"We must ensure that digitalised processes are resource-efficient”

| 7 June 2024

Interview with Olaf Jonas, General Manager Environmental Social Governance (ESG) at Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe on the company's sustainability efforts

With sustainability being such an important topic for businesses and consumers there is always a risk that organisations could overstate their efforts and the results of these – often known as ‘Greenwashing’. 



To help tackle this potential problem, the European Commission is working on two new EU directives that are intended to create strict, harmonised standards across Europe on information requirements and the verifiability of environmental advertising, thereby effectively preventing greenwashing. This will require companies to substantiate the claims they make about the environmental aspects or performance of their products and activities using ‘robust, science-based variable methods’. The ‘Directive as regards empowering consumers for the green transition through better protection against unfair practices and better information’ was adopted by a large majority in the European Parliament  on 17th January 2024. The draft for the second directive, the ‘Directive on substantiation and communication of explicit environmental claims’, was officially presented on 22 March 2023. It is not yet clear when this will be adopted by the EU Parliament.    

Olaf Jonas, General Manager Environmental Social Governance (ESG) at Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe shared his views on the new directives and what environmental measures the company is taking to reduce its environmental impact.

What is Konica Minolta’s stance on this new legislation?

Olaf Jonas: The new directives provide greater clarity to help companies avoid exaggerating their sustainability credentials and give a fair and honest account of their activities and efforts. The understanding of sustainability continues to evolve, and legislation needs to keep pace with this to reflect the needs of the environment.
CO2 offsetting, for example, has recently come under increasing criticism. The concept of compensating emissions by supporting emission saving projects elsewhere is more and more seen as supporting wrong consumer decisions. Many environmental organisations and the media accuse companies of buying their way out of their obligations and simply paying for the emissions they cause instead of focusing on the avoidance and reduction of emissions. There is also criticism of the lack of transparency in calculation methods, certifications and climate protection projects, as well as the risk of double counting. The often misleading communications are further fuelling the discussion.
CO2 offsetting, for example, has recently come under increasing criticism due to the lack of transparency in calculation methods, certification and climate protection projects and the risk of double counting. Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe therefore decided to end its European Enabling Climate Compensation Programme, which we introduced in 2015, last year. We will no longer maintain measures that aim to offset CO2 emissions through certificates. We are now focussing our measures solely on reducing and, where possible, avoiding CO2 emissions and helping our customers to do so as well.
Another important piece of legislation is The European Green Deal, which was presented in December 2019 and aims to transform the EU into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy by reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 across the European Union, compared to 1990 levels. The European Climate Law was adopted in July 2021. It made the targets of the EU Green Deal legally binding and has formed the foundation of European climate protection policy ever since.
 

What are the CO2 reduction targets at Konica Minolta?

Olaf Jonas: As a global company with more than 39,000 employees in 150 countries, Konica Minolta takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously. Integral to this commitment is the need to address Climate Change, whilst embracing the Circular Economy, and Cutting Pollution. At a global level, we established our EcoVision 2050 in 2005 with a target at that time of reducing CO2 emissions throughout the product lifecycle by 80% by 2050. Last year, we then raised the target to “Net Zero by 2050”, by 2025 the target is 61%. Another important goal we have set ourselves for 2050 is to reduce the consumption of the earth's natural resources by 90% or more by 2050, i.e. to use at least 90% renewable resources such as recycled materials and biomaterials in our products.
 

What measures do you intend to take to achieve these goals?

