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Digital transformation and sustainability: The importance of full-lifecycle thinking

Underestimating the impact of full-lifecycle thinking? Find out why digital transformation and sustainability are entwined and how they should be aligned.

Sustainability has never been higher on the business agenda. From increased customer preference, environmental weighting on tenders to the proliferation of environmental, community and climate-related initiatives, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), the need to act cannot be ignored.   

While Sustainability has long been incorporated into digital transformation strategies, it is much more than a by-product – the two concepts are deeply interwoven and have the power to push each other forwards.

Despite huge cost-saving, performance, lifespan and environmental benefits, the pace of transition is perhaps being held back by the perceived complexity of digital transformation. And sustainability can be a difficult concept to clearly determine – especially in the case of technology products – with differing definitions and interpretations of what constitutes best practice.

To help businesses understand the nuances behind creating long-term technology plans that power productivity and cut costs, Brother has launched a series of digital transformation reports.

A major theme of this series is sustainability – in particular the importance of full-lifecycle thinking. Here we explore why digital transformation and sustainability are interdependent and how they should be aligned. 

Interlinked: digital transformation and sustainability

When digital transformation is implemented alongside sustainability initiatives, the results can be beneficial for businesses and the environment. As a quick example, by simply migrating technology services to the cloud, firms could save money, use 77% fewer servers, 84% less power and reduce carbon emissions by 88%1

More excitingly, in its truest sense digital transformation is about improving productivity, efficiency and processes with data. So, combining digital transformation and sustainability delivers intelligent, connected systems which will help organisations improve against non-financial benchmarks such as CO2 emissions and waste management.

Over the coming years, sustainability will continue to move up the global political and corporate agenda – the worldwide focus on the recent COP26 climate change conference, indicating the scale of collective responsibility to act more sustainably. As it does, business efforts will be even more greatly scrutinised at customer, regulatory, supply chain and even financial levels. The once over-and-above reporting of sustainability and ethical practices has now become commonplace, making the sophisticated data mining capabilities of leading-edge, meticulously procured systems more important than ever to the organisations that use them.

Full-lifecycle thinking – the sustainable print procurement opportunity

Corporate sustainability aims don’t tend to lack ambition. What’s more, they are often integrated with procurement processes. However, overall impact could be limited by the way office technology statistics overwhelmingly focus on the operational lifecycle of devices.

When purchasing hardware such as printers, a good way to improve procurement in line with your company sustainability goals is to broaden the criteria. A comprehensive print procurement checklist should cover non-operation phase considerations such as the impact of manufacturing, shipping, packaging, recycling schemes and indeed the quality of the manufacturer’s own CSR/CER programmes. 

71% of SMBs agree it is important to evaluate sustainability of hardware across its entire lifecycle to truly get a measure of environmental performance2. Full-lifecycle thinking is the essential next step for the sourcing of high-performance equipment. Explore the importance of full-lifecycle thinking and possibilities of sustainable printing by reading our implementing digital transformation report.

The long-term mindset – digital transformation and eco-friendly printing

Some businesses may be apprehensive about the perceived complexity of digital transformation, particularly when combined with the challenges of hybrid working. But, from a hardware procurement perspective, it can be achieved relatively simply, by procuring better, longer-lasting, more interoperable IT hardware and software. 

Business and home users looking to implement sustainable printing practices have already embraced the concept of recycling genuine print and toner cartridges. The next logical step towards full-lifecycle thinking and running an eco-printer, is the goal of keeping the same device working for as long as possible to maximise sustainability and ROI.

Conducting modular repairs on machines that are faulty, rather than replacing the entire device, is an easy but underused way for businesses to extend the lifespan of printing technology and meet sustainable printing aims. Modular repairs that include parts and technology upgrades could further extend the lifespan of printers, making this a viable route for effective digital transformation and eco-friendly printing. 

Power to transform your business for good

In a world where technology is constantly evolving, taking a holistic, long-term view of procurement now goes hand-in-hand with maintaining cutting-edge systems. 

Digital transformation plans developed to prioritise future flexibility should place a huge emphasis on sustainability and full-lifecycle thinking. This will improve your office technology procurement strategy as well as your overall environmental performance. 

Critically though, taking a flexible long-term approach will enable your business to capitalise on, and reap the benefits of, digital transformation and sustainability initiatives by experiencing first-hand what happens when they power each other forward.

The true payoff for businesses? Powerful systems, connected information, greater business insight and, of course, continually improving environmental performance all make for happier colleagues and customers. 

And after all – isn't this what every business strives for?


1. Forbes: '10 Reasons Sustainability Needs To Be Part Of Your Digital Transformation Strategy'

2. World Economic Forum: 'The Global Risks Report 2019'


For help creating a sustainable procurement strategy for your business, why not download the sustainability report from our Digital Transformation series

To find out how Brother can help you to meet your eco-friendly printing goals with environmentally conscious print sourcing and procurement, take a look at what we’re doing to create positive change. 


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