An arial view of a densely wooded forest.

2021 and the new agenda for sustainability

Over the last year, much has been made of the ‘accidental upsides’ of the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, the huge drop in commutes and flights has contributed to a significant decrease in carbon emissions. But as positive as these unintentional changes have been in saving CO2 (and money!), we cannot take our eyes off the ball for one second. Indeed, while emissions decreased in 2020, usage of single-use plastics (such as surgical masks and PPE) has soared.

Overall, however, 2021 holds a great opportunity to accelerate and grow the sustainability agenda for businesses, which is just as well because the pressure is on. Customers, business partners and shareholders alike all understand – and place great value on – sustainable products, practices and supply chains and take key decisions with corporate conduct very much at the forefront of their minds. As a result, this year will be one of focused and strategic sustainability, where practices that have previously been a ‘toe in the water’ become truly embedded into operations.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Procurement teams will take centre stage this year and have more responsibility in choosing products in a sustainable way. Their role will be key in considering the full lifecycle of devices or consumables used for work – from manufacture to disposal. In some cases, legislation will help to guide them in the right direction. In March 2020, the EU announced plans to expand its ‘right to repair’ rules to phones, tablets and laptops. From 2021, it is hoped that devices will be useful for much longer before needing to be recycled or replaced. Canon has been putting the principles of the circular economy and material reuse into action for a number of years. In particular, our remanufactured EQ80 ranges are machines that keep 80% of existing parts and components. They reduce the CO2 emissions associated with manufacturing by up to 80%.

A woman in a polka dot skirt and white t-shirt charges her white electric vehicle.
Remote diagnostics have kept engineers off the roads during the pandemic, but in 2021 we’re likely to see more and more green vehicles used when visits are absolutely necessary.

Covering customers, not miles

Pandemic restrictions have, through necessity and safety, changed the way businesses operate at every level and in every function. For example, maintenance teams for print devices have been forced to quickly adapt to a world of remote diagnostics, troubleshooting and fixes in order to ensure Covid-19 compliance and customer safety. However, the change has kept customer service running smoothly and proven that remote diagnostics software is actually very effective. It gives engineers the ability to access and navigate a device’s control panel as easily as an in-person callout – and allows for the same means of resolving settings or identifying issues.

Once again, a step change that’s been largely driven by Covid-19 has given businesses further-reaching benefits in terms of cost savings and emissions reduction. Immediately, the drop in on-site visits has reduced the time spent on the road by engineers. Even without the ability to speculate on the events of 2021, there is no doubt that businesses will continue to dial back on-site visits and reduce travel where they can now it is clear that remote service is a highly workable option. And where visits are absolutely necessary, we can expect a greener mode of travel, such as shared fleets of electric cars.

Of course, these are just two ways in which organisations will be guided by demand and necessity, but they are foundational, and their benefits reach far beyond the functional. The wise business will also be taking stock of sustainable operating practices across the board, as well as making employee awareness a priority.

Discover more about sustainability at Canon.

Written by Andy Tomkins, EMEA Sustainability Engagement Manager, Canon Europe

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