New report highlights Eco Challenges for US printers. Are there lessons to be learned for the UK?
According to a 2011 study done by the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), “it is clear that there is a large amount of activity within the printing industry in regards to sustainable practices” but also “that much work remains to be done.”
Submitted by: Vince Collins
At a time when many industries are working towards green policies and practices, the printing industry has become heavily segregated in their efforts. According to a 2011 study done by the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), “it is clear that there is a large amount of activity within the printing industry in regards to sustainable practices” but also “that much work remains to be done.”
Michael V. Ring, president of Xeikon America, Inc. says:
Today’s reality is very different from those stereotypical images. Thanks to consumers’ demand for more customized, 1-to-1 marketing, and the accompanying shorter consumer packaged goods product lifecycles, there is tremendous pressure throughout the printing industry supply chain for greater efficiency and less waste, which in turn is driving sustainability improvements.
However, considering the nature of the printing industry, green practices have not always been at the forefront of policies. Just printing a piece of paper creates a huge environmental impact through carbon emissions, tree logging, chemical/toxin release and much more. So what can an industry do when their central product is wracked with environmental repercussions?Obstacles in sustainable practices
There seemed to be three major themes that make it difficult to measure and implement sustainable practices: data acquisition, resources and lack of a standard process. The below items are self-reported from a survey of companies of what the issues are:
Resources: Cost and complexity; bandwidth of business to take on new projects and budget; time to set up the program; time and money; resources for such non-value added activities.
Data Issues: Getting data from suppliers; gathering all the information; getting the right tools and information; no clear best method / lack of credible data; lack of knowledge regarded carbon footprint of raw materials and end-of-life analysis.
Standardization: Applying standardized methods of measuring; lots of programs and confusion; changing standards and non-uniform standard; awareness of standards applicable to sites and global coordination and implementation; no standards.
Firm size continues to be a major factor in resource limitations and opportunities. Most research indicates that small and medium sized companies are behind in their sustainable processes and policies, while large corporations and firms are more aggressive in this. Larger enterprises have more resources to incorporate sustainability concerns into not only their business model, but the product life cycle and company culture.Inconsistency in Sustainability
Apart from the obvious issue of paper usage and recycling, there is little consistency in the printing industry in regards to sustainable practices, policies and metrics. As stated before, some companies have responded aggressively with eco-products (eco-friendly inks, papers, toners, software, etc.), process efficiencies and recycling, while others still have yet to even implement a procedure. The RIT study has found the following issues regarding such inconsistencies:
The industry needs to streamline their use and interpretation of the term “sustainability.” 27% of the surveyed printing companies had no sustainability policy at all. With those that did, there was a large margin in how environmental, economic and social areas were addressed.
Metrics are not consistent. Only about half of the companies were actively using or developing sustainability-related metrics – of those who do a small number reported activity on LCA and carbon foot printing.
Printer company metrics are inconsistent. About two-thirds of respondents reported that metrics had a major influence in marketing decisions. This suggests that “consumers are being given information from competing firms that is most likely being developed in an inconsistent manner.”
So it is clear that a major problem for increasing sustainability in the printing industry is lack of standardization. While there has been some sustainability improvements driven by cost savings and consumer demand, the industry has a long way to go yet.This article, written by Sabina Cao, originally appeared on the Greener Ideal website.