'You've got to put budget behind it' - Resellers bosses discuss sustainability goals
Management from DTP Group, Academia, Epson and Consenna give their take on the channel’s role in making the UK more sustainable Reseller bosses from DTP Group and Academia laid out their sustainability goals during a CRN roundtable discussion.Sponsored by Epson, the roundtable was held last month and featured Consenna MD Trevor Evans, Epson's head of office print sales, Richard Wells, DTP Group managing director Howard Hall and Academia CEO Mike Bacon.The business leaders told CRN about the progress they've made within their own businesses to work towards carbon neutrality, and what role they've played in advising their customers to do the same.Hall said that HP and HPE partner DTP Group has set itself a goal to be carbon neutral in just two years - by the end of 2024.That's more than 25 years earlier than the UK's 2050 net zero target."We're well on our way towards achieving that," he said."We've been doing some good work in this area for over a decade through our packaging recycling plant at our Leads distribution centre, so we've been doing some really good work there. And we have a hybrid delivery fleet which we use for all short-range deliveries."Bacon meanwhile said that Academia's leadership team has become actively involved in working towards net zero."To be blunt, you have to put some budget behind it. Because that's how you move from lip service to making a difference. We looked into planting trees, and they're quite cheap, so if we allocate a lot of money to that then it starts to make a big difference and then vendors and customers want to come in too."We've made it higher profile across the business and its very much on the board agenda."Consenna's Evans said that, while larger partners like Academia and DTP Group have leadership that is willing to put time and money into sustainability, many of the UK's 10,000-plus resellers are simply not able to."The vast bulk of those 10,000 are much smaller single operators in many cases that don't necessarily have the time or resources to do what everyone else wants them to," he said.A competitive advantage?While DTP Group and Academia are making moves to address their carbon output internally, both Hall and Bacon identify an opportunity for competitive advantage in sustainability.Hall told CRN that DTP Group recently launched its own green attach product which enables its customers to offset their managed print service over a five-year period.But are customers willing to pay a premium for a more sustainable service?Howard said that some customers have already signed up to the service, which Hall described as a cost effective solution."It's surprisingly inexpensive to reduce carbon in print, because the modern device can be turned on and off and is quite power sensitive. But when you get into talking about datacentres it's a totally different kettle of fish, because they're on 24/7 so the cost of offsetting those technologies is quite expensive. So if you're talking £100 per device for a five-year offset, that's quite affordable and acceptable for end users, but if you get into the thousands, it's a totally different situation."Bacon added that he's seeing more and more public sector tenders and frameworks that now include scoring for sustainability along with commonplace metrics such as price and quality of service."I'm long enough in the tooth to know that tenders or frameworks back in the day were about price, price, price. Then it became price and service. Now what we're seeing are more marks awarded for sustainability," he said."When it comes to signing on the dotted line, I think customers do care, but the caveat is that it's via the frameworks."Evans from Consenna said that it is the customers, and not the vendors and resellers, that are driving the sustainability conversation forward."I feel strongly that it's around the choice of the customer, which is the one that pays all of our salaries and that provides the longevity of our business. So if we're not adapting to what they want, and if we're not pressuring the vendors to actually respond to that, then the channel isn't doing it's job. I do feel that the whole dynamic has actually reversed over the last couple of years; it has become a key priority to the point that it is now law and baked in legislation."So the idea of waiting and watching and not being proactive is gone. So regardless of the size of the organisation, what the customer wants will always drive what we're able to provide."Meanwhile Epson's head of office print sales, Richard Wells, said that the question should more be what price will customers pay if they don't invest in sustainable tech."That's the message everyone is hearing load and clear. It's not about the extra you pay, it's about the cost of if you don't take a sustainable attitude to what you're using. That said, I don't believe there is a premium to pay for sustainability when you look at all of the impacts."We provide calculation tools to our resellers so they can calculate how much consumables are costing them, and turn that not just into sustainability savings but energy savings and cost savings."At the very worst it's a breakeven situation if you're looking purely at commercials. If you're taking a longer-term view and not just at the point of purchase and if you are prepared to look at those things, you'd be quite surprised at the savings you can make as well as having a positive impact from a sustainability point of view."Will vendors introduce sustainability accreditations?Vendors usually award partners accreditations according to their investment in technical skills and by meeting sales targets, but could vendors begin to introduce a sustainability accreditation any time soon in order to reward and incentivise partners that are making a real effort?Wells said that this is something that Epson is aspiring to do."At the minute, for anyone in the upper echelons of our programmes, for our major resellers, we do have a joint business plan which does have a sustainability target element of it, so we can understand the work that reseller is doing and we can help with that aspect of it."So we already started the journey, and we do aspire that it will become a future requirement. But they have to be measurable, achievable and common good benefits rather than just elements that tick boxes. That has always been one of the fears on the sustainable agenda: if it is just a box ticking exercise. COP26 showed us that we've put the pens away for ticking and got our wallets out to make a difference."
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