With sustainability deeply ingrained in its DNA, it’s no surprise global printer manufactuer Epson is looking forward to when the ink is dry on new climate action agreements, says Andrew Collier

 

Technology and sport are often closely related in a host of ways, from video assistant referees (VAR) in football to exact timekeeping in a host of other elite activities.

It is a little known fact, however, that the genesis of digital printing goes back to the Tokyo Olympics of 1964. The history of the millions of devices all over the world flows from a single piece of hardware invented for that event.

It was used to document the exact times recorded electronically for the sporting events taking place during the competition. The printer was called Electronic Printer (EP101).

The name went on to become Epson, the Japanese multinational that is now one of the world’s leading producers of these machines.

The company has a deep commitment to sustainability and the environment. “We are developing technology that is very closely linked to these things”, says Henning Ohlsson, its Director of Sustainability and Managing Director of Epson Germany.

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“Japan is an island with a huge population and its resources are all linked to nature. The idea of sustainability goes back a very long way and is in the DNA. There is a saying that there is no business to be done on a dead planet.”

The country has a history, he adds, of reuse and recycling. “Our people want to work very close to nature - it’s very attractive to them and allows them to have a work-life balance.” Careful consideration of the product lifestyle is key, he adds. “The technology is based mainly on energy efficiency, precision and size reduction. There’s a real awareness of the footprint.”

Epson has made a full commitment to all of the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals, set by the General Assembly and first adopted in 2015. “We take these very seriously and have a particularly strong focus on SDG13, which relates to climate action. We are also committed to the goals relating to the circular economy, innovation and growth and education and have our own targets in these areas.”

Surely, though, being a manufacturing business creates particular challenges in terms of sustainability? Mr Ohlssen points out that what is important here is to maximise the life of the device. “If we do that, then we increase our profit through servicing and we keep the hardware in the lifecycle. There are a lot of directives and legislation coming up and we support and will drive these - our belief and our embedded business strategy is that if we are not sustainable, then we have no future.”

As well as keeping material in the value chain for as long as possible, Epson is working on developing new tech. “We want to take back material and make sure it is properly recycled.  We also have our own technology in terms of paper. Recycling this is very intensive in terms of water usage but we have invented dry fibre processing which is sustainable with no use of this. 

"We have installed the first machine in Europe to manufacture this and the technology is spreading. It has great potential not just in paper, but also in packaging and cardboard. It’s a really amazing development.”

Another area of sustainability is energy efficiency. “We have invented heat-free ink technology. Again, this goes back to the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. You cannot build the future without respecting your heritage.”

Epson also believes its responsibility to sustainability and a zero carbon world goes beyond the doors of its own management suite. And in a world increasingly dominated by the drive to net zero carbon, Epson has no intention of resting on its laurels. It is continuing to develop its environmental technologies and is determined to meet the world’s aggressive net zero targets.

“The company has recently announced that it will switch to renewable electricity in all its factories and offices by 2023. That’s another stepping stone for us and we are determined to deliver.” 
www.epson.co.uk