Climate change realities from Epson

medium_2015_Laurel B.jpgThe Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

Epson, the Japanese developer and manufacturer of wide format digital printers and other electronic kit, has recently published the results of a global survey, The Climate Reality Barometer survey. It highlights some worrying findings.

Epson’s work captures the views and perceptions of 15,264 consumers in Asia, Europe, North and South America. According to responses, there is an alarming gap between reality and perception when it comes to the climate crisis. 46% of people believe that in their lifetimes climate crisis will be avoided. This is hopeful, if niaive, but dangerous. It suggests that climate change mitigation is someone else’s problem to solve and that individuals need to do nothing. Only 32% of respondents believe public awareness of climate change is rising; 28% that technology will solve the problem; and 19% think that renewable energy sources will do so. The report states that “Globally, 5% of respondents do not believe that there is a climate emergency at all — with the US (11%), Germany (7%) and the UK (6%) topping the list of climate deniers.”

These are unrealistic and complacent positions, given the urgency of the problem and suggest that people are rather too optimistic about the threat global warming poses. This is despite major climate related catastrophes such as flooding and wildfires raging out of control on multiple continents. Reluctance to face facts might be because of the inconvenient truth of climate change mitigation. It requires a fundamental change in individual, corporate and household behaviours. And no one likes change or the work required to implement it.

At least some corporations, fund managers, investment houses et al are taking active and deliberate steps to clean up their acts. From polishing the credentials of consumer brands, through to maximising shareholder values and return, the world of business is taking the climate risk seriously. And the graphics industry is supportive of their communications efforts. In addition to more sustainable production services, the printing industry has responded with offers of carbon balanced products, improved colour and data management, and greater automation to minimise emissions and environmental footprints.

But, in the West especially, individuals have made relatively limited changes to their behaviour. Epson’s survey confirms that laziness. Too much food is consumed, and too much is wasted. Supply chains are complex and extensive. Too few of us think twice about the necessity or not of car journeys, or consider ganging them (errands once a week for instance), using public transport, cycling or walking. We are unwilling to forego the convenience of modern life whether its traipsing to a recycling point or hanging laundry to air dry. We like using paper plates because it saves on the washing up and we love shopping for new stuff whether we need it or not. We prefer not to hear arguments against sending used clothing to another country. We want to believe that charity shops are a good-conscience outlet for excess purchasing and consumer short-termism.

Climate change and sustainability obviously impact all of us, from sourcing raw materials through to end-of-life management for all goods. Environmental messaging is not a soundless drum, but clearly it needs to be hit harder and sound louder. The messaging has to be much more visceral to convince people that personal convenience matters less than action.

Of the awareness problem Epson intends to do something positive. Yasunori Ogawa, global president of Epson, said: “Epson’s goal is to bring this awareness and the technologies needed — by our company, other businesses and consumers — to make transformational change. Sustainability is central to our business plan and backed by significant resources — because while we know there is a long way to go, we believe we can build a better future.” Let’s hope some of this commitment and resource finds its way into Epson’s printing industry interests.

– 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 Graphics, EFI, Fespa, Fujifilm, HP, Kodak, Miraclon, RicohSplash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

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