Green IT, ECM, And Natural Capitalism

I recently gave a speech in late February on the above subject at the 14th AIIM ATM Executive Summit Agenda and have another one at a Department of Energy Conference April 9th. Two main themes hit home to me for how ECM can make us more green. Reducing paper in the office and increasing adoption of customer-facing transaction documents or E-transactions top my list. I will blog on E-transactions and our woeful adoption rates later — as the two subjects are quite different. Reducing paper in the office is being helped and will be led by the red-hot Managed Print Services (MPS) area. MPS finally made the mainstream press the other day as The Wall Street Journal article below will attest: Xerox Tries to Go Beyond Copiers’

If your organization is like most, printers, fax machines, and scanners seem to multiply magically without human intervention. Although companies often don't count the cost, the amount of money spent servicing such equipment that is aging or underutilized is astounding as well as environmentally taxing. By eliminating redundant or dated equipment, installing multifunction peripherals (MFPs) to replace single-purpose devices, and implementing central management and accountability, we all can become heroes, and help push green IT forward.

Office devices, for example, are quiet energy gluttons. A copier, two printers, and a fax machine consume 1,400 kWh of energy each year. But one MFP that performs all the same functions uses only 700 kWh annually. Multiply these savings across all of your company devices — assuming you know what that number is — and this is the energy you are wasting each year. More efficient MFPs should be a part of the plan.

In the office, paper consumption is just over the top, as it's perceived as free by users. Each year, every American uses 700 pounds of paper. A mid-size company with 1,000 employees and $100 million in revenue will cut down 1,369 trees per year for 30 million pages — 48% of which comes from office printing and copying. It's a shame to cut down all those trees, but its paper production and distribution that carries the heavier carbon footprint. The pulp-and-paper industry is the third-largest energy-consuming sector in North America, behind only steel and chemical.

If you don't have the resources to focus on this problem, office equipment providers such as Xerox, HP, and Lexmark are happy to help and in speaking with them – business is indeed very good. "Managed services" is an umbrella term to describe third parties that monitor and maintain computers, networks, and software. The "managed" implies an ongoing contract to make the equipment run at a certain quality level and keep software up to date. The company no longer owns the equipment but pays on a usage basis for every image printed, scanned, or faxed.

I like to think that some areas are natural for outsourcing – where both the vendor and the customer share the same goals –in more of the closed loop system like the one initially envisioned in Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins. The principle is to redesign business models along biological models with closed loops and zero waste; and achieve success by working with natural resources instead of depleting them - shifting from the sale of goods (for example, light bulbs) to the provision of services (illumination); In this way many things –like the rugs in your house or, I would argue, copiers in your office– would be better managed by a third party who has incentives to make them last and know how to ensure their proper disposal. MPS is a natural in this regard – and hopefully we will see their maturity align with the principles of natural capitalism.