Published on January 25th, 2017 | by Louella Fernandes


5 key steps to sustainability for SMEs

By • on January 25th, 2017 • in Articles • 2,974 views • No Comments


Just how committed are European SMEs to eco-sustainability in the workplace? What challenges and barriers do SMEs face when implementing the necessary changes and introducing more cost efficient eco-technology? The fact is only 42% of SMEs are addressing workplace energy efficiency compared to 77% of large enterprises, according to Quocirca’s recent European Study – SMEs: Closing the Sustainability Gap . When SMEs do address the issue, they seem to miss the big picture by focussing on green activities such as paper recycling or new energy-saving light bulbs. However, evidence suggests they are missing out on significant financial gains by not embedding simple eco-efficient printing practices into their business operations.

Although just a third of SMEs view environmental issues as important, compared to 74% of large enterprises, for the eco-savvy SMEs, it’s no longer a question of whether they should be investing in sustainability. Today the big question is how eco-thinking can be embedded in the strategy of any company.

Despite IT equipment being a key source of energy consumption, only 8% of SMEs are using energy efficient IT equipment, meaning a huge number are missing out on the substantial financial and environmental savings. With a little forward planning, research, and resource investment, SMEs could be looking at improved efficiency and cost savings just by following these five steps.

  1. Understand current energy usage and costs. SMEs can get creative in improving overall workplace energy efficiency. However, the first step is to gain a better understanding of current usage and costs. Only from here can they look for opportunities that go beyond the status quo for example, most SMEs already implement low energy lighting and paper recycling – but there are many more “outside the box” opportunities for energy efficiency such as managed print service’s (MPS) and implementing printing rules.
  2. Implement lifecycle thinking. Consider the whole lifecycle of activities and equipment used within a business operation. Take a company’s IT equipment as just one example – can it be recycled or re-deployed? When is the best time to update to ensure the technology is performing at its best for the company?
  3. See the big picture. Add lifetime cost of energy and consumables to the attributes assessed when making buying decisions for any new IT equipment. Look more closely at the energy efficiency of new IT infrastructure and other equipment. According to research, 30% of SMEs have already replaced laser printers with more energy and cost efficient inkjet printers.
  4. Collaborate for results. The research found that just 9% of SMEs have a specific individual responsible for sustainability compared to 57% of large enterprises. Hiring a resource dedicated to sustainable management within an organisation should be a key consideration for any organisation (SME or larger) although it might not be realistic for all. If this is the case, SMEs should identify an external partner who can offer the expertise and guidelines relating to best practices for sustainability.
  5. Outsource management. SMEs and corporates alike have a lot to gain from seeking out a MPS offering. With 53% of SMEs reporting a growth of colour printing and just 47% of SMEs recycling printer consumables, this will not only help deliver effective print policies to meet worthwhile print efficiency and management goals, but also address sustainability needs.

Although it may on initial consideration appear a daunting task to overhaul the approach to sustainability, moving away from traditional “green activities” and implementing small step-changes can have a big impact. Ultimately SMEs need to become more proactive in sustainability or they risk missing out on opportunities for improved efficiency, regulatory compliance and lower costs.

Read SMEs: Closing the Sustainability Gap


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About the Author

With 25 years’ experience in the print industry, Louella Fernandes is a respected and globally recognised analyst focusing on the evolution of print in the digital age. Louella is currently Associate Director for Print Services and Solutions at Quocirca.

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