The New Era of Sustainable Print

Percentage of Customers Who Asked About Green Practices

Some examples include a small west coast printer who said that a $5,000 investment in a solvent recovery system generated 30% reduction in solvent use. Another print firm reportedly generates $5,000 to $7,000 per year by recycling plates. And one of the few ISO 14001 certified printers in the U.S. said that the investment of $30,000 over three years in certification and audits had a positive ROI, even without accounting for the additional business gained as a result.

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.

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