Olaf Jonas: While we produced 2.067 thousand tons of CO2 per year in 2005, this figure had cut to 851,000 tons by 2022. This means that we have already reduced our CO2 emissions by 58%.
One important measure here was at our production facilities. From 2005 to 2021, we reduced CO2 emissions at the production stage by 108 thousand tons. We have already implemented many measures in our factories, such as the use of direct expansion coil-type total heat exchangers, LED lighting, shutting down air conditioning on holidays, shortening of production times by thoroughly reconsidering operability and much more. We have set ourselves the target of reducing CO2 emissions at assembly/high load sites by 2% annually in future.
An important means of achieving this is switching our operations to renewable energy. As a member of RE100, we're committed to obtaining 100% of the electricity we use from renewable energy sources by 2050, and 50% by 2030. The current figure is 12.3%. Two factories in China, one in Malaysia and our two toner factories in the USA and France already use electricity from 100% renewable energy sources. Konica Minolta's European headquarters and 11 subsidiaries already use 100%, or nearly 100%, renewable electricity. 
Furthermore, if we look at Scope 3, the energy consumption of our print devices, our main business to date, has decreased continuously in recent years. For example, the standard power consumption, the TEC value, the typical weekly energy consumption, of the bizhub 360i-Series is around 20%-26% lower than its predecessor models. Among other things, this has been made possible by our polymerised Simitri® V toner, which has lowered fusing temperature by around 15°C, and in combination with a new fixing device, has contributed to a significant reduction in the TEC value. The reduction in power consumption has resulted in the MFPs emitting up to 25 % less CO2 emissions during operation compared to their predecessor models.
We also focus on improving the sustainability of our own logistics operations. Where possible we shorten transportation distances and optimise logistics. For example, we have reduced the number of containers through improved loading efficiency and switching to water transport over road/air alternatives where possible. As an example, we use barges on the Rhine River for 90% of the transportation of goods between the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands and our main warehouse in Emmerich, Germany. Similarly, around 40% of the distance from Emmerich to facilities in Italy is now made by rail.
We also aim to reduce resource consumption in our sales and service activities. In 2020, for example, we introduced our AIRe Link visual remote service tool in Europe, which means that service technicians no longer have to travel to customers. In 2023, we had saved 15,000 customer visits, 480,000 kilometres and 124 tons of CO2.  We also use environmentally friendly vehicles with low CO2 emissions wherever possible.
 

What efforts are you taking to limit resource usage and reduce waste?

Olaf Jonas: The actions we are taking to limit the use of resources and reduce the generation of waste are diverse.
Print devices also play a major role here. Through technical development, Konica Minolta is working at reducing the size and weight of our print devices while increasing their performance. As an example, the AccurioPress C7100 digital printing system’s width has been reduced by about 15% and its weight by about 25% compared to conventional machines.
Our office devices, for example, consist of up to 42.9% recycled plastic, while our production printing devices contain up to 36% recycled plastic. In 2022, 13.6 thousand tons of end-of-life office equipment was taken back by major distributors in Japan, China, the United States and Europe. Of this amount, 13.5 thousand tons of material were recycled.
As far as consumables are concerned, our toner bottles contain up to 60% recycled plastic. As part of the Konica Minolta Clean Planet Program, discarded consumables from office and production printing devices are collected and recycled across Europe. We also offer expertly refurbished office print devices and the refill and reuse of toner bottles to reduce waste and plastics manufacture.
At the same time, we are endeavouring to increase the lifespan of our products. An example is the process unit required for Electrophotographic image forming for MFPs, which has a limited lifespan and sometimes needs to be replaced. Konica Minolta has been working to extend the life of MFP drum units, which is particularly short. With the bizhub i-Series for example we have achieved a 20% longer lifespan compared to a previous model. In addition, by also installing a mechanism to predict when the unit is likely to wear out, our customers can now replace it at the optimal time and avoid any image defects.
Delivery packaging is another area where we are striving to reduce our waste. Although styrene foam is widely used, it has a poorer environmental performance than other materials, so since 2019 we have used new air cushioning material for packaging and transporting MFPs. Using these lighter, more compact air pillows has enabled us to reduce the weight of shipments by 75% and the packaging volume by 99% compared to our previous packaging. In addition, we're committed to the use of recyclable cardboard packaging for many items.
 

What is Konica Minolta doing to help your customers reduce their environmental impact when using your products?

