The circular economy has been gaining traction steadily for quite a while. Explained quickly, the circular economy can be defined as an economy that focuses on regeneration and restoration, minimizing waste and cross-contamination between the biological and technological realms. The appeal of such a system is obvious to see, and organizations in both the public and private sectors have made significant efforts in this direction, and many more firms are eager to embrace strategies that can further their ability to achieve these sustainability goals. 

Managed print services have the potential to play a major role in this capacity. As ComputerWeekly's Quorica Insights contributor Louella Fernandes recently highlighted, the print industry is actually ahead of the field in many ways when it comes to striving for a circular economy, and more progress is likely on the horizon.

Circular economy efforts
Fernandes cited a number of statistics demonstrating the efforts that organizations have made in this area. Perhaps most notably, the writer noted that some countries have introduced legislation setting waste reduction goals or standards, all of which tie into the broader notion of creating and maintaining a circular economy. These include recycling targets and the banning of recycling materials in landfills, among other initiatives. 

The writer noted that a 2010 study from the Waste & Resources Action Programme found that nearly 20 percent of the U.K.'s economy fit the definition of the circular economy, and this figure is projected to surpass 25 percent by 2020.

The circular economy's benefits are not limited to environmental conservation. Recent research from Accenture determined that the circular economy may deliver as much as $4.5 trillion in economic benefits by 2030, Circulate News reported. This number takes into account the rapidly changing prices of commodities, the increasing scarcity of resources and more. Considering these figures, it's clear to see why governments are eager to encourage practices that are in line with the circular economy, and why private sector firms are voluntarily moving in this direction themselves. 

At the same time, though, Fernandes pointed out that the circular economy is far from an established norm. She emphasized that research from McKinsey has found that of the $3.2 trillion worth of materials that are used in consumer goods, four-fifths do not make their way back into circulation. This is precisely the type of wastefulness that the circular economy is geared toward eliminating, or at least reducing.

MPS and the circular economy
One of the ways that organizations are trying to move toward the circular economy, according to Fernandes, is by embracing services over ownership. Usage-based models have the potential to be significantly more efficient and less wasteful than more traditional ownership models. This applies across a wide range of industries and sectors.

The print industry is particularly instructive in this capacity. The writer noted that print manufacturers have been working to improve their sustainability capabilities for years by improving their manufacturing processes, recycling ink and paper to a greater degree and more effectively provisioning hardware, software and services. Overall, the print industry as a whole has already demonstrated significant commitment to developing networks that prioritize reuse and refurbishment, which are critical components of circular economies.

Fernandes went on to offer several pieces of advice regarding how MPS providers can go even further to embrace and support the circular economy and its multitude of benefits. For one thing, she recommended that these organizations take a closer look at their energy consumption and try to develop strategies to save in this area. Energy-efficient devices, such as printers, can have a major impact, for example. 

More broadly, the writer emphasized the need to evaluate the environmental impact of all MPS efforts. She noted that a number of MPS vendors already provide carbon footprint calculations, recycling assistance and other related services to their clients, to help businesses better align their practices with the circular economy.

Additionally, MPS firms can and should aim to minimize their own environmental impact internally. Fernandes pointed out that MPS vendors should consider further improving their reporting capabilities, as this will help to increase efficiency, which in turn can reduce wastefulness.

A selling point
By enacting policies and practices that better fit into the circular economy, MPS will not only have a positive impact on the environment and improve their cost efficiency – they will also have a powerful selling point that can be used to attract new customers. After all, countless companies are eager to claim that they embrace eco-conscious policies in order to improve their brand image, and partnering with an MPS that has itself taken steps to achieve sustainability and minimize waste is an excellent way for such businesses to do just that. In this way, MPS can gain a major competitive advantage in an increasingly challenging industry.