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Gail Nickel-Kailing, managing director of Business Strategies Etc.

Shades of Green

By Gail Nickel-Kailing

About Gail

A business adviser and problem solver, Gail is managing director of Business Strategies Etc., which provides strategic marketing and business planning services and manages the execution of marketing communications tactics that help companies:
• Define their sustainability strategies,
• Deliver a positive, sustainable image,
• Gain credibility, trust and respect, and
• Measure the results of their green initiatives and actions.

Gail is a nationally recognized speaker on a wide range of subjects and brings enthusiasm and a unique blend of experience to the podium. As an industry analyst and journalist contributing to publications in the United States, Canada, India and Brazil, she has covered a number of beats, particularly sustainability in printing and mailing, print on demand, variable data printing and direct mail.

Becoming a Top Green Printer the Hemlock Way – Part 2

Last week, we learned how Hemlock Printers made the decision to become the “Greenest Printer in the World” and how other companies can make a business case for sustainability initiatives.

This week, President and CEO Dick Kouwenhoven talks about measuring the results of Hemlock’s green initiatives, incentives and reporting, and working with designers to create projects that are recyclable or reusable.

Gail: How do you measure the results of your green initiatives?

Kouwenhoven: Hemlock is a small company, but we measure as much as we can. We measure our waste reduction and our carbon footprint, and track the kind of paper we buy. It’s a concentrated effort. We write down what we’ve accomplished, put some metrics behind it, and then report the results.

With our carbon neutral program, we need to collect as much information as we can, especially for paper purchases. We have a reporting system to know how many jobs we’ve done in order to know how many offsets we have to purchase. To do that requires that our suppliers give us precise statistics for all the paper purchased.

We measure what we can without getting obsessive; it’s part of our everyday process so we don’t have to search for the data when we want to report our results. It’s already there.

Gail: How have you embedded your green goals into your incentive and reporting structure, into your corporate DNA?

Kouwenhoven: We don’t actually incentivize our managers to be green; it’s just part of the way we do business.

It is important that our environmental values be incorporated as a high-level goal within our mission statement. We have an environmental policy, but it hasn’t been embedded in the mission statement yet. It’s in practice, but it hasn’t really be articulated to all stakeholders.

There is always more we can do. We’ve been focused on external initiatives as we launched the carbon neutral program. Now we want to bring it back to an internal focus and communicate more with our staff, like we did in the beginning. It’s an ongoing thing.

Gail: How do you work with designers to help them design for the environment, to make their products more recyclable or reusable?

Kouwenhoven: The question of recyclability comes up regularly. We try to steer specifications to materials that can be recycled. Most fiber-based materials can be accepted in the regular recycling streams.

For example, we’ve encouraged our lamination supplier to stock a biodegradable lamination. Many printed products require some kind of laminated coating to give them strength and protect the image; unfortunately most laminates are not recyclable.

Working together we can offer a cellulose-based product that is only slightly more expensive than traditional plastic. Developed for window envelopes, the film has been turned into a laminating film.

We also regularly have creative professionals in Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC) and students in local design programs come and tour the operation. As part of those tours we give presentations about green printing concepts and designing with the environment in mind.

Gail: Is your “greenness” a marketing strategy or is it the message that underlies your marketing strategy?

Kouwenhoven: Hemlock is regarded as one of the best printers in North America; we are really an exceptionally good printer that happens to have green in its DNA. We certainly don’t say, “We’re really green and we deliver approximately what you want…”

We definitely communicate our environmental achievements, but it isn’t our strategy to say we are green first. We keep our focus on our quality and core products.

People don’t buy a product just because it’s green. When the choice is between two similar products, they will select the one that happens to be greener. The criteria are quality and price, but also green; not green first or instead of quality and price.

In print services, you buy quality and price first. If we focus too much on the green aspect, we are almost encouraging a response that has a very short life.

About Hemlock Printers
Founded more than 40 years ago, Hemlock Printers generates sales of about $30 million CDN and the company’s 170 employees deliver high quality commercial offset and digital printing services and online print procurement and management solutions. For more information, visit

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