Saving money and reducing environmental impact through efficient printing

by Graham Lowes, marketing director, OKI Printing SolutionsWhile all the industry talk in the last few months has been about the global financial crisis, it comes at a time when our stewardship of the environment has become a critical issue. We are all agreed that we have to take a more responsible attitude to our consumption of energy and our carbon emissions.

This is not just a matter of being a good neighbour: increasingly it is becoming a central part of doing business –private and public sectors alike. The prospect of legally enforced carbon quotas and trading schemes is near. Many organisations, keen to establish their own green credentials, expect the highest environmental standards from their own suppliers, and being able to demonstrate best practices could mean the difference between winning and losing major contracts.

The idea that a single workflow process could both save money and reduce the carbon footprint must be extremely attractive, then. There is such a subject, and it comes from a surprising quarter, something that rarely attracts much management time: ‘business printing’.

A recent report by leading economics consultancy, the centre for economics and business research (cebr) has found that the UK spends around £5,800 million per year on outsourced printing and £14,300 million per year on in‐house printing.  In the public administration and defence sector alone, the potential annual cost saving is £213 million which is the equivalent of covering the annual council tax of 155,134 band D homes at an average of £1,373.

cebr projects that organisations could save between £900 million and £2,100 million per year on printing costs. It estimates that £360 million of these savings could come from replacing expensive outsourced printing with printing in‐house while between £500 million and £1,760 million could come from more efficient management of existing in‐house printing tasks.

Outsourced printing can be inherently wasteful. Organisations invariably print more than they need when they outsource jobs, usually to get the most cost-effective deal available. The excess, typically 20 per cent of the total print job, is often thrown away.

The ability to print on-demand in-house and to customise each job helps eliminate this wastage, by facilitating ‘right first time’ printing and reducing the size of each print run.

The other key issue for organisations, particularly in the current economic downturn, is how they manage usage. Many are unaware that there are simple changes they can make in their use of printers to eliminate wastage. Few realise that by starting to use double-sided printing, for example, they can reduce paper use by 50 per cent at a stroke.

It is equally clear that within many organisations there needs to be a process of education to ensure that printing activity is more structured and controlled.  Users can often save on resources by following the well-known ‘think before your print’ guideline and never printing emails simply to read them, for example. In addition, they can be trained to reduce paper wastage by always using print preview and by using a web print utility to ensure each web page fits on one side of paper.
Such a process will often need to be further reinforced both by a more formal directorial approach and through the technology needed to back that up. In particular, organisations can put in place an efficient print management strategy. This allows companies to deliver a ‘print audit’, enabling them to gauge - and if necessary restrict - what each employee is printing.

Broader gains
Finally, as the cebr study intimates, the benefits of more efficient, smarter printing practices could extend beyond individual organisations to the UK economy and environment as a whole. The consultancy forecasts that a shift to more efficient printing practices could boost GDP by up to £2,840 million and net exports by £220 million as more efficient UK sectors compete more effectively across the world. cebr expects economic change of this kind to lead to an investment boost of up to £810 million.

The wider environmental consequences of this increase in efficiency are substantial. The study claims that if organisations adopted the most efficient printing processes, resource usage could be reduced by the equivalent of:

  • Up to 170 thousand tonnes of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) per year
  • 599,000 barrels of oil equivalent per year
  • Around 46,000 cars from the UK’s roads

Clearly, there is much to be gained by UK businesses starting to more fully adopt a smarter, more efficient approach to their printing practices.