Sustainable technology: does it cost the earth?

European businesses aren’t capitalising on sustainable technology

Sustainable technology: does it cost the earth?

The environment’s plight has never been higher on the agenda. In fact, 68%1 of businesses say that environmental considerations are becoming more important to them. But that doesn’t mean they’re all embracing sustainable technology. A new survey has found that just 26% of European companies are making full use of energy-efficient IT1.

The most prominent explanation for this divide is the difference in approaches between large enterprises and SMEs. 73% of big businesses view sustainability as a high priority, compared to only 33% of SMBs. And while environmental measures like paper recycling, low energy lighting and increased energy efficiency were found to be fairly commonplace, differences in the use of energy efficient IT solutions by organisation size were also evident. 39% of larger enterprises were using energy-efficient IT, compared to just 8% of smaller enterprises.

In these strained times, maybe the hesitance of SMEs is understandable. In fact, most of those polled explained that cost was the main barrier to implementation. This makes sense, until you consider the increasing evidence that energy-efficiency doesn’t just benefit the environment – it helps the organisations that put it in place too.

With less power comes reduced overheads

Investing in inkjet printers, for example, can make businesses an energy saving of up to 96%2. That’s enough to have a huge effect on total cost of ownership. Meanwhile, C02 emissions could be reduced by up to 92%2, and waste could be reduced by up to 95%2.

Altogether, this adds up to a huge win for any organisation’s bottom line – as well as their social responsibility. These benefits make the relative lack of investment in greener technology contradictory; especially when you consider the pressure to meet EU sustainability regulations and standards.


Knowledge is king

It seems that for many enterprises, it’s a lack of resources at the research stage that’s holding them back. Of those asked, 74% realised that inkjet printing was cheaper than laser, yet only 37% knew that inkjet had a ‘lower environmental impact’, and just 36% were aware that it’s more energy efficient. With just 15% of small and medium-sized enterprises employing a full-time sustainability expert, this gap between reality and perception shouldn’t be a surprise.

But Louella Fernandes, Associate Director, Quocirca, says: “Those with a higher focus on sustainability will continue to reap the benefits. Just 24% of SMEs are willing to accept additional costs related to improving eco-efficiency but there are simple, flexible and cost effective products and services available.”

In an ideal world, those products will help them transition to more eco-friendly equipment without resource or investment burdens. One example can be found in Managed Print Services (MPS), which can help organisations to control and optimise their printing, as well as align to their environmental goals.

MPS are programs offered by print providers that manage all aspects of a business’s printing needs – often involving hardware leasing, and cost-effective ink replacement. The optimisation of printing enables businesses to save money, produce less paper waste and increase efficiency.

51% of businesses3 expect their MPS budget to rise over the next year – and this shouldn’t come as a surprise. The research participants currently using an MPS reported numerous advantages: on average, they were more likely to enjoy higher reliability, lower environmental impact, improved document security, and lower energy use.

Keeping up to date

Large organisations were also found to be more aware of European legislation than their smaller counterparts – 59% of big businesses had knowledge of the EU’s environmental guidelines – suggesting that education, rather than revolution, could be the key to a culture-shift towards greener technology.

Other contrasts were seen on a regional level, with Germany leading the way in sustainability practises. 84% of German organisations reported that sustainability was very or fairly important – compared to just 66% of UK organisations. This is part of a wider cultural change in Germany, where the government has pledged to cut greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions by 40% by 2020, ensure renewables contribute 80% of Germany's energy by 2050, and ensure energy consumption drops 20% by 20204.

From a sectoral perspective, those involved in education were most positive about implementing sustainability practices: 63% of respondents considered it ‘worthwhile, even if it costs more.’ In contrast, just 23% of those in financial sector agreed. It’s clear that for businesses of all sizes and sectors, only the realisation that sustainability can be an opportunity – rather than a burden – will bring us closer to securing the future of our planet.

Taking responsibility

In order to provoke change, it’s necessary for technology companies and sustainability experts to educate people on the benefits of using sustainable technology. Without the budget to take environmentally-friendly steps for their own sake, SMEs need to be informed about the immediate payback eco-friendly solutions can provide. At Epson, we take this challenge seriously – and with the help of our customers, we hope to contribute to a long and prosperous future for the planet we share.

To learn more about cost effective sustainability – and the benefits of making the switch to more eco-friendly printing, visit

1Sustainability study, Quocirca, May 2016

2Based on tests conducted by BLI, 2015. For more information visit