Epson EcoTank – an inkjet printer which doesn’t use inkjet cartridges

epson ecotank

“Oh boy, I just love buying inkjet cartridges”. Said no-one. Ever. They are expensive, they run out just when we need them most, or worse they clog, and there is never a recycling bin nearby when it is time to dispose of them.

So what’s the choice? Laser printers? Well, they are good for black and white printing, but they have a higher upfront cost, colour laser printers are very expensive, and they don’t give great results.

So as we posited here on GreenMonk in the past, why doesn’t somebody create an inkjet printer with refillable wells, instead of disposable cartridges?

It took a few years, but Epson launched their EcoTank range of printers recently, and they are just that i.e. printers with refillable wells into which you pour the ink, as opposed to cartridges.

The printers ship with enough ink for about 4,000 pages of printing, after which you can buy refills, which are surprisingly inexpensive (around $60 on Amazon for another set of 4 bottles which yields another approx 4,000 pages).

The EcoTank printers cost a bit more initially than printers that take cartridges (they sell on Amazon for $399) but given the refills are inexpensive, that difference is quickly made up.

And they are far more convenient, because they need to be refilled far less often, and not using cartridges, there is no search for specialised recycling bins after topping up the ink.

Reviews for the EcoTank, both on tech sites, and on Amazon (4 out of 5 stars with over 100 reviews), are very positive, so there’s that too.

Well done Epson.


Apple, cloud computing, and enterprise supply chain management

Solar power

Apple’s recent announcements around renewables and supply chain transparency, put the major cloud providers to shame.

Apple had a couple of interesting announcements last week. The first was that they were investing $848m in a 130MW solar farm being built by First Solar in California. With this investment, Apple enters into a 25 year power purchase agreement with the solar farm, guaranteeing income for the solar farm, and securing Apple’s energy bills for the next 25 years in California. According to First Solar this is the largest agreement in the industry to provide clean energy to a commercial end user, and it will provide enough energy for Apple to fully power its headquarters, operations and retail stores in California, with renewable energy.

For it’s data centers, which hosts Apple’s iCloud, App Store, and iTunes content, Apple uses 100% locally generated, renewable energy. It’s Maiden, North Carolina data centre, for example, uses a combination of biogas fuel cells and two 20‑megawatt solar arrays — the largest privately owned renewable energy installation in the US, according to Apple. And it is now investing another $55 million in a third, 100-acre 17.5MW plant for the facility. You can find details of Apple’s other data centre facilities, and how they are powered by renewables, here.

Apple's Maiden Data Center Solar Array

Apple’s Maiden NC Data Center Solar Array

The second announcement from Apple was the publication of its 2015 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report (highlights here, full PDF here). Apple has been criticised in the past for workers rights violations in its supply chain, so it is good to see Apple taking very real steps, positive, to address this. The amout of detail, the steps taken, and the levels of transparency in the report are impressive.

On underage labour, for instance, Apple’s policy requires that

any supplier found hiring underage workers fund the worker’s safe return home. Suppliers also have to fully finance the worker’s education at a school chosen by the worker and his or her family, continue to pay the worker’s wages, and offer the worker a job when he or she reaches the legal age. Of more than 1.6 million workers covered in 633 audits in 2014, 16 cases of underage labor were discovered at six facilities — and all were successfully remediated.

Apple also has strict policies around work week hours, health and safety, sourcing of conflict minerals, and the environment. In order to increase its transparency, Apple publishes its Supplier Code of Conduct, its Supplier Responsibility Standards, its Conflict Minerals Standard, as well as a list of its smelter suppliers and its top 200 suppliers amongst other documents. And Apple’s comprehensive list of environmental reports are published here.

What does this have to do with cloud computing and the enterprise supply chain management?

Well, Apple recently partnered with IBM in order to expand its userbase into the enterprise space. And it has opened its iWork office suite to anyone with an Apple ID, no Apple device required – though this was long overdue.

Comparing Apple’s cloud offerings to actual enterprise cloud players (or any cloud players, for that matter), you see there’s a yawning chasm in terms of transparency, reporting, and commitment to renewables.

