How do you ensure your business is sustainable?

The weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

It’s quite amazing to see the amounts of litter dropped by people who claim to care about the environment. Packaging waste accounts for most of it and that might be one of the reasons why print gets singled out as being environmentally hostile. Printing companies know that this is unfair but still too few of them have bothered to get their own houses in order when it comes to sustainability messaging. Now, when much of the industry is in slow mode, is the time to fix that. In addition to the message that it’s not the print it’s the polluting people, here are a few ideas to get you started.

Solving any problem starts with recognising that there is a problem in the first place. As customers needs change there may be revised expectations of how service providers should meet their needs. Often this can mean service providers should also support environmental aspirations and policies. When it comes to meeting environmental expectations companies with an environmental policy already in place, are in a stronger position than those which do not. An awareness of how to have the sustainability conversation also helps. If you cannot discuss the environment like a responsible grown-up, you’re hardly in a position to answer a curious client’s environmental questions. The conversation about winning the business will be short.

And for the savvy print service provider, such conversations create opportunities not only for the business hopefully in hand but for future projects and partnering. A sustainability conversation is a chance to think holistically about your role as a service provider and your customer’s wider needs.

Customer conversations about environmental impact should inform wider discussions about the sustainability of the business. No point at all implementing all manner of sustainability initiatives, if the business cannot at least wipe its face and customers should be aware of that. As with you understanding how customers view sustainability and the carbon footprint of their print projects, it’s important that customers appreciate the commercial implications of their changing needs. Investing in new kit or automation offers shared benefits, but must be paid for.

Heightened awareness of business vulnerabilities and opportunities often starts with an audit of your business goals, processes and management. Be brutal with your cost and inventory analyses. Consider a company-wide Environmental Management System, either bespoke (expensive because you’ll have to invent it and make lots of mistakes in the process) or use ISO 14001 (cheap but requiring discipline to implement). Implement the simple things such as recycling and waste management, engage staff and clients, consider shifting your vehicle fleet to electric vehicles, check insulation and water management, and so on. Most importantly, recognise and accept your role in sustainability. It’s the hardest part of the puzzle.

– Laurel Brunner

This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa GraphicsEFIFespaFujifilmHPKodakMiraclonRicohSpindrift, Splash PRUnity Publishing and Xeikon.