Standards for Sustainability

medium_2015_Laurel B.jpgThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

We’re gearing up for the next round of ISO meetings, including a couple of days devoted to environmental standards. We’re expecting a packed house, with participants from all over the world, so no pressure.

Environmental standards are a delicate area, because some powerful vested interests have much to protect and the resources to influence progress. Or not. The problem such interests face, is that industry is moving away from the massive industrial models that have traditionally made such things as paper production and supply, efficient and highly profitable.

These days we want to support effective resource management and use. This obviously requires a different approach to standards, and it will surely take years to change existing models. In the meantime standards can provide a means of supporting new processes. This can help to circumvent extant models, so it is unsurprising that there is resistance to the development of new approaches. But what matters is the creation of tools that printing companies, print buyers and technology developers can use to improve their processes and environmental impacts. The objective with the ISO work is to improve resource use, encourage recycling and avoid using resources destined to end up as waste: think the 40% waste associated with some book and magazine publishing models. The concepts and processes in new environmental standards for graphics technology may be unfamiliar, but that is part of the job for standards makers.

There are plenty of reasons why standards help the graphics industry. Not least is the fact that standards provide tools that can help to make the sector environmentally accountable, for instance in eco labeling. They allow aspects such as print’s carbon footprint to be consistently quantified and communicated using a common, standardised method. Standards also help to encourage overall efficiency improvements which equates ultimately to higher yields on capital deployed.

Standards push developers and implementors to think of new ways to reduce environmental impacts, for instance by making machinery more energy efficient or working with more sustainable raw materials. Standards also encourage the development of new recycling supply chains, such as for downcycling printed matter. The work is all about making print more competitive and accountable, and providing the tools that help print buyers and consumers to keep investing in print. That is the most important part of this work of all.

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

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