Olaf Jonas: I have already mentioned that we have designed the MFPs' power consumption so that they emit less CO2 than previous models. For many of our products we can provide a Lifecycle Assessment including a Product Carbon Footprint. We are also actively informing our customers about energy-saving functions and give tips for resource-efficient printing. This includes for example the use of ‘Low Power Mode’ and ‘Sleep Mode’ so that the display switches off automatically earlier. Duplex, N-up and monochrome settings can also save paper and toner.
An advantage of digital printing is the ability to print quickly and flexibly on demand, i.e. to produce only the print quantities that are actually required. In contrast to analogue offset printing, there is also no need to expose printing plates and the associated chemical consumption. The waste from offset printing is almost completely eliminated and no water is used in the printing process. Additionally, our IQ-501 Intelligent Quality Care reduces redundant print runs and misprints by automatically inspecting each sheet before printing and ensuring that only those sheets that meet the pre-set requirements are output. This cuts energy and material waste. Another important aspect of print sustainability is the deinkability, the removal of ink or toner from the paper for recycling, and our digital print solutions score highly on the European Recovered Paper Council's 'Deinkability Scorecard'.
With our digital printing systems, Konica Minolta can therefore help our customers to move away from large-scale analogue printing and use less resources – such as inks, substrates and electricity, and also reduce waste and CO2 emissions.
By the way, nearly all of our office print systems have received the Blue Angel Mark and many of our production printing toners are listed in the positive list of the Blue Angel for printed matter.
 

What influence does digitalisation have on sustainability?

Olaf Jonas: To minimise the impact of climate change, in addition to controlling greenhouse gas emissions, it is important to protect carbon sinks such as rainforests and preserve forest ecosystems. With forest resource conservation in mind, Konica Minolta is developing digital solutions to reduce reliance on paper printing in the office and help customers reduce paper-intensive processes. However, it cannot be said across the board that digitalised processes are more sustainable than paper processes. Various factors must be taken into account. This is because the volumes of data that are increasing exponentially worldwide as a result of digital transformation consume a lot of electricity. For example, storing 1 GB of data consumes 0.28 kg of CO2, while downloading 1 GB of data already consumes 3 kg of CO2.
The current increase in AI is also accelerating this development: AI systems rely on huge amounts of data. This means that if we consider the paper waste that is saved through digitalisation, we must also ensure that digitalised processes are resource-efficient. The use of electricity from renewable energies is therefore an important factor. At the same time, it is also important to handle data carefully to avoid producing unnecessary data waste. For example, we offer cloud-based collaboration tools such as Microsoft 365, which provide functions that offer an alternative to sending data back and forth within emails and email attachments in the form of cloud sharing platforms.
On the other hand, our collaboration tools naturally transform how our customers’ teams work collaboratively, wherever they are geographically based, and can reduce commuting and business travel generating CO2.
Cloud-based systems can also be more sustainable than on-premise solutions. For example, it has been found that cloud servers that use 100% renewable energy only consume half as much CO₂e per year per server compared to on-premise servers with renewable electricity. Not to mention on-premise servers that don't even use renewable electricity. This is why our two data centres in Hanover, Germany, and Stockholm, Sweden, operate with 100% renewable energy. We are also trying to pay more and more attention to this aspect with our solutions hosted in other data centres, such as our Workplace Pure cloud print solution, which is hosted in the Open Telekom Cloud and uses 100% renewable energy, or Microsoft, whose data centres are expected to use 100% renewable energy by 2025.
 

How important are innovations in the area of sustainability in your company?

Olaf Jonas: As an innovative technology provider, we invest in solutions that support broader sustainability efforts in the face of the heightening global climate emergency. R&D spending on projects that contribute to addressing climate change totalled 27.8 billion yen (~ 192.7 million Euro) in fiscal 2022, accounting for approximately 43% of the Konica Minolta Group's total R&D spending.  
Plastic pollution of the oceans is a major environmental problem worldwide. In addition, its raw material for production, petroleum, is a finite natural resource. Konica Minolta therefore considers plastic to be one of the high-risk materials. We have therefore been working for years on developing technologies for the production of highly functional recycled plastic and expanding the use of recycled plastic in many products. Sales of products utilising these high-functionality recycling technologies were approximately 440 billion yen (~ 3 billion Euro) in fiscal year 2022. This represents 66% of our Digital Workplace and Professional Printing business sales. In addition, we are currently researching two key topics: improved methods for recycling plastic and the production of biomaterials.
Figures from OECD show that only around 9% of plastic waste is recycled globally whilst 22% is mismanaged and 55% ends up in landfill, so the ability to reliably assess waste plastic is vital. Our Finnish company Specim, which joined the Konica Minolta group in 2020, uses hyperspectral imaging (HSI) technology to make sorting recycled plastics easier, faster, and more reliable. The camera technology reliably detects the composition of plastics that are being recycled by using spectral wavelengths, including non-visible ranges, and powerful analytical software to sort materials accurately and quickly. This includes the world’s first HSI camera capable of sorting black plastics, enabling the processing of greater amounts of recycled materials more efficiently.
We also support the area of bio-manufacturing to enable the manufacturing of raw materials for pharmaceuticals, building materials, and industrial products made from biomaterials instead of fossil resources like petroleum. This also contributes to the reduction of petroleum-derived plastics usage and at the same time to the reduction of CO2 emissions. We therefore recently launched a collaboration laboratory with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, a pioneer in biomanufacturing research. Here, our sensing technology monitors the process of the metabolism of microbes. In addition, through an alliance with Planetary, a start-up company engaged in contract manufacturing of microbial fermentation in Switzerland, we are about to conduct PoC promptly at the site of the company's manufacturing line.

