For years now, you've been told that you need to be a “green” printer. Well, now I’m going to tell you to be a sustainable printer instead.
First, let’s look at what those terms mean. Green and sustainable have much the same meaning to most people, however, they really are two different things.
Originally the term green was used to imply that products and services are produced with minimal harm to—or exploitation of—the natural environment. It’s logical to equate green with the environment; after all, we would all like to save those trees.
Sustainable products and services extend beyond the environment to include consideration of the impact on people and society, and add an element of economic viability. If a business is not economically viable, it’s not a business, plain and simple. What makes a sustainable printer?
Whether you refer to it as the “triple bottom line” or simply “sustainable business,” by interlacing three areas of focus—society, environment and economy—you achieve sustainability. A sustainable business is:
• Honest in all business activities and contributes to the strength and growth of supporting communities.
• Respects the dignity, welfare and safety of all workers throughout the supply chain.
• Contributes to the community with livable pay scales for employees.
• Benefits the natural order as much as possible.
• Respects eco-system limits in production, processing and distribution.
• Avoids ecologically destructive practices, such as water pollution, over-harvesting, soil destruction and erosion.Economically Prudent
• Accounts for natural capital throughout the production and supply chain.
• Generates a reasonable profit to support the long-term viability of the business.
• Creates real economic benefit to society. How do you get there?
Just out is an excellent book—“The New Rules of Green Marketing” by Jacquelyn Ottman, the Grand Dame of green marketing. Ottman has been helping companies “go green” since 1989.
Are you looking to make your products and processes more environmentally friendly? Pick up a copy of this book and get the detail behind the following checklist. Use these questions to explore the opportunities to improve your products, to develop new ones and to meet your customers’ demands for quality, performance and affordability.
✓ What is the full range of environmental and social issues that are associated with your product or service?
✓ Could you consider a “cradle-to-gate” or “cradle-to-grave” or even “cradle-to-cradle” life-cycle analysis for your products?
✓ How do your products’ environmental and social impacts compare to those of you competitors?
✓ Do you have a short- and long-term plan of environmental and social-related improvements for your products?
✓ What environmental improvements do you anticipate competitors introducing? Are you prepared with a response?
✓ In what ways do environmental enhancements improve your product or service’s overall performance and quality?
✓ Are there opportunities to use environmental enhancements to extend your brand?
✓ Are you using the minimum amount of raw materials possible, i.e., taking advantage of opportunities for source reduction?
✓ Are you ensuring that your raw materials—that includes paper and ink—avoid tropical deforestation? Clear-cutting? Land stripping? Oil spills? (Going beyond chain-of-custody certification.)
✓ Can you use locally procured raw materials to keep energy shipping costs to a minimum?
✓ What steps are you taking to reduce the use of toxic chemicals in all your processes?
✓ What steps can you take to prevent or reduce the production of solid and hazardous waste in your production processes?
✓ How can you reduce your air emissions and releases to waterways?
✓ Can you use solar, wind or other forms of renewable energy to power your plant(s)?
✓ Are you manufacturing your products close to your markets to support local jobs and minimize transportation energy and costs?
✓ Can you help your customers design packaging to reduce materials? Make them from recycled content? Make them recyclable?
✓ Can you use alternative materials to make them recyclable or compostable?
✓ Can you help your customers design their packaging to be refillable, reusable and repairable?
✓ Can you take back your products for recycling? Can you create reverse-distribution logistics and strategies?
These questions make it clear that, while sustainability “starts at home,” it is necessary to reach up and down the supply chain to ensure that your suppliers are seeking to become more sustainable and that you deliver products that make it possible for your customers to do the same.
Good reading and good luck!