Of the main enterprise cloud players:

  • Microsoft publish their Citizenship Report here [PDF]. And while it is a decent enough report, it doesn’t go into anything like the level of detail that Apple does. On page 53 of this report Microsoft mention that 47% of the energy it purchases is renewable. It does purchase renewable energy certificates for the other 53% so it can report that it is carbon neutral.
  • Google doesn’t produce a corporate sustainability report. Instead it has this page which outlines some of the work it does in the community. Information on Google’s energy breakdown is sparse. What is published is found on the Google Green site, where we find that although Google has many investments in renewable energy, and Google has been carbon neutral since 2007, Google’s actual percentage of renewables is only 35%.
  • IBM has a good history of producing corporate reports (though it still hasn’t published its report for 2014). However on the energy conservation section of IBM’s corporate report, IBM reports that sources 17% of its electricity came from renewable sources in 2013. However, they go on to note that this does not include the energy data of Softlayer – IBM’s cloud platform.
  • Cloud Providers Energy and Transparency

  • And finally, Amazon, who have arguably the largest cloud computing footprint of any of the providers, is the worst performer in terms of reporting, and likely in terms of emissions. The only page where Amazon mentions emissions, claims that it has three carbon neutral regions, but fails to say how they have achieved this status (or whether they are third party audited as such). The same page also claims that “AWS has a long-term commitment to achieve 100% renewable energy usage for our global infrastructure footprint” but it fails to give any time frame for this commitment, or any other details on how it plans to get there.

Taking into account last November’s historic deal between the US and China on carbon reductions, and the upcoming Paris Climate Change Conference in December this year (2015), where there are very likely to be binding international agreements on carbon reductions. This will lead inevitably to increased requirements for CO2 reporting from the supply chain.

With that in mind, including the % renewable energy as one of the factors when choosing a cloud provider, would be a very wise move.

As pointed out to me on Twitter:

In that case, you could always go with GreenQloud. GreenQloud bill themselves as a drop-in AWS replacement and being based in Iceland their electricity is 100% renewable.

Photo credit NAIT


Technology for Good – episode twenty seven with SalesForce’s Peter Coffee

Welcome to episode twenty seven of the Technology for Good hangout. In this week’s episode we had SalesForce‘s Vice President of Strategic Research, Peter Coffee as the guest on our show.

We have met a talked with Peter a couple of times, and have always been impressed by the breadth of his knowledge, as well as his thoughts on things environmental. Also having seen that, when asked to come up with a challenge for the Cap Gemini Super Techies Show, he went with…

Present a technology vision for taking an existing bicycle manufacturer and retailer to the next level as a transportation option


… we were very keen to have Peter as a guest on the show.

We covered some fascinating stories on the show, including the White House’s plan to use technology to unleash data to help America’s agriculture sector, how Facebook’s is helping people get online in Zambia, and a new initiative to help parents do simple science experiments at home with their kids.

Here is the full list of stories that we covered in this week’s show:








Open technologies

Moore’s Law




The Global Reporting Initiative, their new CEO, Social, Mobile and Big Data

Michael Meehan - GRI new Chief Executive

We were delighted to hear this week that friend of GreenMonk’s for many years now, Michael Meehan was recently appointed as CEO of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

The GRI is a non-profit organisation that produces one of the world’s most prevalent framework’s for sustainability reporting. One of the GRI’s main aims is to make sustainability reporting by all organisations as routine as, and comparable to, financial reporting.

Michael takes over the GRI at an interesting time. As we reported here on GreenMonk recently, the interest in sustainability reporting is on the rise globally

carbon scores are now not only showing up at board level, but are also being reported to insurance companies, and are appearing on Bloomberg and Google Finance. He put this down to a shift away from the traditional regulation led reporting, to a situation now where organisations are responding to pressure from investors, as well as a requirement to manage shareholder risk.

In other words the drivers for sustainability reporting now are the insurance companies, and Wall Street. Organisations are realising that buildings collapsing in Bangladesh can have an adverse effect on their brand, and ultimately their bottom line.

