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Graph Expo Goes Green —Morgan

October 2007
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SUSTAINABILITY was the focus everywhere at Graph Expo last month. It was the one common theme that permeated throughout the largest national graphic communications trade show. For the first time, myriad companies expressed that sustain­ability issues are one of their top goals.

As just one example, Yoshiharu Komori, president and CEO of Komori Corp., opened the Komori press conference by saying that “it is our responsibility and duty to embark on solutions for the environment.” Komori says one of his company’s main goals is to become a model for the environment in the industry. Companies that have a long history of commitment to environmentally sound practices, such as Heidelberg, are now joined by manufacturers just getting into the game.

Kodak is another strong example of a Graph Expo exhibitor that demonstrated how it is decreasing its impact on the environment. At the trade show, Kodak featured a robust sustainability toolkit for printers, “Begin Your Passage to Sustainability.” The toolkit highlights case studies and research on sustainability programs. It also contains helpful strategies and resources to help print solution providers help their customers.

Social Responsibility

On a similar note, HP announced that among its four main strategies going forward is social responsibility. It is developing unique programs and committing resources to help good causes.

As an example, HP and Lightning Source teamed up to produce Mark Hoog’s book, “Letters from Katrina.” The book was inspired by a program started by Hoog and his nonprofit organization, Children’s Leadership Institute, to connect students from around the country as pen pals with Mississippi students affected by the hurricane.

On the anniversary of 9/11 at Graph Expo, Hoog gave a moving motivational speech at HP’s press conference challenging all of us to have a greater impact on others. HP executives say they want to be known as much for contributing to social responsibility solutions as for their equipment.

These are just a few examples of the many industry suppliers that are creating a sea change in the way we will be doing business in the future.

The adoption of new technologies, workflows and solutions is typically slow in our industry, particularly on the printers’ side. Despite that history, we’re seeing evidence of very fast adoption, as large corporations are moving to create sustainability programs. An obvious target for these programs are print promotions. Print providers need to step up to the plate quickly, because major buying companies are quickly making the transition to buying green.

In a recent Print Buyers Online.com Quick Poll of 74 top print buyers, 57 percent said that sustainability and environmental issues have become more important in their companies in the past year. In fact, the topics of sustainability and environmental sound practices—including green printing and social responsibility—are red hot. Everyone is talking about them.

The motives behind the sustainability programs are sometimes very altruistic. Not every buying company uses sustainability as a flag-waving attempt to get more business by good public relations.

For example, a well-known mega clothing retailer comes to mind. The print buyer responsible for its catalog recently contacted me about the retailer’s efforts toward sustainability and the challenges it faces. The company has made excellent progress, even though the publication world faces tougher issues because of the longer press runs and the limited Forest Stewardship Council-certified papers available. Despite meeting its environmental goals, it has not leveraged that success. In fact, the retailer asked not to be identified, stating that it likes to keep a low profile.

Developing sustainability practices is sometimes a very complicated business. It’s tough to sort out all the certifications, what’s meaningful and what’s not. In fact, there’s a new type of consulting and educational business, such as Metafore, that helps companies sort through the tools and information for companies that are seeking to buy or manufacture “environmentally preferable products.”

So, it’s not just about whether the paper is recycled and certified, and incorporating the chain-of- custody certification. It’s about being thoughtful about the environmental footprint of what we buy. Sometimes, the most effective solutions are simple ones that everyone can implement, such as better hygiene of our mailing lists to decrease undeliverable mail, thus wasting less resources.

It will be interesting to see if the sustainability movement will have an impact on the location of print suppliers in relation to the customer. In the food market, buying local is touted as a major benefit in decreasing the environmental footprint and saving energy. Will buying companies deem printers that are closer to them as more desirable? Or, perhaps will the location of the printer in regards to the end distribution point be more valuable?

Show Me the “Green”

Most buying companies are just starting to investigate ways to buy green, so now is the perfect opportunity to start collecting and sharing information with your customers. While every print supplier won’t be expected to be an expert on the topic, every printer will need to have some solutions to share. Even coaching customers on simple solutions for buying green can be of great value.

The small number of print providers that have moved quickly to offer customers environmentally sound solutions are enjoying a significant advantage and distinct differentiation. However, the fast adoption of sustainability programs by Fortune 500 companies means that any printer that wants to do business with the large corporations will have to follow a similar path. It’s time to start boning up on being green. PI

—Suzanne Morgan

About the Author
Suzanne Morgan is president of the annual Print Oasis Print Buyers Conference (www.printoasis.com) and Print Buyers Online.com, a free e-community for print buyers and suppliers (www.printbuyersonline.com). PBO, which has 11,000 members who buy $13 billion a year in printing, conducts research on buying trends and teaches organizations how to work more effectively with print suppliers. Morgan can be reached at smorgan@printbuyersonline.com.
 
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Most Recent Comments:
David Fox - Posted on October 26, 2007
[The company has made excellent progress, even though the publication world faces tougher issues because of the longer press runs and the limited Forest Stewardship Council-certified papers available.]
Perhaps they would have better luck sourcing papers that are SFI-certified and/or FSC-certified. Combining both product banks couldn't harm their efforts.
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Archived Comments:
David Fox - Posted on October 26, 2007
[The company has made excellent progress, even though the publication world faces tougher issues because of the longer press runs and the limited Forest Stewardship Council-certified papers available.]
Perhaps they would have better luck sourcing papers that are SFI-certified and/or FSC-certified. Combining both product banks couldn't harm their efforts.