Kyocera survey highlights changing attitudes towards the environmental office

14 years is a long time in eco-business

07 May 2007

The repeat of an environmental survey that Kyocera first carried out in 1993 has revealed a step change in business attitudes towards the environment, but not in the way that might be expected.

The survey, carried out on behalf of Kyocera and paper manufacturer M-real by Loudhouse Research Consultancy in June 2007, asked 340 directors, purchasers and general office staff at UK organisations with 1000+ employees about the environmental activities undertaken in their workplaces. While recycling of printer toner cartridges, PCs and office hardware has risen by nearly 100% since 1993, the percentage of organisations that have a clearly stated policy on maintaining an environmentally conscious office has fallen from 54% in 1993, to 41% in June 2007. Furthermore, only 23% of those questioned stated that they use environmentally conscious suppliers, while just 20% claimed to “diligently scrutinise suppliers for environmental credibility” – down from 54% in 1993. This apparent shirking of environmental responsibility can be explained by the exponential increase in the complexity of the issues, as Tracey Rawling Church, Marketing Director at Kyocera, explains: “When we launched our first ECOSYS printer back in 1993, major concerns centred around recycling paper and eliminating CFCs – quick wins which could be ticked off as paper recyling trays appeared around the office and we switched to CFC free aerosols. Now an organisation has to take into account its energy consumption, the conscientious disposal of end of life equipment, transport policies, and myriad other issues before it can claim to have an environmental policy.” The research also showed a dramatic decline in the number of organisations willing to pay a modest premium for environmentally sound products, down from 60% in 1993 to just 31% today. This factor, coupled with the continuing perception that environmentally responsible products come at the expense of performance, demonstrates a “hard green line”, which places the onus on suppliers to absorb any costs of going green. Charlie Rea, Knowledge Transfer Manager at the Technology Strategy Board’s Resource Efficiency Knowledge Transfer Network, commented on the survey: “The report reaffirms that progressing further [towards environmental responsibility] requires the acknowledgement that commercial aspects ultimately have primacy over environmental considerations. At the same time, the increased complexity and the pace of the debate on good environmental practice has made defining ‘the right choice’ less clear, in itself a barrier to change.” It’s clear from the survey results that respondents recognise they can act at an individual level to reduce environmental impact, with 52% using print preview to minimise wasted printing, and 49% using double-sided printing. However, it seems that on a wider level, businesses feel that the responsibility lies with suppliers to take the initiative and “green” their products. Tracey Rawling Church comments, “Since 1993 the economy has experienced both boom and recession. This has created a far stronger focus on the economic bottom line, which still greatly outweighs environmental considerations for an individual company. Therefore on the face of it, UK business remains “too mean to be green” in 2007. However, this masks the real picture, which is that a commercial step change has occurred. In the currency of corporate reputations, suppliers cannot afford not to be green, and customers do not expect to have to pay for it.” Concluding, Charlie Rea commented: ”To succeed in the advance towards attaining the environmental office, the challenge, and indeed the opportunity, is to deliver the environmental benefits in balance with the economic and operational considerations that drive all successful organisations.”

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