Printing and sustainability

PaperCut's perspective on the environment, sustainability, and the importance of thoughtful printing

A behind the scenes look at PaperCut and sustainability

PaperCut was founded on the drive to eliminate waste

More and more workplaces are recognizing the need to factor environmental performance policies into their ways of working.

But ensuring our planet’s welfare is about more than reducing waste. It’s a mindset, a framework, and a lifestyle.

For PaperCut, ensuring a sustainable future is a core value not just for business, but for society, and ultimately the planet.

PaperCut was founded on the drive to eliminate waste.

Our company’s commitment to environmental action harkens back to the days when our founder and CEO, Chris Dance, was a System Administrator for a secondary school here in Victoria, Australia.

It all started with a big pile of paper sitting at the school library printer.

Every day Chris would walk across and pick up that pile of uncollected print jobs. It infuriated him. It was the only problem in the school he couldn’t fix, the single user behavior issue he couldn’t control.

But it wasn’t just a waste of resources. It was motivation.

He got to writing a bit of software with our other co-founder Matt Doran and together they formed this very company. It was all thanks to that initial push for eliminating waste.

An illustration representing a user on their laptop with a tree beside them

Eliminating waste in more ways than one

Chris and Matt got to coding 21 years ago. At that time humanity was still learning about global warming and the like. But sustainability is a triple-loaded term. It has a crucial environmental context, but there are other elements.

Two decades back, an overused word for our founder, and other system administrators, was waste.

Sustainability is not just about being environmental. Every time someone in a school or office picked up a ream of uncollected print jobs at the end of each day, they were holding in their hands what literally could have been hundreds of dollars of toner ink, paper, and other resources. They were essentially throwing out one less book in the library a day.

Safeguarding tomorrow isn’t about just environmental preservation, it’s a behavioral practice that benefits your business and your community.

It’s about how your organization and its end users eliminate waste in all its forms.

We must think of all waste as bad; period.

Evolution of product

It’s not PaperCut’s job to stop printing, it’s our job to stop wasteful printing.

We achieve that through our print management products. Our approach to sustainability has evolved. It began initially as stopping waste. In recent years it’s become more about building awareness.

One way we’ve achieved this awareness on an end-user level is thanks to our environmental dashboard. This brings the message of waste control right to the fingertips of a student who can now discover, “Wow, my printing is the equivalent of leaving a light globe on for a whole year!”

We initially delivered our sustainability message through these kinds of tools, not just to the administrators, but to the end-users. Over the years we’ve built on this reservoir of environment-driven tools.

But we learned that we couldn’t just slap on these rules and restrictions. If we slapped five locks on the door then it would just get propped open with a fire extinguisher. Too draconian a measure would result in end-users finding “hacks” or “workarounds” which made the initial intention redundant and counterproductive.

On top of creating the tools, we gradually learned how to bake more and more sophistication into our software. This allowed for flexibility, depending on the unique requirements of all different print environments.

Today, not only do we provide the ability to implement resource-saving restrictions, but we’ve also allowed for maneuverability around these rules. You can nudge the conditions of restrictive features (like duplex and black and white printing policies) to empower administrators with the ability to avoid rules becoming a hindrance.

Flexibility of waste control features means nobody’s propping the door open with a fire extinguisher.

A screenshot of PaperCut's environmental widget

Pay it forward, investment mentality

Humanity shares a complex relationship with sustainability. Whether there's waste on an environmental level or others, the same source that creates wastage problems is the same source that will solve those problems.

Ingenuity has created the pollution which has caused environmental problems, but ingenuity will help us get out of those practices. We don’t want to stifle ingenuity or innovation, we want to encourage it. To do so, we need a pay-it-forward, investment mentality.

On that macro level, sustainability has to be approached as a long game. Quick fixes are rarely effective. Gradual changes in behavior and social buy-in are more often the changes that stick. Just like in our personal lives, the flick of the switch New Year’s resolution often fails. Conscious incremental lifestyle changes succeed.

Big picture sustainability needs to walk that same line. Long term sustainable change becomes the generational change that is passed down. It’s slower, but it’s the highest chance of success.

The future of sustainable printing

In terms of print management, PaperCut focuses on three areas of sustainability:

  1. Ease
  2. Security
  3. Eliminating waste

Our waste eliminating practices are amalgamated with our other business values. By blending them, we’re ticking all boxes at once.

Security officers and compliance personnel might be mainly motivated by security and privacy. But in implementing secure print management they’re also minimizing waste, so it’s a double win.

It’s the same the other way round. If your priority is sustainability, a print management solution also improves security. For sustainability to become tantamount in print management, its value needs to be mixed in with other resonating benefits.

