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Environmental Practices — Going Green Drives Sales

March 2007 By Mark Smith
Technology Editor
IT’S HARD not to be skeptical about the movement toward acting in an environmentally responsible way. Isn’t sustainability just a redux of the push to use recycled paper that fell far short of the goal? What about those stories of recyclables still ending up in landfills, now just in pretty blue bags?

Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” documentary may have garnered an Academy Award nomination, but it’s likely just speaking to the converted…and how many of them still drove an SUV to see the movie or rent the DVD?

How can anyone be sure that electricity really is being generated by wind power, and does it make a difference even if it is? Oh, and don’t forget to factor in how many birds were killed in the process.

There’s even been a term coined—green washing—to describe the act of taking steps to give the appearance of being earth-friendly without making substantive changes.

Even if all the negativity is spot on, there are two reasons why it doesn’t matter.

1.) In the pragmatic, some might say mercenary, view, there is an opportunity to be exploited for as long as it does last and the extent to which it spreads. An opportunity exists regardless of the motives and science behind it.

2.) Really committing to an environmental program, especially in the context of a larger process control and optimization program, can be justified by the internal payoffs alone, say those who have fully embraced the philosophy.

Also, there also are two developments that make things different this time around.

• More companies are now competing in the global marketplace, making the environmental regulations in other countries a factor in their materials sourcing.

• The Internet makes it easier for a supplier to promote its environmental credentials, and for potential buyers to find companies that share their commitment to green printing.

Over the past year or so, paper sustainability and reducing a business’ carbon footprint are the environmental initiatives that have come to the fore in the printing industry. Chain-of-custody certification under the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) programs has had the greatest buy-in, but green power has been coming on strong.

At Pictorial Offset in Carlstadt, NJ, its now systemic environmental program had a very personal beginning. In the mid 1980s, Donald Samuels—one of the printer’s three managing partners—saw a PBS program that showed a company’s maintenance staff dumping solvent out the back door.

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