European survey: Eco friendliness is major influencer in technology purchases

17 April 2008

76% of employees throughout Europe see the environmental friendliness of a product as an important factor when buying technical equipment. However, around 88% feel only partly or not at all informed as to the environ¬mental impact of the products they buy whether for business or private use. Two out of three employees also see environmentally-certificated equipment like printers, copiers and PCs as a sensible purchase when companies want to be more environment-conscious.

This is according to a survey from the IFAK Institut commissioned by Kyocera Mita, which looked at how employees in France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain and the UK perceive environmental issues impacting their own working practices and the actions of their companies.

Around 90% of respondents indicated that they had adopted some popular practices for minimising their own environmental impact when at work. 55% switch off equipment at night; 52% use digital documents; 43% favour duplex photocopying and printing; and around 34% print less. Only 9.7% admit to not doing any of these.

The survey also revealed that – according to their employees – many European companies are making efforts to drive down the use of printing consumables. 44.8% recycle used cartridges and toner cassettes, 40.8% encourage the use of digital documents; 36.5% try to save paper by printing less; 32.5% encourage double-sided printing and copying. This is in stark contrast to initiatives to encourage greener transportation, with only 3% of respondents saying that their company was attempting to encourage the use of hybrid vehicles.

Despite positive moves in areas like printing, 77% of the respondents believe that their company could do more to optimise its energy consumption in general, and 69% believe that their company could recycle more. Moreover, 64% feel that companies intending to behave in a more environmentally friendly manner could act to make their employees aware of environmental issues.

The survey also found that many employees believe that green initiatives are being driven by a need to cut costs. When asked why they thought companies were implementing green IT initiatives, the majority (38.1%) thought that the objective for changes was cost savings. Fewer (24.9%) believe that companies are aiming to save the environment. 21% saw green IT as a means to boosting a company’s image.

The survey was based on interviews with 627 respondents from a broad range of industry sectors in February 2008.

Country trends

For a large number of German employees, Green IT means eco-conscious printers, copiers or PCs. 83% see investment in certificated equipment as a good way for companies to strengthen their commitment to the environment, much higher than in the UK (58%) or the Netherlands (50%). 62% German respondents were also most likely to try and reduce their own environmental impact at work by using digital documents rather than printouts.

Germans also feel that electricity consumption at work is too high, and 83% think that their company could do more to save electricity.

The French feel they are not sufficiently well informed on environmental issues, with 61% of respondents saying that when buying technical equipment they do not know enough about its environmental impact. In Italy this figure is 14%, in Germany 30%, and in the UK 38%.

Asked for the causes for Green IT initiatives, 48% of the French believe these to be driven by cost savings, and only 14.3% believe that initiatives aimed to save the environment (compared to the averages of 38% and 24% respectively).
When it came to buying decisions, Italians proved most concerned about the environmental impact of products, with 32% rating this as very important (compared with 24% in Germany and 16% in the Netherlands). They are also more likely to adopt environmentally-friendly features of printers and copiers than employees in other countries. 55% of Italian respondents say they use duplex printing or copying. In Germany the figure is 48%, in the UK 41% and in the Netherlands a mere 25%.

The survey showed that Dutch firms may need to work harder on their environmental commitment. 38% of respondents say their firm has launched no environmental protection initiatives and issued no environmental protection guidelines.

This figure is well over the international average of 24%; in France it is 25%, in the UK 16% and in Germany 19%. Despite this, more Dutch respondents (32%) saw green initiatives as being primarily driven by environmental protection rather than cost savings. By comparison only 14% of French believe that changes are driven by an environmental agenda.
For Spaniards, environmental commitment is an image issue: 35% reckon that environmental protection or Green IT initiatives at work serve to promote a positive company image. In Germany only 13% share this view, in the UK 16% and in Italy 21%.

Comparatively high numbers of Spaniards feel that companies can improve their environmental performance through better labeling of IT products (70%), and through initiatives to make their employees more aware of environmental issues (68%).

The British think that making employees more aware of environmental protection issues is crucial. 73% see this task as important, compared to 62% in Germany and 59% in France.

The British are also more inclined to think that their company could recycle more. 89% believed this to be the case, higher than the average of 69.4%.
“Print less” campaigns seem especially popular in the UK, where 55% of companies – on average over 20 percent more than in the other countries – support them.