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Jan 30, 2013
Verdigris Blog: The Eco-nomics of Print

The weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

There were two very clear themes in the sustainability session at the recent FESPA Global Summit. The most important of these is that environmental sustainability goes hand in hand with business efficiency. Within the Verdigris community we have all known this for some time, so it was great to hear that the message is finally starting to spread.
 
This is many strides on from the more common misconception in the market that to go green means high costs. The link between sustainability and efficiency should be obvious: process efficiency and waste reduction improve profitability. Efficiency is the underlying driver explaining a 97% reduction in the Australian printing industry’s carbon footprint between 1990 and 2010. The figure is based on research into the environmental impact of print conducted by Phil Lawrence of Sidney University for his PhD. The small to medium sized printing companies studied did not go green because they love the environment. Rather, their efforts to push costs and waste out of their business models has yielded profit improvements and reduced carbon footprints. Money is clearly a great motivator and the hoarding of it a great driver for getting environmental impacts down.
 
This relationship between business performance and environmental impact reduction is something media buyers increasingly care about. Suppliers with a sustainability policy have the means to demonstrate their commitment to environmental responsibility, instead of spouting meaningless greenwash. As part of an environmentally aware supply chain such suppliers can help enhance corporate sustainability policies. At the FESPA Global Summit there was some evidence that this message is starting to get through. Katleen Pelsmaker of Tesco believes that “sustainability isn’t just about being green, it’s about making sure our suppliers are there in ten years time”. Sion Stanfield of EcoProcure however pointed out that the key barrier to developing an environmental policy and sustainability strategy is business owners themselves: “you need to get behind sustainability because it is a way to drive growth”.
 
This doesn’t have to be hard for print service providers. Going green can start with the basics such as recycling and measuring waste volumes with a view to improving their control. Understanding how Life Cycle Analysis works or calculating the carbon footprints of products and companies can come later. Paul Noble of Banner Box, a wide format printer in the UK, has been driving sustainability at the company for several years because: “efficiency is about the removal of processes through digital [technology] and more efficient energy usage”. Banner Box is even providing a replacement service for soft signage: replacing a customer’s digitally printed flags and recycling the material on their behalf, providing a service to the customer and Banner Box with recurring revenues. It’s a interesting example of how the printing industry can contribute to environmental sustainability, while yet developing new revenue streams.
 
– Laurel Brunner

Verdigris supporters who make the blog possible: Agfa Graphics (www.agfa.com), Digital Dots (www.digitaldots.org), drupa (www.drupa.com), EFI (www.efi.com), EcoPrint (www.ecoprintshow.com), Fespa (www.fespa.com), Heidelberg (www.uk.heidelberg.com), HP (www.hp.com), Kodak (www.kodak.com/go/sustainability), Pragati Offset (www.pragati.com), Ricoh (www.ricoh.com), Unity Publishing (http://unity-publishing.co.uk) and Xeikon (www.xeikon.com)
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