Three digitalisation initiatives that have a positive impact on an organisation’s sustainability

Which digitalisation initiatives can have a positive impact on sustainability? We want to address this topic in this blog article.

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In our first blog article in this series, we asked: ‘Can digital transformation be sustainable?’, and we came to the conclusion that it can, providing that three fundamental aspects are observed:

  1. Digital technologies are used with renewable energy, 

  2. Refurbished or remanufactured devices should be favoured when purchasing digital technologies, 

  3. Technologies that can no longer be refurbished or remanufactured must be disposed of responsibly. 

In this second blog article, we will highlight three digitalisation initiatives that have a positive impact on sustainability, assuming these three fundamental aspects are met. 

1. Waste reduction: digitalisation of paper-intensive processes  

On average, 50% of a company's waste is paper, and approximately 1 billion trees' worth of paper is discarded in the U.S. alone each year. Therefore, reducing paper consumption can help reduce the sustainability burden of disposing of or recycling paper waste.  

The digitisation of paper documents and paper-intensive processes, such as invoicing, and the use of scanning and capture technologies not only reduces the need for paper and other consumables, but also increases operational efficiency, reduces storage costs, and enable quick access to timely and relevant information. Paper-based processes also require significantly more manual steps, making them more prone to errors and therefore increase the possibility of generating potential waste.  

The move towards digitalising paper-intensive processes is already a popular choice. Quocirca's MPS and digitisation report shows that 61% of IT decision-makers surveyed have already accelerated their efforts to digitise paper-based processes. Additionally, 46% of them expect their print volume to decrease by 2025.  

2. Digital collaboration helps to reduce CO₂ emissions by reducing the need to travel  

The use of digital, cloud-based communications and collaboration tools can help minimise the need for physical meetings and the travel associated with them. These tools also enable hybrid and home working, so that the need to commute to the office can be reduced. Taking this approach can contribute to lower carbon emissions with a smaller environmental footprint compared to that associated with daily commutes. 

Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that US employees that work from home all the time reduced their CO₂ emissions by 54% compared to those that work in the office. When it comes to enabling home or remote working, there are functionalities in Microsoft 365 (for example) that positively impact sustainability. For instance, instead of sending attachments by email or in Teams Chat, you can save data transfer volume by sharing your documents via a SharePoint Online or OneDrive link. It is worth noting that the transfer of 1 GB of data generates around 3 kg of CO₂

3. Cloud can be more sustainable than on-premise systems

Cloud-based systems, in particular, can also be more sustainable compared to on-premise solutions, providing certain factors (such as power consumption, water consumption, lifespan of devices, and digital cleanup) are taken into account. 

To illustrate this further, consider that cloud servers that use 100% renewable energy, for example, only consume half the CO₂e per year/server compared to on-premise servers with renewable electricity. However, on-premise servers without renewable electricity consume six times as much. 

How Konica Minolta can help your sustainability efforts 

If you are looking for a digital transformation partner to help you implement one or more of these digitalisation initiatives to make your organisation more sustainable, then Konica Minolta, the digital workplace provider, is the right partner for you. 

For example, Konica Minolta’s Dispatcher Phoenix helps organisations digitise their paper-based processes - such as invoice or delivery note processing - and creates predefined workflows for the different process steps. Paper documents can be digitised using Konica Minolta’s MFPs, for which the company offers a Europe-wide refurbishment programme. Compared to a new device, this can save approximately 70% of greenhouse gas emissions savings. Intelligent Information Management solutions such as M-Files enable the digitisation and automation of even more extensive processes – such as digital personnel files, digital invoice management, digital contract management and many more. 

As a Microsoft Cloud Solutions Partner, Konica Minolta also offers professional support for remote working through Microsoft 365’s suite of tools. Whether it's using Teams for online meetings and collaboration, building an Intranet using SharePoint Online, or using Viva Engage to build an effective corporate social network, Microsoft 365 offers practical ways of supporting effective remote working that can help to enable fewer physical meetings and reduce the harmful effects of travel on sustainability. You can read more about the possibilities in this blog article - Transforming your internal communications with Microsoft 365

In addition, Konica Minolta pays close attention to sustainability factors when choosing external data centres and in its data centres in Germany and Sweden (also see this blog article for further insights into data centre sustainability - Just how sustainable are data centres and Cloud Services?). This is so cloud-based digitisation initiatives reduce paper consumption, and at the same time become increasingly cleaner in the future (read more about ways you can boost this even further in this blog article - Five ways to clean up your data 'junk' and save energy). 

Many print consumables are classified as electronic waste and therefore must be disposed of carefully to stay compliant with regulations. To help with this, the Konica Minolta Clean Planet Program ensures the reliable and environmentally sound disposal of toner cartridges and bottles, photoconductor drums, and other used consumables. Thanks to the latest recycling technology and dedicated processes tailored to consumables, Konica Minolta actively avoids landfill and (to a large extent) incineration, transforming 87% of waste into secondary raw materials. The company uses the remaining proportion which it cannot recycle for energy recovery. 

The positive sustainability impact of digitalisation

Digitalisation – when appropriately used - offers some significant and exciting sustainability opportunities. It is an excellent way to help tackle paper waste and replace unnecessary travel by using collaboration tools. When using the right provider, cloud-based services can be more sustainable than onsite-based systems.   

Konica Minolta offers a range of expert services and digital tools to help your business enhance its sustainability performance through improved digital communications and collaborations using cloud services. These services aim to reduce your business’s environmental impact by utilising renewable energy and greater efficiencies. 
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