How printers and publishers can have meaningful sustainability programmes

Laurel-2018.jpgThe Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

Getting with environmental sustainability is important for the planet, but for most print service providers they do it for their clients. Appealing to the environmental sensitivities of customers and prospects is why more and more companies are touting their environmental credentials. This must go beyond flimsy commitments such as using sustainably sourced papers or motion-sensitive lighting. These are worthy efforts, but far more needs to be done. Fortunately the market is starting to demand more concrete efforts from their supply chains. Sustainability one-upmanship from service providers will be a good thing for our industry, as long as it’s based on facts and actions.

A sustainability programme should be based on achievable targets as part of a long term plan. Goals and progress towards them should see the business reduce its environmental impact over time. The obvious place to start with this is with ISO 14001, which provides requirements and guidance for environmental management systems.

This standard can be described as pretty loose in that it can be implemented on a very general level in the beginning. Over time its implementation will gradually getting more rigorous, but it is an easy place to start with your sustainability programme. ISO 14001 is all about management, so once you get one aspect of the business under control you can focus on something else. Starting with energy management is an easy win. Ensuring that the equipment you use is energy efficient and that lights are turned off when offices and factories are closed is simple to achieve. As you get one aspect of the business under control, focus can shift to more demanding stuff such as waste handling or reducing the use of hazardous materials.

The goal for the business is to develop and implement policies and management processes that make improvements part of the natural business cycle. Just as a business regularly reviews its cash flows, so it should be reviewing its environmental impact criteria and performance and ISO 14001 can help with this.

The starting point for a sustainability programme depends on the size and nature of the business, but key to change is ensuring engagement at all levels of the organisation. There can be no improvements without everyone’s commitment and everyone’s active involvement. It comes down to people and behaviours, so setting up a workable system is almost more important than setting up the targets. Fortunately ISO 14001 is only 36 pages long and only 27 of them are the meat of the document, so not too much to read.

ISO 14001 is about continual improvement of a business’s environmental management processes. It can provide a vital reference point for customers, whether through formal certification or self-declaration. An environmental management system should do what it says on the tin, but it should also support competitive and strategic goals for the business. And that is what sustainability is all about.

– 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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