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The New Era of Sustainable Print

February 1, 2009
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While the corporate commitment and culture is a huge driver for many of the printers interviewed, the researchers found that the Fortune 1000 companies customers) are one of the main drivers for companies that commit to ‘green’ and sustainable practices. The PRIMIR research found that a key issue for print buyers about sustainability of print is with paper (recycled content, landfills, and sustainable forestry). However, the research clearly indicates a trend and shifting focus towards carbon footprint concerns and ‘carbon neutrality.’

For corporate communications executives, it is easy to assume that using alternative electronic media (e-mails, podcasts, websites, or even television) are naturally greener. Reduction of print is an easy target, but in reality, e-media alternatives have a far greater environmental impact than is commonly believed. Consider this, while the paper industry is the U.S.’s second largest user of electricity, with consumption of 75 billion kilowatt hours in 2006, data centers and servers were not far behind, having consumed 61 billion kilowatt hours of electricity. And, since print volumes are declining, while the use of data centers is projected to double in five years, and the disposal of electronic goods is the fastest growing cause of toxic waste, this is far from a safe alternative.

The quest for sustainable print in this dynamic global market, with downward pricing pressure, a global credit crunch, and escalating energy prices, at first glance appears to face an insurmountable challenge. The industry needs to develop a new philosophy of supply chain integration, a partnership approach, and a more supportive and inclusive dialogue.

There are a variety of complex issues facing the print community, from more efficient production to lifecycle assessment of products and compliance with even tighter regulations. A key recommendation to everyone in the print supply chain: “Educate!” Educate yourself, your customers, suppliers, employees and your local community. This education must be compelling and creative to change the culture of a business and get all the staff onboard for the journey that lies ahead.

In the end, the PRIMIR study “Sustainable Print in a Dynamic Global Market:What Going Green Means” identifies a number of recommendations for all participants in the print supply chain. Among them:

• Develop a concerted effort to focus on increasing the uptake of 1SO 14001 and the standardization of EMS processes.

• Carbon calculation best practices need to be developed with all key stakeholders in the supply chain.

• The industry needs even lower VOC solutions for washes, solvents and ink, with improved performance of capture and recovery systems.

• There needs to be greater incentives for energy reduction and the utilization of renewable energy sources.

• There also needs to be more widespread awareness of water conservation measures.

• Designate an environmental champion to act as a catalyst for change within the business and start to measure and record what you are currently doing.

An Executive Synopsis of this research study will be circulated to all NPES member firms soon. NPES corporate members may request a free copy of the full study.
 

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