasteful practice in any organisation is printing documents and simply forgetting to collect them from the printer. Typically, 6% of printouts are not collected by their originator, which is both wasteful and carries security risks. Pull printing addresses this by requiring the user to either enter a code or present a proximity card before their print jobs are produced.

2. Digitise documents wherever possible - There may be areas of the business where a hard copy is genuinely necessary, either for legal reasons or because customers demand it, but many documents are printed just because that is the way it has always been done. By challenging these preconceptions and introducing document management software, workflows can be simplified and reliance on paper reduced, which in turn reduces the number of printers and copiers required.

3. Invest in appropriate software - Fleet management software can be introduced to provide information on printing and copying activity by user, team or department, enable cost-centre accounting. It can also automatically order consumables or send an alert to a service provider when a fault is detected. This de-risks the decision to minimise the number of devices, by maximising uptime.

4. Rethink procurement practices - Purchasing devices normally begins with a hardware specification, followed by negotiations on price and delivery. Purchasing a service requires a more collaborative approach that gives the supplier the opportunity to gather enough information to propose a costed solution that delivers an agreed outcome. It may be priced on a per-seat or even a per-page basis, and the hardware is more likely to be leased, which has the benefit of facilitating the return of devices at the end of term for repair, refurbishment or re-use, rather than finding their way into a WEEE compliance scheme where they are likely to be downcycled.

5. A change management challenge - Effective communication with users is crucial. Expressing the benefits of the change in financial, environmental and productivity terms helps to establish stakeholder buy-in and reduces the risk of user inertia. User training is an essential component, because of the need for behaviour change.

The imaging industry has advanced rapidly to bring to market “… as a service” (AAS) offerings that can incorporate the tips outlined above. As well as supporting the circular economy principles of minimising resource consumption, reducing waste and promoting re-use at device, spare part and/or materials level, they can reduce costs, improve control and increase productivity.

This article first appeared on Business In The Community's Environment Knowledge Hub.