Slowly Garrotted with Red Tape

medium_Laurel_2012.jpegThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

Industry everywhere suffers from bureaucracy intended to make life safer, less corrupt and more fair and efficient. The graphic arts industry is not alone in having to cope with excessive, unproductive yet necessary administration and regulatory compliance. In several regions around the world the printing industry must comply with some pretty hefty rules. Some of these, such as chemicals management and disposal are important and valuable, but others, such as guidance documents relating to new laws take much time without necessarily delivering tangible benefits to the business.

Striking the balance can make a real difference to a company’s performance. In Europe businesses are being slowly throttled by an excess of European Union legislation. The EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) is a case in point. A recently released guidance document appears to have extended the concept of an operator. Operators were previously defined as organisations which place wood based products onto the European market, such as publishers who have print produced outside of Europe but bring it into the European Union to sell to local markets. Under the new EUTR guidance an operator is any manufacturer who imports paper for use in the business. This means that the printer or publisher responsible for bringing the paper into the EU, even if it is via an intermediary, must have a Due Diligence System that proves that the source of the paper comes from legal sources. It’s about as clear as mud.

Rules and regulations should make a region a better place for doing business, from pulp and paper manufacturing through to packaging creation and book publishing. Managing the administrative burden so that businesses can focus on generating revenue and growth, should be the priority for local governments. Achieving this for their members should also be a key goal of printing and publishing industry associations. Obviously this includes laws related to environmental management where print has a strong case. But it should also address evolving energy policies which might damage energy intensive manufacturing, such as printing. Training and support for new job creation should also be a top priority, as should making it easy for government funding to reach the people who can do the most good with it. In the graphic arts business this is about creating new jobs and finding new applications for media, including print. Strangling innovations in red tape and wasting money and other resources on layers of self-interested bureaucracy is no way to encourage entrepreneurs. It is also no way to care for the environment.

– Laurel Brunner

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