31 August 2023, by Newsroom editorial office
Photo: Pixabay roma1880
The study found that the amount of paper used for printing can be reduced by up to 76 percent.
The amount of paper used for printing is an important starting point for companies looking to be more sustainable. But how can staff be motivated to print out fewer documents? This is the subject of a study by Prof. Dr. Jan Recker from the Faculty of Business Administration, published in the journal Information and Management.
Digital information systems present a starting point for changing printing behavior, by encouraging staff to consider the effects of printing a document on the environment.
“We selected 2 different approaches, one addressing individuals, and one with a group-based approach,” explains Prof. Dr. Jan Recker, Professor of Information Systems and Digital Innovation and a nucleus professor at Universität Hamburg. The study was conducted with a total of 95 university staff.
Up to 76 percent less paper use
In the individual approach, staff members received a weekly individual report showing a balance sheet for the number of pages they printed, including the number of felled trees, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy use. There was also a comparison with other participants, as well as consumption over time. The group approach on the other hand was based on an online forum, which provided surveys and discussions as well as the opportunity to vote. This allowed participants to make suggestions, get feedback, and build networks.
In both instances, the digital tools motivated participants to reflect on and change their actions. “Both methods markedly reduced printing and paper usage, the email report by up to 76 percent, and the group approach by about 73 percent,” recounts Recker. A combination of both approaches however did not result in any further notable effect.
Able to be implemented in to office routines
“We decided on the subject of printing because it is a simple process that occurs in most working environments, and one that many people don’t think about,” explains Dr. Kenan Degirmenci from Queensland University of Technology, who conducted the study with Prof. Recker. “People need to be pulled out of these kinds of routines, and information systems can be well used for that purpose,” adds Recker. The results can also be applied to other everyday routine tasks in the office.
What do the experts recommend for staff? “Each and every one us should always aks if a document is really worth printing,” says Recker. There were often digital alternatives, such as sending an email or archiving in shared drives. And where printing is unavoidable, Recker recommends “It also makes a difference whether something is printed in color or in black and white. choosing double-sided printing also saves paper.”
Prof. Dr. Jan Recker explained how digitalization and sustainability are connected in other areas in his presentation “Vorlesung für alle.”