Environmental policies

medium_2015_Laurel B.jpgThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

Changing behaviours is what environmental awareness and regulation is all about. The graphics industry has come a long way as far as sustainability goes, steadily improving its environmental impact for the last few decades. This has mostly been to improve its bottom line, cutting waste and process inefficiencies to hang on to thinning margins. That doesn’t detract from the fact that waste streams for aluminium and paper are established and profitable. They have in turn encouraged all manner of new businesses associated with turning refuse into new raw materials. So far so good, but it takes politics to encourage the right conditions for such businesses to thrive. It takes politics to encourage printing companies and their customers to push the recycling model further.

Germany is one of the most proactive environmental countries in the world. The country is a leader in the use of renewable energy and is pioneering the development of new renewables technologies. Lately Germany’s focus has moved away from environmental regulation to encourage companies and citizens to be more environmentally aware through ecotaxes, environmental agreements and tradeable permits. Nord Rhein-Westphalia is Germany’s most environmentally proactive state and according to Johannes Remmel, environment minister, such proactivity goes beyond environmental protection.

Sustainability is about efficiency and the social dimension as well as the environment. Remmel is encouraging Nord Rhein-Westphalia to be ever greener in order “to improve both living and productive situations for all”. His policies reflect the COP21 agreements made in Paris because they are “necessary to develop economic and environmental awareness”. Nord Rhein-Westphalia has targets and a plan and is encouraging local companies to support the state’s rural development efforts. Remmel’s team is working to restore, preserve and enhance agricultural and forestry ecosystems. The goal is improved biodiversity for 27% of farmland and a 24% improvement in water and soil management.

Nord Rhein-Westphalia’s policies are based on changing behaviour through awareness and regulation. This makes sense because social and environmental costs are recognised by more and more companies. Business owners, not just in Germany but elsewhere, increasingly understand that this is necessary in order to meet legislative requirements and the needs of their employees and customers. Remmel is confident that “COP21 will continue to push companies to work in a more environmentally aware way”, through such things as energy efficient equipment and better IT. For the German graphics industry doing business in Nord Rhein-Westphalia this will mean change. For the wider graphics industry, Nord Rhein-Westphalia’s environmental policies provide a model that other localities can observe and implement to meet their own needs.

– Laurel Brunner

The Verdigris project is an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. It provides a weekly commentary to help 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, Digital Dots, EFI, Fespa, Heidelberg, HP, Kodak, Ricoh, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

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