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Sustainable Print Is Hot --Morgan

October 2008
THE INTEREST and activity regarding sustainability in print in the past year has grown leaps and bounds with major buying organizations. Our research at Print Buyers indicates that print buyers are beginning to consistently seek new solutions and up-to-date advice on best practices for creating, buying or manufacturing sustainable print projects.

For instance, we learned in a recent Quick Poll survey that 63 percent of print buyers and 61 percent of print suppliers believe that sustainability in print will soon be an industry standard; it is here to stay. This article addresses why this is--and why print suppliers should help their clients find ways to reach their green goals. 

Demand Is On the Rise. "I've seen customer demand grow from 0 percent to 20 percent in the past year," Mike Davis, CEO of Theo Davis Printing, recently stated. Our surveys back this up; in August we asked our major print buyer members: "In the past year, have sustainability and environmental issues become more important in your company?" Seventy-one percent indicated "Yes." One respondent, Adam Trull, an account executive at Acme Printing, concurred; he said, "I believe that industry leaders, buyers and other industry stakeholders will demand continual improvement in environmental sustainability." 

"The leaders in the industry will understand, embrace and adopt sustainability in their business model in order to remain viable," noted Tim Traub, national account manager at Outlook Group. Mercury Advertising Director of Operations Kendra White agreed: "More and more, clients are requesting paper that has recycled content, inks that are environmentally friendly, and any other 'green' items they can think of. As an agency, we are also looking to be more 'green' so that we can speak better to our clients and our community about being environmentally friendly." Thus, printers who jump on the band wagon will quickly become more popular than those who do not.  

Buyers Are Raising the Bar. Savvy print buyers now recognize the interdependence of the production of print materials and their impact on the natural world. They are taking things to the next level by expanding purchasing and design considerations to reduce the unnecessary negative impact on the environment.   

"Green issues and sustainability have been hot topics within our company for a number of years now, but recently more guidelines have been put in place regarding FSC paper usage for print projects," contributed Melissa Weber, a senior print buyer at HSBC.  

Mary Ann Fong, assistant director of Creative Services at Temple University, shared her thoughts on the subject. "When I first started talking about sustainability, very few printers were knowledgeable about certification or sustainable issues and said, 'Gee, you're one of the only people talking to me about this.' Needless to say, that's done a complete turnabout in the last year and a half. If I talk to a printer now who is vague on FSC or SFI certifications, I don't really waste time with them because it's obvious they are behind the curve."

As buyers continue to develop and implement environmentally responsible buying practices, print suppliers will have to continually expand their repertoire to meet their clients' escalating demands. 

It's Becoming Corporate Philosophy. Research analysis demonstrates that the majority of print buyers are making sustainability a cornerstone of their corporate philosophies. Kate Hawker, senior director, Planning & Information, at the Society for Neuroscience, is proud that her organization has made environmental sustainability part of its core values. 

"These values were adopted formally by the volunteer leadership as part of its strategic plan," she shared. "This has led to efforts to 'green' processes across the organization. We told our printers that sustainability was important to us, and we were not going to continue to use them as a vendor, unless they were able to partner with us in our sustainability efforts."  

Other businesses are forming committees to oversee the development of their green initiatives. "We started transitioning some of our printed material onto FSC PCW paper about six months ago, and have formed a Green Committee for the company in order to facilitate some green measures in our offices and warehouse, as well," said Rosa Visaggio, production manager at Scholastic Canada. It's obvious that sustainability initiatives will only continue to expand in the future.

Sustainability Is Now Cost-Effective. Economic conditions are quickly trumping green initiatives on the corporate landscape. Yalmaz Siddiqui, director of Environmental Strategy at Office Depot, described the evolution of sustainability initiatives within his organization. "Our construction team picked up on our green initiatives and saw that implementing green in our stores and other buildings help save money in terms of operational costs, energy usage, electricity, water consumption and more.   

"That has been the greatest part of our company's holistic approach to the environment: that we have been able to educate specific divisions, and then they have taken ownership of those initiatives and supported them."

Printers Are Educating Their Customers. Printers should consistently provide new solutions and up-to-date advice on best practices for creating, buying or manufacturing sustainable print projects.

Tona Pierce Myers, of New World Library, shared how her suppliers were up for the challenge when her organization began its sustainability efforts. "When we initially decided to implement our plans, our suppliers worked very closely with us to ensure we met our goals. They helped us make paper decisions on a case-by-case basis based on cost, subject matter, print run and paper availability."  

The design community is in the unique position to effectively influence this inevitable direction toward sustainability. "More than 50 percent of my clients decided to go 'green' during the past year," shared Regina Reaves Hayden, a design strategy consultant. "I encourage it. Educating myself and helping to educate clients on the various solutions and resources available is enlightening and rewarding." 

Some print suppliers are already being proactive regarding this issue. Rick Dumas is one of the many sales reps educating clients on the opportunities to make choices that are environmentally healthy and proactively providing comparisons. "Once customers have an understanding of chain-of-custody, they tend to have more interest," he said in response to one of the recent surveys.  

Mark Heimerl, a strategic sales manager, agrees. "I continually find that we, as printers, need to be educators and promoters of sustainability. Many customers feel since management hasn't asked, they don't need to inquire. I feel we need to offer our customers options and suggest the benefits, not only chain-of-custody, but alternatives in the whole print process to deliver a more sustainable print product." 

In Conclusion...Print is one of the most effective, some might say the most effective, ways to communicate with our customers, clients, peers and family. For many of us, it is also our livelihood. In an industry that has such an impact on the environment, it is our responsibility to make every effort to do what we can to become more sustainable.  

Print Buyers believes that the printing industry and those that drive it can coexist with the protection of the environment. For this reason our sister company, Print Communications Professionals International (PCPI), has just launched a new certification program titled "Best Practices for Sustainability in Print." Our 300-page certification course will educate print buyers on how they can make more eco-friendly choices when purchasing print projects. 

The certification program offers both a broad view of the issues at hand, as well as an abundance of specific advice, including more than 90 pages of in-depth case studies. This advice is geared primarily to major print buyers and marketers, but it is also a valuable educational tool for print suppliers who desire to partner with their clients on sustainability programs.   

As we educate print buyers to become more versed in sustainability in print, it is our sincere hope that print suppliers like yourselves will partner with them in their efforts to go green. 

For more info on "Best Practices for Sustainability in Print," please visit  PI


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