Environmental and social impact issues remain of high importance for businesses even amid the ongoing crisis, which has made financial stability and efforts to protect jobs a priority, according to a survey commissioned by office equipment manufacturer Epson. Younger employees are more likely to attach importance to these issues as well as to the use of green technologies in the workplace.
The survey titled Eco-Values Research, conducted by market research company B2B International, covered 4,335 employees at small, medium, and large businesses across Europe and the Middle East.
Overall, the environmental and social impact of businesses ranks among the top 3 priorities for nearly a quarter of the respondents (24%). The highest percentage was recorded in Germany and Italy, 33%, followed by France, 31%, and Nordic countries, 29%. In Central and Eastern Europe, this percentage was 18% and in the Balkans, 15%.
A vast majority, 86%, of businesses that make environmental and social issues a top priority expect to see their profit increase over the next year/five years. Also, many respondents, 44%, believe that “doing the right thing” in terms of environmental and social impact has a positive impact on a company’s brand.
Younger employees are the most likely to attach great importance to green technology use in the workplace
In generational terms, generation Z (under 22 years of age) and millennials (22-37) are significantly more likely to rank environmental and social impacts among the top priorities than the older generations (38 and over). One of the most notable generational differences is in views towards the use of green technology in the workplace, with millennials being the most likely to see this as highly important (39%).
However, most employees feel that it would be difficult for their company to be environmentally and socially conscientious in the area of green technology because they do not spontaneously link this term to office equipment, focusing instead on environmental “megatrends” in areas such as energy and waste.
INTERESTING TO KNOW
Environmentally conscious ever since 1942
Epson has been an environmentally conscious company ever since it opened its first factory in Japan in 1942. The owners brought the decision that their new factory was not to affect the beautiful nature next to the Suwa lake, where the factory was constructed, and that they would maintain good relations with people living nearby. Environmental protection and sustainable business, in general, remain one of Epson’s priorities to this day.
It is also interesting to note that Epson has published a CSR activity report every year since 1999. In 2003, the name of the report was changed from Environmental Report to Sustainability Report.
Balkan region is yet to work on the sustainability of businesses
The Belgrade office of Epson, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of computer printers, and information and imaging related equipment, has held a regional online panel with partners from Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia (AIGO BS, IMAGE ENTER, PANNA, ZK Office) to discuss the findings of the study and sustainable business in general.
Ivana Kokalović, Epson’s area manager for the Balkan region, said that Epson has established and been working towards its Environmental Vision 2050, a framework to address climate change.
In 2020 it received a platinum rating from France-based sustainability rating provider EcoVadis, putting it among the top 1% of companies in the industry, according to Kokalović.
She also said that countries in the region are lagging behind when it comes to the sustainability of the business, but her colleague Marko Vlaović, the company’s MPS sales specialist for the Balkan region, said that Epson, in day-to-day work with its partners, seeks to bring green technologies closer to a large number of businesses and that demand for such projects is growing every year.
Darko Minić from AIGO said that in 2020 Epson managed to bring the price of green solutions to the level that is economically comparable with other technologies, describing it as a breakthrough. Epson has managed to keep a sustainable approach while at the same time becoming one of the top two or three vendors on the market in terms of prices.
The biggest burden of promoting green solutions, according to Minić, is on companies that develop technologies. They are expected to narrow the gap between the costs of ecological solutions and other technologies to 10-20%, because companies are unlikely to invest in green technologies if they are four or five times more expensive than others, according to him.
Ivan Turkalj from Croatian electronics equipment maintenance firm Image Enter highlighted a project implemented for public forest management company Hrvatske šume in 2020, where the replacement of older-generation equipment with 60 more efficient Epson printers of newer generation reduced the number of on-site interventions by as much as 80%, resulting in huge savings in-vehicle use, servicemen costs. By doing this the company also reduced its environmental footprint, an effort highly positioned on the lists of all responsible companies that want to do the business in a sustainable way.
Homeworking equipment to be long lasting and efficient
When it comes to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey showed that the most essential features for homeworking equipment are longevity, energy efficiency, and waste reduction, with 70% of employees surveyed picking at least one of these features as being essential.
Also, 58% of the respondents believe that the use of printers and other shared devices will change in the post COVID-19 era in terms of more restrictions and “smarter” working patterns.
Importance of environmental impact to grow in COVID-19 recovery
The survey showed that as many as 65% of employees believe the issues of the environmental and social impact of business will become more important following the COVID-19 crisis, with the younger generations again leading the way, with 76% of those under 22 and 71% of millennials (22-37).
65% of employees believe the environmental and social impact of businesses will become more important in a post-pandemic world
The study also found that meeting environmental and social impact targets is much more important to business decision-makers and start-ups (companies that have been operating for less than 5 years). When it comes to company size, the importance of these targets is fairly consistent, except in the smallest businesses, employing 2-10 people, according to the survey.