Sustainability messaging part 4

medium_2015_Laurel B.jpgThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

We’ve not forgotten about our effort to provide a ten point plan for companies and associations who want to be proactive with their sustainability messaging. In the previous blogs we have suggested improving waste management throughout the supply chain. This is a key contributor to reducing environmental impact, especially for printing companies dealing with preconsumer waste.

We have also provided various suggestions for how to meet the four Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. We had a suggestion that there should in fact be four Rs, with the last being Renewable. In the graphics business this could apply to printing plates for reprints, cleaning rags and pallets for instance. Then there is managing, or at least being aware of, the energy emissions associated with a project. This encourages everyone in the organisation to take emissions into account, say for transportation, the number and types of inks and coatings and so on. That brings us to item four on the list: engagement.

This is a tricky one because it is so subjective. It’s about getting employees to understand their sustainability responsibilities and to take them seriously. It’s about encouraging people to think ecologically, even though it may not have occurred to them to do so before. And if that’s too hard, try instead to get people to focus on developing environmental awareness as a company wide initiative. The good news is that awareness is already on the rise in the wake of the revelations about plastics pollution in the Blue Planet II television series, so the environment and plastics pollution are already on peoples’ minds. And large brands have been taking steps to improve the situation, as we have blogged about for the last few weeks. It all helps.

Getting awareness levels up starts at the top, with the company’s overall commitment to improving environmental impact as part of the firm’s culture and values. For associations especially, it is important to practise what you preach, and this can be demanding for large organisations with diverse memberships. Consider putting together a set of environmental guidelines for members, and provide explanations of what the various ISO standards for the environmental impact of media can do. Compiling a list of useful environmental links can also be very helpful to members who want to improve sustainability awareness in their company, but aren’t quite sure where to start.

In conversations with suppliers it’s also worthwhile asking for a brief overview of what the supplier is doing to support improving the environmental impact of print. Many have solid credentials at the highest levels, but when it comes to customer facing staff, the commitments are not necessarily clear.

We’ll continue this series over the coming months and hopefully will end up with a ten point summary to share. In the meantime, please keep your ideas coming. Together we can keep reducing the negative aspects of print’s environmental impact and encourage more positive perceptions.

– 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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