Within the business world, one phrase is sounding of late with the frequency of “coffee please”. This, ladies and gentlemen, is “circular economy”.

Circular economy adds a curve ball to the traditional linear approach of ‘make, use and dispose’. It aims to do away with waste. The laws of the circular economy are simple. When an organisation introduces a new resource or process it should:

  • Aim to keep it in operation for as long as possible
  • Extract the maximum value during its lifecycle
  • Recover and regenerate products/materials at the end of each service life

Actions, of course, speak louder than words. So it is that legislatures and business leaders are embracing circular economy as an alternative to the fiscal and environmental implications of linear economic operations.

Yet, rerouting the train from its linear track is easier said than done. Take your organisation’s print and document workflow infrastructure, for instance. How can you make things circular?

This question is particularly pressing given that reducing waste and consumption is a top six document workflow challenge highlighted by business leaders.

Managed print and the circle of life

Rather than viewing economic and environmental objectives as contradictory, forward-thinking managed print providers believe they go hand in hand. This is hardly rocket science. Environmentally savvy systems which buoy the bottom-line just make sense, right?

Of course they do and that’s why this win-win approach to sustainability has long been a credential of leading managed print providers.

We’re not alone in this thinking. Quocirca principal analyst, Louella Fernandes, believes a significant opportunity for managed print services spins in the circular economy model.

“Offering customers access to, rather than ownership of printing resources, will lead to more sustainable consumption,” says Ms Fernandes, whose remit covers printing services.

The question remains then as to how can we drive forward a more sustainable managed print that addresses the tenets of the circular economy? Ms Fernandes has the answer. She suggests:

1. Assessment

The challenge: Most companies are left scratching their heads when it comes to measuring print and document output. The follicle frenzy becomes even more frantic upon learning that 15% of annual spend can be nibbled away.

Start then by assessing energy consumption, paper use, carbon footprint and costs across your printer fleet. Pulling the hard and hidden costs from the shadows means you’ll be ready to implement hardware and software to decrease usage of energy, paper, consumables and costs.

The solution: Your print and document assessment lays a blueprint which tells us how to:

  • Reconfigure your existing print infrastructure with fewer devices
  • Optimise the fleet with more energy efficient hardware
  • Introduce enforcement controls to encourage users to print responsibly, generating less waste and embracing recycling practices

2. Save energy

The challenge: You have an office full of printers. Some you use, some you don’t. Some work, some are problematic. An unmanaged print setup populated with energy inefficient devices can have a tremendous impact on the environment and your economy.

The solution: In rationalising your printer and copier fleet, it’s important to find devices which generate productivity, economic and environmental returns.


  • Products that meet eco-labelling standards such as ENERGY STAR, EPEAT or Blue Angel
  • Printers and multifunction devices which boast faster warm-up, deep-sleep and toner-saving modes
  • Print software management which automatically routes a print job to the right device to cut costs and consumption
  • Multifunction printers from brands such as Xerox which consume approximately 50% less energy than the combined annual consumption of the products it replaces

3. Paperless or less paper?

The challenge: The idealised office in which paper has been Houdinied away remains a laudable goal and, during the technological revolution of the 80s, most certainly looked achievable.

Expectation and reality often travel separately though. With 2015 upon us, the one common denominator across 99.9% of business offices globally is that old stalwart, paper. Of course, the majority of businesses would therefore like to cut paper usage.

In fact, recent research from the Computing Technology Industry Association found that most companies expect to maintain or increase their level of printing and scanning.

The solution: Cutting the amount of paper you consume will drive business improvement from a cost, communication and environmental standpoint.

A few simple steps might include:

  • Only printing when you have to and, when the need strikes, using both sides of the paper where possible
  • Using N-up pages if you don’t need a full quality printout
  • Using Xerox multifunction printers which allow users to scan, store and share documents digitally
  • Tasking your organisation to implement scanning solutions for everyday jobs such as processing invoices, purchase orders, sales contracts and résumés
  • Introducing PIN printing to ensure jobs only print off when users log in at the device

4. Encourage good recycling practices

The problem: Your office is a wasteland strewn with crumpled paper and empty cartridges. An unmanaged print setup can indeed have a tremendous impact on the environment, with large electricity and supply consumption imprinting a hefty carbon footprint.

The solution: Take the circular approach by promoting better recycling practices. You could do this by auditing the handling of recycled paper, print cartridges and outmoded imaging devices. And, whilst you’re at it, switch from single-sided output to default doubled-sided output.

What goes around comes around

Football, cookies and football – some of the best things in life are round. The circular economy model is indeed in good company. Yet it is when it becomes infused into the managed print ideology that it is in the best company of all.

Now’s the time for managed print providers to think in circles. Now’s the time to peer beyond the periphery of hardware. True sustainability, after all, can only be achieved by taking into account the entire print and document workflow of an organisation.

From the manufacturing process, to the responsible recycling of ink and toner, from the provision of hardware to the harnessing of sustainable software and services, this is an opportunity we cannot waste.

Rethinking MPS for the circular economy requires a different approach across the value chain. Quocirca’s Louella Fernandes talks about “leasing rather than selling products, remanufacturing goods, seeking ways to extend the life of products or their components, and changing the behaviours of end-users.”

Given the changing consumer, business and government attitudes towards consumption and the environment, these are wise words. Thinking outside the one-off sale of boxed products means moving towards supplying ongoing services, ensuring a more effective use of raw materials and increasing competitiveness.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the circular economy. Now, can I have a coffee please?