On a call to Michael earlier this week to congratulate him on his new role, he mentioned that while around 6,000 organisations currently report to the GRI, his aim is to increase that number to 25,000 organisations.

To do that, at the very least, the GRI needs to embrace social, mobile, and Big Data.

The GRI has traditionally operated below the radar, but in order to grow the GRI, never mind growing it to 25,000 reporting organisations, working quietly is not sustainable. It has to become more aggressive with outbound communications – social in particular. While the GRI has a Twitter account with over 15,000 followers, there’s no mention of the account anywhere on the GRI’s website. Worse again, the organisation’s Facebook page is one automatically generated by Facebook based on Facebook users posts and interests (!), and the organisation’s Youtube channel was similarly generated automatically by YouTube’s video discovery system.

On the mobile front, the organisation’s website is not mobile aware. Nor does it have any mobile apps in the main app stores. In a time when more and more web browsing is going mobile, the GRI urgently needs to formulate a mobile strategy for itself.

And finally, on the Big Data front, in our conversation Michael expressed a definite interest in making the GRI’s terabytes of organisational information available as a platform for developers. The data is a huge repository of information going back over years. The ability to build analytics applications on top of this would yield massive benefits, one has to think.

Fortunately for the GRI, Michael is a serial entrepreneur with a history of successful exits in the sustainability space. If anyone can modernise the GRI, he can. We wish him all the best in his new role.


Sustainability and SAP?

SAP former CEO Dr Peter Graf

Dr Peter Graf, SAP’s Chief Sustainability Officer announced that he’s leaving SAP yesterday.

There has been a significant purge of executives re-organisation at SAP in the last few weeks since CTO Vishal Sikka resigned suddenly, and Co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe stepped back from his Co-CEO role leaving Bill McDermott as sole CEO.

Taken in isolation, the departure of Graf from SAP wouldn’t be too concerning, but SAP’s sustainability team has lost four of its most senior executives in the last few months. Jeremiah Stone was VP for SAP’s Sustainability Solutions. Scott Bolick was VP Sustainability. James Farrar was also VP of Sustainability for SAP, and Peter Graf was the Chief Sustainability Officer.

The loss of four such senior figures in such a short time leads to obvious questions about SAP’s ongoing commitment to sustainability.

Coincidentally I’m at SAP’s customer and partner conference SapphireNow this week, so I look forward hearing SAP’s take on this.


SAP running six week online course on Sustainability and Business Innovation

Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOC’s as they are also known, are training courses delivered online, allowing for large numbers of students to enroll in the courses. When I signed up for an introductory data science course with Coursera last year I had over 50,000 ‘classmates’ taking the course with me. The network effect of haveing thousands of students taking the same course at the same time meant that the forums were actually useful places to interact and get questions answered.

I was interested then to hear from DJ Adams that SAP is running a MOOC on Sustainability and Business Innovation. The course is being given by SAP’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Dr. Peter Graf.

It is a six week course, commencing on April 29th (2014), with 4-6 hours of instruction per week, with a final exam on June 10-17th (2014).

The course content (below) looks to be quite comprehensive:

Week 1: The Business Case for Sustainability
The week contains the following units: Welcome; Root Causes; Sustainable Value Creation; Engaging Top Management; Organizational Setup for Sustainability & The Role of IT

Week 2: Sustainable Strategies
The week contains the following units: Crafting a Sustainable Strategy; Stakeholders and Materiality; Analysis and Target Setting; Examples of Environmentally Driven Initiatives; Examples of Socially Driven Initiatives & Examples of Transformational Innovation

Week 3: Sustainable Business Processes (Part 1)
The week contains the following units: Embedding Sustainability Into Business Processes; Sustainable Design; Sustainable Sourcing and Procurement; Sustainable Production & Sustainable Logistics

Week 4: Sustainable Business Processes (Part 2)
The week contains the following units: Sustainable Consumption; Sustainable End-of-Life Processes; Environmental and Social Capital Accounting; Sustainability in Finance and Administration; Sustainability in HR & Sustainability in IT, aka Green IT

Week 5: Stakeholder Engagement
The week contains the following units: Engaging Line of Business Leaders; Engaging Employees; Engaging Society – Corporate Social Responsibility; Engaging Business Partners, Authorities and Opinion Leaders & Engaging Investors

Week 6: Sustainability Reporting
The week contains the following units: Purpose, Audiences and Standards; Data Quality and Assurance; Integrated Reporting; Report Delivery; Rankings and Recognition & Recap of Key Course Learnings

Week 7: Final Exam

I’m particularly happy to see the data quality and assurance being covered. With the move towards an increasingly quantified and transparent world the importance of knowing how to measure and interpret data cannot be underestimated.

If you are interested in signing up, or simply knowing more about the course, head on over to the course site, preferably before the class commences this coming April 29th. Over 9,200 people have already registered, so it looks like it will be a lively few weeks for all involved.


SAP Startup Focus in newly industrialised countries

Vishal Sikka, SAP CTO

As we have said before here, sustainability job number one is putting bread on the table. To that end, it was great to see SAP’s Startup Focus program take off so well, gaining over 1,000 companies signed up in less than two years.

We profiled the Startup Focus program here on GreenMonk earlier this year, talking to three of the participant companies about it. They were very enthusiastic about how it had helped them break into the enterprise software market, and said they wished they’d joined the program sooner.

More recently, we spotted news from TechEd Bangalore that SAP CTO Vishal Sikka announced there that of the over 1,000 companies who have joined the Startup Focus program, 158 of the come from India. I’d love to know what percentage of the Startup Focus companies overall come from newly industrialised countries, and what level of employment they are helping create.


SAP, the move into startups, and job creation

Sustainability job number one is putting bread on the table.

Given that, and the huge numbers of people out of work at the moment, any initiative which fosters employment creation, is a definite sustainability win.

Recent research conducted by the US Census Bureau and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation found that:

…virtually all net new job creation over the past three decades has come from new businesses less than one year old – true “start-ups.” New businesses, according to the research, create an average of three million new jobs annually, while existing firms of any age, type, or size shed a net average of about one million jobs each year, as some businesses fail and as others incorporate technology and become more efficient. If the policy target is job creation, new business formation is the bull’s-eye.

With that in mind, anything which specifically encourages startups is definitely to be lauded.

Now you don’t often hear SAP and startups mentioned in the same sentence, but that may be about to change. In March last year (2012), SAP decided to change that, so they set up their Startup Focus program. They help an event to which they invited startups, and they chose 10 to work with. These were showcased at Sapphire. By late last year, the number of companies enrolled had grown to 150. By this year’s Sapphire (May 2013), the number of companies had swelled to 450. And by this year’s TechEd (October 2013), it was announced that the number was now in excess of 1,000 from 55 countries globally.

That’s a very impressive growth rate, which SAP are continuing to extend, by all accounts. I spoke to several of the startup companies at TechEd and they were full of praise for the program, their only regret being that they hadn’t joined it sooner!


Dell launches its 2020 Legacy of Good Plan

Dell water bottle

Yesterday (Oct 15th 2013) Dell published their 2020 Legacy of Good Plan. In this plan they commit to

leaving a positive, measurable, and lasting contribution to out planet and our society.

Lofty goals indeed, but what about some of the more concrete specifics? Well Dell has published 21 concrete goals with an end-date of 2020 by which they have to achieve them.

The goals cover three distinct categories, Environment, People and Communities.

The Environmental goals include:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our facilities and logistics operations by 50%
  • Reduce the energy intensity of our product portfolio by 80% and
  • Ensure 100 percent of Dell packaging is either recyclable or compostable

The People goals include:

  • Increase university hiring to a rate of 25 percent of all external hiring
  • Engage 40 percent of our global Dell team in employee resource groups by 2020 and
  • Achieve 75 percent favorable responses (or higher) in team member satisfaction globally as measured through the annual employee satisfaction survey

While the two Community goals are:

  • Engage 75 percent of team members in community service by 2020 and provide 5 million cumulative hours of service to the communities in which we live and work and
  • Apply our expertise and technology in underserved communities to help 3 million youth directly and support 10 million people indirectly to grow and thrive

The goals are all extremely laudable and measurable, and Dell has committed to transparency in the process. It will be interesting to watch Dell’s progress with the plan, especially as we come closer to the end-date 2020.

Dell claims to have worked closely with its customers in formulating this plan, but according to this Twitter conversation, not all Dell’s customers are on-board, as yet

An obvious goal missing from the People section would be to increase the number of female executives in the organisation, though Dell is already one of the top US companies for executive women. No harm to have written goals for this too though.

Finally while discussing this initiative with David Lear, Dell’s Executive Director of sustainability programs, I asked him what was going to happen to this program given Dell’s move from being a publicly traded to a privately owned company. He responded that because the plan was generated in consultation with Dell’s customer base, those customer’s were unlikely to change significantly after the privatisation, and Dell’s commitment to them wouldn’t change either.


Ariba’s AribaLive conference reviewed

AribaLive 2013

I attended the AribaLive event in Berlin last week – this is the European conference for Ariba customers and partners to share stories, network and learn from one another.

Ariba is a company which provides electronic sales and procurement solutions for companies. There are over 1 million companies in 190 countries using Ariba. Customer companies mentioned or presenting included Clariant, Solvay, Disney, Deutsche Bank, Astra Zeneca, Fujitsu, Aviva and EADS. Naturally I was curious to hear how their customers fared from dematerialising parts of their buying and selling processes.

I wasn’t totally clear on some of the advantages the Ariba offers buyers and sellers until Ariba President Kevin Costello, in his keynote explained it with a good analogy to the likes of Facebook, Amazon and eBay. As Costello said, Facebook has completely changed how people connect/reconnect. Similarly, eBay and Amazon have totally transformed how people shop for goods. I knew exactly what he meant as I’ve recently bought a new camera. I started by checking camera review sites and Amazon reviews to find the best camera for my needs. I then went to both eBay and Amazon to identify the best deal, from the most reputable seller. Being able to see peer reviews not just of the camera, but of the sellers as well, meant I was very confident when I decided to buy my secondhand camera, that I would get a good product at a good price.

In the same way, Costello said, the Ariba Network brings huge transparency to enterprise buyers and sellers, allowing them to make purchasing, or sales decisions more efficiently and with fewer concerns. In fact, the consumerisation of business commerce was a term used throughout the event.

Several customer presentations followed with organisations like Spanish building company FCC mentioning that they both source €2 billion, and cut 80,000 electronic invoices with their Ariba system annually. They estimate they are saving 10% per annum by using Ariba.

Apart from the efficiencies of using electronic solutions, how else does one benefit (to the tune of 10%, for example) by using Ariba?


Well part of the answer was provided in the talk given by EADS Vice President of Accounts Payable, Bob McCartney. He talked about the cost of dealing with incoming invoices for EADS. According to McCartney, dealing with an invoice manually costs EADS €15, running it through OCR brings the price down to €4 per invoice, while the price of dealing with e-invoices is €2. That is massive – electronic invoicing is half the cost of OCR’d invoices and seven and a half times cheaper than manual invoices. Right there you see a huge business case for e-invoicing.

Other advantages of electronic invoicing outlined by McCartney were – a recurring 22% cost saving, increasing on-time payment of suppliers, improved visibility/forecasting of the company’s cash position, and improved relations with suppliers (more process transparency, as well as on-time payments).

Finally, Ariba’s Supplier Risk Management solution was interesting to learn about as well. This solution allows users to, for example, figure out in the event of a natural disaster in a distant part of the world, what the potential impact may on your organisations supply chain. Though a more interesting use case, given it can drill down several layers into your supply chain may be avoiding the use of conflict minerals in your products, for example.

Full disclosure – Ariba paid my travel and accommodation to attend this event.