We’re already seeing that with the automobile industry. Electric cars are becoming more convenient and require less maintenance. Combine this with the other benefits of owning an electric car, and it’s not just about sustainability or reducing pollution. People are motivated by performance, ease of use, and reduction of services.

Print needs to do the same. Mix in value with your waste reduction. Think of it as a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, or beating people with carrots.

“Stakeholder-driven” vs “shareholder-driven” mindset

For environmental performance policies to be successful for your business, our recommendation is, first, reframe what the success of your business is.

Many businesses are driven by the common mentality of “shareholder value” - specifically, for all methods and pursuits to maximize shareholder value.

For modern businesses, the approach should be to think of the business as a “stakeholder-driven” business. But you must be crystal clear on who your stakeholders are.

Our stakeholders are our shareholders. But they’re also our community, our customers, and our people. Maximizing stakeholder value over shareholder value adjusts the aim to not just improve our bottom line, but improve our community.

It’s already happening. Terms like “triple bottom line” (more on this down below) are entering business vernacular. Initiatives like B Corp Certification promote thinking about more than just shareholders.

Stated simply, to achieve sustainability for your business, redefine your metrics and measures of success, reshape what good looks like.

A photo of Sherbrooke Forest in the Dandenong Ranges - Victoria, Australia

Proactive vs reactive

A failure to adopt the “stakeholder-driven” mindset will ultimately lead to a business becoming irrelevant. Businesses have to keep up with society’s evolving values.

Businesses have to keep up with society’s evolving values. The next generation of employees won’t be drawn to companies without those values. It in turn will lead to those businesses’ practices, in general, being unsustainable.

However, that’s if businesses remain reactive, where they need to adopt a proactive role. If businesses own that connection with their communities they can be more positively influential with a proactive position.

Illustration of two people planting a seedling

Our 100-year vision

PaperCut has the vision to be a 100-year company. Our sustainability mission is at the forefront of that dream.

For a business to be successful in the long term with its environmental endeavors, sustainability must be adopted as a key-value across the board, beyond environmental impact.

Sustainability must be reframed as an overall way of working for all business operations. In the same vein where we have discussed mixing in value and flexibility amidst environmental preservational print management tools and features.

That’s why PaperCut adopts the triple bottom line framework for sustainability:

  • People: Social impact

  • Planet: Environmental impact

  • Profit: Economic impact

Without adopting sustainability across these three pillars, we cannot fully achieve our 100-year vision. But it’s not just about us securing that goal. We view managing today while preparing for tomorrow as mutually beneficial to our vision.

If we want to be a company with a century-long legacy, we have a duty to our planet. As a business, we can’t hope to continue supporting our community if there’s no community due to a failing of implementing environmental values.

From little things, big things grow

PaperCut was founded on the drive for sustainability, to eliminate waste and save resources. That remains at the core of our company and our approach towards environmental action. It’s more than a company value, it’s a motivation that many of our individual PaperCutters share. Our mission to reduce paper wastage and save trees is a core aspect of why many PaperCutters join the company. It’s a pillar of PaperCut culture.

Across all of our global offices, there are sustainable initiatives led by our people. Our Portland, London, and Melbourne office environmental action groups, coordinated through our Environmental Guild, ensure we practise sustainable waste management and recycling practices. Last year our Portland office reached City of Portland Sustainability at Work Silver Certification.

Reflecting our company’s origins, we encourage all PaperCutters to continue driving our efforts to secure the future of our planet. In our Portland office, Customer Care Team Lead Julie Gefroh joined the Climate Reality Project as a Climate Reality Leader. Julie is passionate about furthering education for our company and the wider community on our planet’s climate crisis, as well as the impacts of COVID-19 and racial injustice around the globe. Julie’s work is yet another example of one person seeking to solve a problem, similar to the drive that led to our co-founders starting PaperCut.

From little things, big things grow, and another example of that is Jess Graves, our APAC customer care team member and presales specialist. Motivated by the devastating loss of the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires, Jess led PaperCut in supporting Australian charitable fund and conservation project, Carbon Positive. Carbon Positive Australia’s reforestation project supports the rehabilitation of degraded Australian land while sequestering carbon and restoring Australian natural biodiversity. Now for every new PaperCut license sold, Carbon Positive Australia plants a tree in one of their controlled sites.

Sustainability at Work certification badge

These individual and group initiatives are part of our continued journey towards securing a better tomorrow for future generations. Just like our software itself, our philosophy for sustainability is evolving, and will continue to evolve. We will continue to make the steps towards achieving our environmental goals like achieving carbon neutrality whilst supporting more and more individual and group projects.

Our vision is to secure the future of our planet, so that in 100-years’ time, when we have achieved our goal, the next generations still have a planet where they can form their vision for a century-long sustainable future.

Read more about waste control for printing.