The authors of a new report just released by the Rochester Institute of Technology—“Exploring Existing Measures of Environmental Impacts of Print: a Survey of Existing Practices” (PDF)—have concluded that there’s a lot of activity going on in the printing industry regarding sustainable practices. That’s good news.
The bad news? There’s a lot more that needs to be done.
Nearly three-quarters of responding companies have some kind of sustainability policy in place. However, the actual documentation of environmental, economic and social areas varies widely, suggesting a need for a more consistent interpretation and use of the term “sustainability” throughout the industry.
So whilw many printing companies say they have a sustainability policy in placem it’s a bit challenging to understand the value of those policies since nearly half the survey respondents said they are not actively developing sustainability-related metrics. Those who do track metrics develop them in-house, which leaves a strong likelihood of inconsistency.
Companies that do measure the results of their sustainability practices—while often influenced by top leadership’s interest in sustainability—typically do it for marketing purposes. The factors that most influence measurement of sustainability are company image (70 percent) and strategic positioning (65 percent).
In other words, it’s very important to be seen as a sustainably oriented company.
The “proof” of sustainability practices most often claimed by printers is third-party certification. Process certification—SGP Partnership or ISO 14000—has been or is being implemented by a small number of printers: 13 percent of respondents for SGP Partnership and 28 percent for ISO 14000. FSC Chain-of-Custody certification, limited to paper products, is the most common certification—37 percent said they have implemented the certification all or in part.
If you do not yet have standardized sustainability metrics in place, such as Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) or carbon footprinting, now is the time to begin to look at the following tools and methodologies: