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Mixed signals

IT decision-makers are holding back sustainable print initiatives reveals new Quocirca report

As the climate crisis worsens, office buyers and consumers continue to blow hot and cold on the issue of sustainability.

In a recent survey of 2,000 UK adults commissioned by IBM, only one third of consumers said they consider sustainability when making purchasing decisions, putting it at the bottom of purchasing criteria, behind cost and convenience. One in four admits they have done nothing over the last five years to make their purchasing more environmentally friendly.

At the other end of the spectrum, the second edition of Quocirca’s Print 2025 global market insight study , following on from the 2017 study, shows that sustainability has leapt up the corporate agenda, with 52% of IT decision-makers citing reductions in environmental impact as the number one print management challenge they face, ahead of cost savings and security. In 2017, reducing environmental impact was seventh on the list of print challenges.

The findings of these two surveys look to be at odds, but closer analysis shows them to be more consistent than they at first appear.

For example, in IBM’s survey the low priority given to sustainability can be explained by consumers’ expectation that ultimately technology will provide a pain-free way to reduce carbon emissions: one third are pinning their hopes on AI to create a more efficient supply chain; one in five thinks Blockchain will help by tracing food miles; and 18% believe the answer lies with the Internet of Things (e.g. smart meters to reduce energy consumption).

When it comes to office printing and document processes, technology already exists to reduce print-related carbon emissions through workflow digitisation, better print management and even one’s choice of printing device. The high priority given to sustainability in Quocirca’s study reflects not only its importance for CSR, PR and compliance purposes, but also the fact that it is an area where organisations can already make improvements.

What’s stopping them from doing so, suggests the report, are IT decision-makers tied to traditional technologies. Its findings show that while office workers are pushing an agenda of smart mobile working and digital collaboration, the majority of IT decision-makers envisage a print-reliant workplace up to 2025 and are making investment decisions accordingly. Thus:

*65% of IT decision-makers believe paper will still be important to the workplace by 2025, compared to just 36% of office workers; and

*62% of office workers rank investment in digital collaboration tools as a priority, compared to 45% of IT decision-makers.

Report author Louella Fernandes argues that this disconnect highlights the scope that exists for print vendors to become strategic partners to their end user customers. She said: “The significant disconnection in priorities between those who use print technologies and those who specify and purchase them creates a satisfaction gap where office workers don’t get the productivity tools they want and IT decision-makers see their investments failing to have the positive impact they anticipate. Print vendors need to become strategic partners, working with IT decision-makers to identify what business units really need, offering services that satisfy those requirements, whilst also responding to the security and control requirements of IT decision makers.”

Other trends highlighted in the report include an increase in mobile working to 66% of employees by 2025, up from 49% today and 36% in 2017, which, along with greater mobility and greater use of collaboration tools and document capture and workflow solutions, is expected to lead to a reduction in print volumes between now and 2025; and greater uptake of cloud based print management, with 73% expecting to increase their use of such tools by 2025.