We see the use of digital technologies in balanced collaboration with people as the key to a more sustainable future that better supports our society and the environment. This means that our products and services must constantly evolve to meet changing sustainability needs.

Thank you very much Olaf for that interview!

 

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Making operations sustainable, employing a diverse workforce, and providing an inclusive, accessible environment are elements of many organisations' environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies.

There are many ways to make your organisation more sustainable and create a more inclusive working environment. Konica Minolta can help, with a range of technologies, devices and services that reflect our own commitment to environmental protection and equal access for all.

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About Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe


Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe GmbH, based in Langenhagen, Germany, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Konica Minolta Inc., Tokyo, Japan. With its unique expertise in imaging, data processing and data-based decision making, Konica Minolta creates relevant solutions for its customers - small and medium-sized businesses, large enterprises and public sector - and solves issues faced by society.


As a digital workplace solution provider, Konica Minolta helps its clients to identify and unlock the potential digitalisation holds and reach the next level in the digital maturity of their organisation by rethinking the workplace. In support of an ‘Intelligent connected workplace’, Konica Minolta offers cloud, IT, managed print and video solution services for remote working, collaboration, workflow management and automation and security. The company’s success in driving transformation is also confirmed by IDC, since the ‘IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Print Transformation 2023 Vendor Assessment’ has named Konica Minolta a “Leader” in print transformation. Konica Minolta has been a Microsoft Global Managed Partner since 2021.


Konica Minolta's Igniting Print Possibilities offering helps printers, converters and brand owners maximise workflow automation to increase efficiency. The company delivers consultancy in all communication matters as well as top-of-the-line production, packaging as well as label printers. Its finishing devices create print products that stand out and create added value. Konica Minolta has established itself as the production printing market leader for more than a decade in Europe (InfoSource).


For an increasing number of organisations, success today is more than the narrow definition of financial prosperity – it also includes protecting the environment and having a positive impact on their workforce as well as the societies they are embedded in. With its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Konica Minolta has pledged to consistently pursue its sustainability and social responsibility goals.


The company has been repeatedly recognised for its rich history of social contribution as well as for working towards achieving the SDGs throughout its business and supply chain. Konica Minolta received a GOLD Level Recognition Medal in the EcoVadis sustainability ratings for 2024.


For its remote services, Konica Minolta was awarded the prestigious ‘Buyers Lab (BLI) 2023-2024 Pacesetter Award in Remote Service for the Western European market’ from Keypoint Intelligence.


Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe is represented by subsidiaries and distributors in more than 80 countries in Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. With more than 8,800 employees (as of April 2024), Konica Minolta Europe earned net sales of over EUR 2.13 billion in financial year 2023/2024.


Worldwide, the company has over 39,000 employees and is operating in over 150 countries.


For more information, please visit https://www.konicaminolta.eu/eu-en/news and follow Konica Minolta on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.


Terms and product names may be trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders and are hereby acknowledged.

Contact

Contact

Melanie Olbrich

Senior Corporate Communications & Content Manager

melanie.olbrich@konicaminolta.eu

+49 (0)511 7404-5337