Setting smart sustainability targets

20 Jul 2010

Tim Taylor, Environment and Compliance manager, Ricoh UK and Ireland, says the sustainability message within companies needs to come from the top down and it’s about teaching people to be more creative and to think smarter when using technology.

Since 2007, Ricoh, a specialist of office solutions, managed document services and production printing, has been progressing its sustainability strategy and impacting its bottom line by introducing initiatives such as a green procurement policy and through a ‘Green Partnership’ programme created with manufacturing suppliers.

Earlier this month, the company announced that it is a year ahead of its plan to reduce its environmental impact by 87.5pc by 2050.

According to Taylor, Ricoh has used a ‘back-casting’ model to set interim targets.

“You’re trying to envisage what it’s going to be like in 50 years’ time – ie, will we still have the raw materials to supply what the customer wants and what is the customer of the future going to be?

“Where we are ahead on a lot of our targets is to do with recycling. We’ve now gone beyond the cradle to grave approach in giving models a second life.

“Models get shipped back to our factory in Telford where they stripped back down to the carcass and rebuilt. Anywhere between 80pc and 90pc of original material is used,” he explains.

And while a survey carried out by Ricoh in December 2009 revealed that Irish and UK businesses came last amongst European business leaders for sustainable document governance practices, Taylor believes companies are starting to take the sustainability agenda more seriously, adding that it’s all down to people.

“When I’m sitting with customers, I say: ‘Well, I can give you the most energy-efficient technology in the world, what we have to do now is teach people how to use it’.”

Hidden costs

Taking printing as an example, Taylor says if people learn to manage their print use more efficiently, using duplex rather than simplex in draft mode for instance, it will have less of an environmental impact on the environment.

“If you look at it from a cost perspective, you’ve bought the paper, you’re paying for it to go through the machine, then it comes out and you recycle it. There are huge costs.”

Sustainability message

Taylor says the sustainability message needs to be driven from the top down and then by departmental managers.

Doing a sustainability audit is another good idea, he says. From Ricoh’s own perspective it is driving a sustainability management system.

“We start by looking at everything that happens within the business, audit it, and see if we are being as sustainable as we can be. Sustainability is not an environmental point of view, but it’s also sustaining our people.

“It actually makes companies more creative because it’s part of breaking habits of a lifetime.”

He says desktop printers in particular are an emotive subject.

“When we are looking at helping companies reduce their energy consumption and save money, invariably it will involve cutting down or eliminating desktop printers and people really do not cope with it very well.”

Another option, says Taylor, is to have one multifunctional device that will scan, fax and print on one company floor.

“Other ways of becoming more sustainable within your business is to look at whether you are being energy efficient in areas such as lighting and design.”

Taking Ricoh’s Dublin office as a case in point, Taylor says it went through a major refurbishment to take its technology further. The office now has heat-retentive glass and motion sensors to help manage lighting,

Technological balancing act

He says it’s also about looking at an alternative way of powering technology.

“If our consumption of electricity is going up, how we are then to reduce our impact? We have to start becoming a lot more creative.

“Companies should have a sustainability strategy in place, you almost start at the beginning, asking how much are we spending on energy, waste and company cars, etc’. In other words, let’s bring it into control.”

The 2010 Ricoh Europe Sustainability Report will be published in September 2010.

For more information about Ricoh’s environment strategy visit its website.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic