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For more than three decades, Ricoh Company Ltd. has proactively followed and implemented a vast array of environmental sustainability practices. With offices in over 180 countries and more than 108,000 employees, the 75-year-old Japanese electronics and document management solutions company is head and shoulders above its competitors in the global office automation industry, not only in market shares and profits, but also in green technology and environmental corporate social responsibility.

Ricoh’s business entails the production of office machines (e.g., copiers and printers), communications and information systems (e.g., facsimiles, network equipment, network-related software), and photographic devices (e.g., digital cameras, analog cameras, and lenses) as well as the provision of maintenance services throughout the lifecycle of several Ricoh products and systems. Ricoh NZ Headquarters are found in Auckland with branch offices in Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Additionally, a national network of dealers and service agents provide sales, service and support in all areas of the country.

“It has never been more important to demonstrate credible corporate responsibility. The key for Ricoh is transparent triple-bottom-line reporting”

Ricoh Company Ltd is a case in point that a company is never too big or too established to strive for environmental excellence. They continually push the envelope in terms of energy and resource efficiency of their manufacturing processes and products. Moreover, Ricoh demonstrates that applying practical sustainable business solutions can actually reduce operating costs, improve productivity and increase market share.

Recognising environmental sustainability as an integral part of all business activities, Ricoh innovates with the ethos of keeping their environmental impact “within the self-recovery capabilities of the earth”. Based on three core principles – “people, planet, profit” – the Ricoh parent company has set bold medium and long-term targets for environmental action including the reduction of total carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent of 2000 levels by 2020 and by 87.5 percent by 2050. In 2011 Ricoh was listed for the 7th consecutive year among the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the world, an award that highlights companies that have been most proactive in managing environmental, social and governance factors that impact opportunity and risk in their business. Ricoh are the only document solutions company to make the list.

Ricoh’s New Zealand subsidiary has moved in sync with this global philosophy. “There is no doubt that after the quality of our people, Ricoh’s environmental sustainability credentials are the next most important factor in our success,” says Ricoh New Zealand Managing Director Mike Pollok. “We at Ricoh New Zealand are focused on sustainable growth for our own business and that of our customers. Our initiatives in this area result in reductions in variable costs such as; energy, paper, freight and fuel. This is sustainability everyone can understand and support.”

Such initiatives include certified carbon neutrality, Energy Star compliance, annual sustainability reporting, a comprehensive machine and toner cartridge recycling scheme and active promotion of sustainability with staff, suppliers and customers. Ricoh NZ abide by a Corporate Social Responsbility Charter and company-wide Environment Policy.

In 2008, Ricoh became the first document solutions company in New Zealand to become carbon neutral, recognised by attainment of the carboNZeroCert™ certification. CarboNZero is managed by Landcare Research, who maps Ricoh’s complete environmental footprint, from recycling plastics to empty print cartridges and energy costs.

Pollok acknowledges that achieving carbon neutrality had its challenges – both in terms of time and money, particularly in the first year. But there are business benefits – including lower power and petrol bills, reduced waste collection costs, improved customer loyalty and new customer acquisition.

In addition to their own business operations, Ricoh went a step further, voluntarily deciding to offset emissions associated with their customer’s use of Ricoh devices and printers as well. With 6,500 clients around New Zealand this was a significant commitment, but one Ricoh believes has created value for the business, the community and the planet. “Buy from us – and we take care of the carbon credits for you,” says Pollok. Now Ricoh are advocating the message back up the chain as well as forwards, encouraging their suppliers to go carbon neutral.

Ricoh NZ’s list of eco-credentials is exhaustive. Here are just a few highlights:

  • In 2001, Ricoh became New Zealand’s first office equipment supplier to be accredited with ISO 14001 in 2001. ISO 14001 is a globally recognized certification, primarily focused on what an organisation does to mitigate the harmful effects its business activities cause to the environment.
  • Initiated and endorsed by the New Zealand Government, Ricoh is New Zealand’s first office equipment supplier to have their products accredited with the Environmental Choice Tick of Approval.
  • Ricoh has been an International ENERGY STAR partner since October 1995. Currently, the entire range of Ricoh office products available in New Zealand meet the international ENERGY STAR standards for energy efficiency.
  • In addition, Ricoh New Zealand was approached by the NZ Ecolabelling Trust to assist in defining accreditation criteria for office automation equipment.
  • In 2008, Ricoh was sole recipient of the prestigious New Zealand Performance Excellence Study Awards managed by Business Excellence NZ.
  • Ricoh participate in an extensive range of CSR activities which will be elaborated below.
  • Ricoh are members of the Sustainable Business Network and New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development

One of Ricoh’s most impressive endeavours is their comprehensive recycling strategy. The company participates in a working group with the Ministry for the Environment to develop a product stewardship scheme for the IT industry in New Zealand and has been on its own recycling journey since the mid-1990s, focusing on machine recycling and cartridge recycling.

Ricoh products are cleverly designed to enable recycling. In fact, up to 98 per cent of Ricoh products are fully recyclable. Ricoh machines are therefore either remanufactured for reuse or recycled into other products, an activity carried out locally in New Zealand.

To simplify end-of-life product handling for customers, Ricoh launched the Machine Recycling Program. Since its inception 2000, this free resource recovery programme has successfully diverted over 180 tonnes of Ricoh machinery from landfill or offshore. In 2010, 1,502 machines were refurbished and resold, and this number increases every year.

Ricoh’s Consumables Recycling Programme is designed for Ricoh customers to deal with the waste produced, easily and free of charge, once toner cartridges and parts have been spent. 100% of collected toner cartridges, toner bottles, waste toner containers, photoconductor units, fuser units, maintenance kits and other consumables are recycled into functional products here in New Zealand and overseas. Aluminium and heavy metals are recycled, circuit boards are shredded; plastics, paper and cardboard are also recycled. The 2010 Sustainability Report records that Ricoh New Zealand collected and recycled more than 47,600 used toner cartridges from customers, a 26 per cent increase from the previous year, diverting about 11,250kg of waste from landfill.

Ricoh prides itself in educating and sharing its commitment to environmental sustainability with suppliers, staff, customers and the local community. Ricoh customers are educated through tools and support to lower their cost of ownership and through provision of comprehensive guidelines to use fewer consumables, saving energy and enhancing productivity. Guidelines include basic information on reducing one’s office footprint: machine and cartridge recycling, technical power management features on machines, preventing uncollected printouts, using recycled paper and double-sided printing.

Programmes are implemented to encourage staff and customer interaction in the community. These activities include beach clean-ups and an annual “Big Green Day out”, which in seven years of running has planted well over 10,000 trees on Motuihe Island in the Waitemata Harbour. As a result, Ricoh’s employees and customers espouse environmental values and understand how they can practically contribute to sustainability.

RNZ’s conservation effort in the ecological reforestation of the island has been so significant that the planting area has been unofficially dubbed “Ricoh Valley.”

Ricoh acknowledges that going green isn’t always easy. Challenges occur around every corner, from relying on national recycling infrastructure to delivering on your promises, to the extra expense of having machines dismantled in New Zealand as opposed to Asia. And, economic recessions do not discriminate. Yet despite the company’s anxiety that they had invested millions in sustainability in such uncertain times, the recent global recession made their record high market share seem all the more perplexing. Pollok isn’t putting that entirely down to the company’s sustainability position, but he does suspect such policies are reaching an increasingly receptive audience. “I think there is a growing awareness that we’ve got a problem that needs fixing. And we’re helping our customers do something about that.”

Being sustainable in business is not just about hugging trees, nor does it simply provide a marketing advantage: it must make financial sense. Ricoh maintains focus on making positive contributions to communities and the environment while continuing to grow business and deliver solutions of value to its customers. The trick? Reducing energy use means saving money, says Pollok. Effective document management processes, energy-efficient copiers and printers, and software solutions that not only help Ricoh customers reduce operating costs, but also lower their environmental impact. Increasing calls dealt with by phone, installing GPS navigation in service technicians’ low-emission cars so they take the most efficient route to customer offices: all small things, but they pay off.

Achieving $3.9 million gross profit in 2010, up from $3.8 the year before, and in an economy emerging from recession, is a reflection of Ricoh’s outstanding ability to turn rhetoric into reality: balancing business, social and environmental performance into one healthy, exemplary, triple bottom line.

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