ARTICLE

Full circle: the importance of sustainability and the circular economy

Could you reduce your environmental impacts while contributing to the circular economy? Discover how we work to make improvements throughout our products’ lifecycles.

Full circle: the importance of sustainability and the circular economy

Canon Camera
Sustainability is a crucial element of any business development plan. But why is sustainability important? Incorporating long-term thinking will pay long-term dividends, and not just in blunt financial terms. Owing to a clearer understanding of environmental issues, people are placing value on sustainability like never before. Limiting your environmental and societal impact can therefore play a significant role in building your reputation, engaging customers and attracting talent to your workforce. Moreover, government regulations for businesses are turning environmental ideals into legal obligations, while investing in more sustainable materials, products, services and technology can save money day to day. But, more importantly, it’s everyone’s responsibility to protect our future by taking sustainable action now.

UN Sustainable Development Goals – a useful framework

Improving your organisation’s sustainability credentials can seem overwhelming. Small steps can make a big difference, but when adopting a more rigid and consistent strategy the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals can provide a framework1. Also known as Global Goals or SDGs, they are intended to work together to ‘balance social, economic and environmental sustainability’. They were set in 2015 with a goal to achieve them by 2030, and are therefore well established and understood across global regions and industries.

From an environmental sustainability perspective SDG 12 and SDG 13 should be a key focus for businesses. SDG 12 concerns ‘responsible consumption and production’, and includes, for instance, conserving raw materials through designing more compact and lightweight products, using recycled and recyclable materials to create more sustainable packaging, reducing chemical usage in production processes, and promoting product-to-product recycling. SDG 13 regards ‘climate action’ and prioritises a reduction of CO2 emissions throughout the lifecycle of a product, including through the use of renewable energy. Following SDGs must be a combined effort; processes such as recycling and renewable energy production can only be achieved successfully if the supply chain is there. Multinationals, government agencies and other major organisations are therefore using their influence to ensure suppliers share their values and procurement standards – offering an opportunity for businesses of any size to benefit from others’ sustainable development strategy.

The product lifecycle: cradle to cradle

For a manufacturer like Canon, the UN’s SDGs touch every stage of a product’s lifecycle. Even before production, during the development and design stages, the energy efficiency and recyclability of products must be considered and improved. Material procurement, manufacturing, distribution and recycling – and beyond – all play a part in a product’s overall sustainability. Setting rigorous quality and environmental management guidelines can ensure supply chain and manufacturing processes reflect the values of a business, an industry and, importantly, customers. Environmental impact assessments2 can monitor progress on aspects such as CO2 emission reductions, while an environmental management system such as ISO 14001 can help keep commitments on track. There are many more industry-backed programmes that can provide a structure for any business, of any size, seeking to reduce their environmental impact.

It’s easy to think of sustainability strategies as linear, with a prize at the finish line. In the 21st century reality however, thinking has shifted from ‘cradle to the grave’ to ‘cradle to cradle’: a circular lifecycle that runs from R&D through to remanufacturing, and back again. The circular economy relies on keeping products and materials in use for as long as possible, through repair and reuse, before moving on to remanufacturing and recycling processes. Reducing the reliance on raw materials, and the emissions from transport and manufacturing, helps to protect the environment, while the lower prices associated with remanufactured products can cut costs.
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Taking the path of Kyosei

Canon operates according to the ethos of Kyosei, a Japanese word meaning ‘living and working together for the common good’. It covers sustainability, social responsibility and ensuring our customers can rely on us to share their values. We use the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a framework to define our commitments to responsible consumption, production and climate action, and have achieved the EcoVadis gold award – an internationally recognised sustainability accreditation – for the last six years3. We are also ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 accredited, demonstrating that our production processes meet industry standards in terms of quality and sustainability.

Kyosei is embedded into everything we do at Canon, including in our technology. We have reduced the lifecycle CO2 emissions of our products by 40% since 2008 (an average of 4.7% per year), and improved logistics sustainability by downsizing products and consolidating stock locations. By driving energy-efficient design across a wide range of workspace products, we achieved an expected CO2 reduction of 23,593,000 tons between 2008 and 2019. Today’s latest imageRUNNER ADVANCE DX C5800 Series, for example, produces 18% less CO2 over the lifetime of the device compared to its predecessor* during use compared to previous releases.

In addition to driving down the lifecycle CO2 emissions of our products, Canon EMEA repairs over 80,000 products returned from customers in and out of warranty every year. We also remanufacture a range of our best-selling multifunction printers into new-condition imageRUNNER ADVANCE EQ80 devices, using 80% of the original MFP and reducing our reliance on new raw materials.

Businesses – big and small – have the power to plan their own course, including mapping their sustainability journey. When making important business decisions, from awarding procurement contracts to investing in a new office printer fleet, organisations can make a big impact by embedding sustainability as a key priority.

Discover more about how Canon reduces the environmental impacts throughout our products’ lifecycles whilst contributing to the circular economy in our environmental infographic.

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