Environmental stewardship is of ever growing importance that spans globally and directly impacts the printing industry. An increasing amount of customers are now expecting printers to apply environmental initiatives in the production of their products. Have you ever wondered exactly how one of top sustainable printers in the world responded to these needs and looks to develop its solutions?
I would like to welcome special guest Michael Keene
to my blog this week. President/CEO of The John Roberts Co. and an accomplished industry veteran, Michael has lead the company with an innovative vision and commitment to environmental protection. We’re here to share the company’s unique story and offer insight on its sustainable operations.
Welcome Michael, Could you share with us a little background information on The John Roberts Co.?
The John Roberts Co. was started in June of 1951 by the two founding partners, E.John Chelberg and Robert Keene. They used their first names to come up with The John Roberts Co.. John passed away in 1970.
We moved to our current site in 1974 with 40,000 square feet; today, we have 225,000 square feet of operation. I was named President in 1986 and CEO in 1996. We continue to be privately owned.You have been committed to environmental sustainability for more than 30 years. Can you talk about how the first initiative began and what “green” looked like back then?
I went to college in the late ’60s and early ’70s when the first Earth Day celebration was held. We had an operation person, Jeff Adrian, who also headed up the safety committee. Jeff came to me with a plan to reduce our VOCs by eliminating the alcohol in the pressroom. It was an easy decision for me, and from there we continued to look at all areas of the operation where we could reduce, reuse or recycle.
Back then, we were one of the first to try the alcohol replacements in the pressroom. It was a challenge. The first products were not very good and it took considerable trial and error to get something that would work.Fast forwarding to current day...what are some of the top two or three green initiatives that have had the most impact on the company?
Reducing waste is our number one priority. If you don’t use it you don’t have to worry about reusing or recycling. Our efforts are focused on reducing wasteWhat were some of the challenges that you had to overcome to pursue some of these initiatives?
Our people have been on board from the beginning. We incorporate environmental goals in our quality reward system. Most of the environmental initiatives are also cost-saving initiatives so those are easy. The more difficult ones are where there is not a direct cost savings. We invested significant dollars in sound-reducing material in the pressroom. The dollar savings are hard to find, but the safety benefits are there. Do you have an internal committee dedicated to environmental initiatives? If not, how does your company continue to drive future sustainable developments?
We have a safety and environment committee. We also have initiatives in our quality reward system. People receive cards for “good catches” and environmental initiatives that add up to gift cards.What’s the most significant value your customers are looking for in integrating sustainable practices into the products they buy from you?
The most significant value would be any cost savings. If by reducing waste we can save cost and pass those savings on, that is what our customers are most interested in. A few years ago, there was beginning to be interest in the environmental savings, but today there has to be real dollar savings.If you could offer advice to other printers looking to begin a green initiative or further marketing themselves as a “green printer,” what would your message to them be?
I think everyone is looking for ways to reduce cost. Everything that you can do to reduce cost and improve the environment is a benefitLast, but surely not least, congratulations on winning Heidelberg’s ECO Printing Award and being named “Greenest Print Shop in the World.” Can you share what the award means to the company and what lies ahead in the future for John Roberts?
It was a great honor to be selected as the winner of Heidelberg’s ECO award. It was a thrill to be there for the ceremony and hear that we were the unanimous selection. We will continue to improve our environmental footprint and hope to enter again and show how we have improved.Thank you Michael, for sharing your insight and taking the time to be part of my blog.