Ricoh awards sustainability prize

medium_2015_Laurel B.jpgThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

It’s surprising that there are so few sustainability prizes that award cash, but Ricoh is leading the way, especially in the USA. Cash prizes for sustainability are a brilliant tool for encouragement and for getting sustainability up the agenda, especially amongst the young. The Ricoh Sustainable Development Award (RSDA) has been awarded annually for the last fifteen years, and totals over $430,000 in scholarships for young people. As yet Ricoh makes no such investment into sustainability innovation in the graphics industry, but perhaps they might consider it for young people and for clever environmental impact mitigations in printing and publishing.

Submissions for the RSDA are evaluated on how well they align with Ricoh’s environmental policies, as well as their business practicalities and environmental sustainability. Ricoh has several principles underpinning its international sustainability efforts: energy conservation, prevention of global warming, prevention of pollution, resource conservation, recycling and biodiversity conservation. This year’s RSDA of $10,000 goes to Michael Chen for his project A Novel Way to Alleviate the Water Crisis in Uganda. The award winner is a solar still that extracts drinkable water from plants.

Mr Chen’s invention is simple and affordable. Elephant grass, which is widely available in Uganda, is placed in a container that subsequently heats up in the sun, so that water condenses out of it. The water can then be distilled and when extracted is safe to drink. The leftover plant material is suitable as cattle fodder or fuel, and it could probably be made into paper too. According to the project notes, one acre of elephant grass can be harvested three times per year. Processed in Mr Chen’s solar still the elephant grass crops can provide sufficient drinking water for 122 people. This saves time and energy in water sourcing and collection, helping villagers to be more independent and able to put their energies into other activities.

This doesn’t have much to do with the graphics business, but it is an illustration of how major suppliers to our sector are helping to drive global sustainability. Ricoh is one of a handful of printing and publishing system developers to have made public commitments to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It has also pledged to cut its Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 30% compared to 2015 by 2030. Scope 1 emissions are those coming directly from the company’s manufacturing plants and offices. Scope 2 emissions are those associated with purchased electricity and heat. Ricoh aims for zero Greenhouse Gas emissions across its entire value chain by 2050.

Commercial printing only contributes a small fraction of Ricoh’s revenues, however sales volumes are rising and the company is taking the lead in driving digital print output quality. Ricoh is one of the founders of the Verdigris project and along with HP, Kodak and Canon/Océ, Ricoh is also a founder of the Digital Printing Deinking Alliance (DPDA). The DPDA works to encourage the use of digital printing and recycling and to improve print’s environmental footprint. We would love to see more sustainability prizes on this side of the pond, especially those that reward sustainable innovation and business development, and relate to printing and publishing.

– 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, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

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