Sustainability is an area where actions very much speak louder than words and one institution talking the talk and walking the walk is University College Cork in Ireland. Considered to be one of the most sustainable universities in the world, they view the entirety of the university through an impact perspective and have scrutinised every element of campus activity to create ‘green’ policies that are both realistic, ambitious and – most importantly – widely actionable.
No stone has been left unturned and UCC has set in motion goals that encompass everything from teaching and research approaches, to the way in which UCC’s land is managed. Crucially, they have also addressed activities which affect the day-to-day business of the university, such as waste management, travel, energy consumption and procurement. Through this they’re already effecting permanent change to the way that the university operates, boasting a whopping 36% decrease in carbon emissions and 25% decrease in waste. However, these are percentages that are set to improve further through a major procurement programme which began in 2019, put in place to address a significant sustainability headache.
UCC had a print challenge on their hands. And not a small one. “Some of the departments were operating almost autonomously in their procurement of devices, on very different contracts with different start dates and finish dates,” explains Greg Tuohy. “All told you’re talking about around 300 multi-function devices. But in addition to that, there are another 500 single function printers dotted around the place.” Greg is the Managing Director of print management experts, Cantec Ireland. Now living in Waterford, he’s a former student at UCC and sits on their sustainable print steering group. He and his team have spent the last year working with the university to decommission their current fleet of print devices, install new machines with impeccable green credentials and streamline the way they are used to meet UCC’s targets on waste.
The devil is in the detail. When the contract to manage the print of the university was put out to tender, the challenge was not in simply providing a better service than they currently have and at a competitive price. It was to know and understand the deeper purpose of UCC’s sustainability commitments and share a similar, holistic approach to social and environmental responsibility. Greg’s first-hand experience of the university played an important part in the way he approached the challenge. He knew that UCC were forward-thinking and open to the kinds of change that other institutions might find unusual. For example, when tendering for print, most organisations look for the very newest and efficient machines, with up to the minute technology in order to gain the very maximum long-term value from the installation. UCC’s priorities in efficiency and maximum value were the same, but Greg also understood that they were taking a very big and complex step in the decommissioning of their existing fleet, and this needed to be offset by machines that represented the very minimum impact possible – from the minute of installation.
“I was able to make the argument that 80% of the carbon footprint produced by your average MFP (multi-function printer) is in the manufacturing and the mining of the raw materials,” says Greg. “The actual running of the machines is only 20% – representing a smaller percentage of the carbon footprint. So why not run them for as long as you possibly could?” By starting at the source of consumption, Greg introduced the concept of ‘remanufactured’ to the team at UCC.Not to be confused with ‘refurbished’ or ‘second hand’, truly remanufactured devices are a very different beast. Essentially, they are bestselling machines that have reached the end of their contract with a customer (typically three to five years). They are then taken to Canon’s factory in Giessen, Germany and disassembled to the frame level then thoroughly cleaned and fully tested as they would be in a normal standardised factory process – this includes full erasure of the hard disk, using a methodology approved by US Ministry of Defence, and updates to the latest firmware. The rebuild of the finished product is a combination of approved existing parts and new, and it undergoes a quality control process that is identical to that of a new machine. The completed ‘EQ80’ machine is then resupplied into the market with the same warranties as a brand new machine.
For UCC, such devices, installed in the kind of quantities required by an institution of such a size, represented an immediate sustainability win, both in terms of the circular economy and reduced environmental impact in manufacturing. Particularly when you consider that the machines would be installed with a new print management system that naturally creates efficiency and consolidates consumables. The subsequent creation of a sustainable print policy took this one step further and embedded even deeper cultural change around the use of print at UCC. But what happens to the hundreds of existing machines? “There was a plan,” explains Greg. “Any machine over four years old could be taken home by staff members, machines under four years and any available cartridges were to be donated to charity. And really old and battered machines would be recycled.”
Working with the ‘green’ requirements of his alma mater has been a truly eye-opening experience for Greg, and he freely admits that it has changed the way he lives – and the way he runs Cantec. A family business, founded in 1994, Greg took over the running of Cantec from his father in 2011 and has already quadrupled its size. He now has his sights set on sustainability. Cantec has formed an environmental team within the company to change their internal policies and are in the process of changing all their vehicles to electric, with a target of 100% electric by 2023. They also offer discounted office space to fledgling local companies and work with the community on returning to work schemes. It all forms part of a bigger picture, the ability to offer a balance of products and services that sit comfortably with their current and future aspirations as a responsible corporate citizen. And in bringing new, more sustainable options to the table it’s been possible for Cantec and UCC, to teach each other a more sustainable way of operating.
“Every day is a learning day,” says Greg. “But the biggest influence on me has been the Energy & Utilities Manager at UCC. I was semi-environmentally conscious until I met him, and he’s basically changed my life as a businessperson. He’s so prepared to come up with practical solutions and talk to people who are on the journey. People just like me.”