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Special Sustainability Report: Embrace Certification, Conservation

November 2008 By Ed Farley
IN THIS new era of environmental responsibility, the message of “green” implies that a company uses state-of-the-art business practices and promotes good corporate citizenship. For a print provider, going green can transform an ordinary printed product into a powerful marketing tool, even as it serves customers as their most durable and trusted communication vehicle.

As more and more customers look for environmentally responsible vendors, the decision to turn printing operations green can positively impact a company’s bottom line. The key for business owners in taking advantage of this new market opportunity is gaining certification for processes and facilities, from the materials used to the operations implemented. This assures customers of the integrity of your environmental initiatives.

Consider this: Consumers routinely pay more for a “certified” automobile because they know it has been thoroughly inspected and approved. Likewise, for print consumers, seeing evidence of “certified” product quality instills trust and confidence—oftentimes the tipping points in vendor selection—and opens the door for higher sales and profits in your company.

According to a Pitney Bowes online survey* of 1,000 U.S. respondents on consumer attitudes toward the environment and the impact of direct mail, more than 87 percent stated that environmental conservation and preservation are important or somewhat important to them. Sixty-seven percent of the respondents said their opinion of advertising mail would be more positive if they knew there was a “green mail” label awarded by an independent third party, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This survey indicates that print providers need to educate the public about their green initiatives and positive environmental impact.

It makes sense for the printing industry to offer consumers a green alternative. Our industry can synchronize its efforts of certifying the products and processes used by industry manufacturers, distributors and printers. This will create a powerful value proposition for providers that can increase sales, and for their customers who are concerned about product quality and integrity.

To join paper manufacturers and distributors in tapping this market, printers can go green by bringing their operations into compliance with all environmental regulations, and by adopting pollution prevention and resource conservation practices. As an example, consider these Green Printing Practices developed by printers and representatives of the Printing Industries of Northern California (PINC):

1) Computerize prepress operations (eliminates photochemicals and saves water and energy).

2) Establish a solvent recycling program (saves material and reduces air pollution).

3) Use alcohol-free printing (improves air quality, worker health/safety and reduces chemical usage).

4) Print on “treeless” and recycled content papers (saves trees, energy and water; encourages new agricultural development; and keeps paper out of landfills).

5) Educate customers on sustainable printing (printers that produce greener products help in pollution prevention, compliance and resource conservation).

6) Use low-VOC inks (reduces air pollution and improves employee safety).

7) Sequence print jobs by ink color (saves ink changes, labor and ink waste).

8) Establish inventory control (saves money and reduces landfill waste).

9) Use energy-efficient equipment (saves energy and money).

Printers can also embrace environmental responsibility and sustainable practices by using soy- or vegetable-based inks without a price premium; eliminating toxic chemicals, waste, ink and solvents; lowering pollution in their processes; using eco-friendly papers with high post-consumer recycled content, or are non-chlorine-bleached; educating customers about reducing the environmental impact; and ensuring that print shop air quality exceeds legal guidelines, thereby providing their employees with safe working conditions (including advanced air filtration systems).

Eco-Pillars of Green Paper

How can you tell if a paper product is green? Besides other environmentally responsible attributes, such as chlorine-free, tree-free, etc., you can look for three eco-pillars that identify green paper products:

o Paper manufactured using pulp from certified sustainable forests (FSC, PEFC, SFI) is green for many reasons. These three globally acclaimed certification organizations promote responsible forest management, such as eco-friendly harvesting techniques, soil erosion prevention and waterway preservation. It is recommended that printers become tri-certified in order to broaden their choices of Chain-of-Custody paper available to them.

These organizations also promote deforestation prevention and afforestation (converting bare land to tree-populated land). Trees remove CO2 from the atmosphere and convert (sequester) carbon as wood. Thus, more trees offset CO2 emissions via a natural process.

o Paper manufactured utilizing recycled, post-consumer waste has a direct relation to deforestation prevention (saving trees) and diverting material away from landfills.

o Paper manufactured from a renewable energy source, such as electricity generated from biomass fuel burning, avoids greenhouse gas CO2 emissions by not utilizing fossil fuel to generate the energy.

One of the benchmark environmental measurements currently is CO2 emissions, now seen as a climate change mitigation opportunity. If industry providers can reduce net CO2 emissions, they can make a positive environmental impact.

Consumers Are on Board

In this era of heightened awareness of environmental footprints, printers risk diminished product value if their company is not green. Consumers are ready to support environmentally responsible business practices. They perceive that higher ethical standards mean higher quality and, in turn, more protection for the environment. 

In an April DoubleClick Performics study, 60 percent of online consumers surveyed consider environmental consciousness an important company trait. When choosing between two similar products, consumers report they prefer environmentally friendly products; 83 percent indicate they are extremely or very likely to choose the environmentally friendly option. And nearly half of these survey respondents attest a willingness to pay at least 5 percent more for green products. 

Consider the positive impact of printed direct mail pieces and magazines—labeled with industry environmental certifications—in the hands of the public and business executive decision-makers. Despite the use of online communications, print is still rated as the “most trusted, most credible source of information,” and green messages can most powerfully be transmitted through print.

For example, a 2006 Harris Interactive study* analyzed the marketing impact of printed B2B magazines mailed to 588 executives, all involved in purchase decision-making, from companies with $5 million or more in annual sales, covering 21 industry categories. More than 80 percent of the respondents viewed B2B magazines as having more information and reliability than general media sources. B2B magazines (41 percent) topped the list as the single most mentioned resource that executives rely on to do their job. Green printing would have an enormous impact on these value- and image-conscious executives.

In the 2007 USPS Household Diary Study of Mail Use and Attitudes,* it was found that 48 percent of consumers read direct mail pieces, and 33 percent scan direct mail pieces. The immediacy of the mail and the attention paid to it by consumers give printers a singular opportunity to spread their green messages. 

The message is clear: Print is here to stay, and “going green” will enhance your print communications efforts.

*(Sources for the Pitney Bowes, Harris Interactive and the Household Diary studies can be found on the Print in the Mix clearinghouse of print media research at PI

About the Author
Ed Farley serves as senior vice president of marketing and communication at Unisource Worldwide.


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