The Politics of Green

medium_Laurel.jpgThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

Election fever all over the world has seen some dramatic results. Moribund governments are getting dumped as voters look to more energetic alternatives in the hope that they can deliver change and growth. Achieving growth while simultaneously improving environmental impacts is the trick new governments all over the world must achieve. For printers and publishers new governments are just so much samey samey, but their ideas and policies at least provide fodder for our industry. Whether we should expect a wave of new environmental legislation to come out of Europe, India, South Africa or wherever, depends on who makes it into government and the interests they want to further.

Environmental awareness is definitely rising. Far from the abstractions of government, the graphic arts industry is seeing a proliferation of tools that help businesses and wider supply chains to manage their carbon footprints. These tools are part of a larger arsenal that helps with environmental footprint management, increasingly a measure of how well entities are using resources, including their available cash.

The problem isn’t the number of tools but the fact that far too many organisations and government agencies are trying to develop them in isolation. Global NGOs, industry associations, standards bodies and governments should be working together to develop frameworks that can be used anywhere in the world. Cooperatively developed frameworks could have the scope and flexibility to allow local interests to add their own twists, according to national and sector specific needs. For instance, the development of carbon footprinting tools within the burrows of the European Union in Brussels falls short because those doing the work lack productive engagement with ISO and other bodies within the EU membership. There seems to be no mechanism for cooperation.

This is all very silly and counter productive in a global market. Having a host of differing methodologies for calculating carbon footprints, is as daft as having a host of measurement systems. Ells, cubitts and quires were all quite useful once, but they’ve had their day. In printing and publishing we almost have universality in paper sizes; the Americans will get with it some day.

Fragmentation and diversity of methods for calculating carbon footprints and environmental impact undermines progress for all industries including printing and publishing. The sharing of ideas has never been easier, so why not share method development for everyone’s benefit instead of letting politics get in the way? Politicians and gatekeepers tend to take a short term view or they are too lazy to look at the facts. In a world of global communications and accountability this will do longer do. Elected representatives, supporting bureaucrats and print industry associations must look beyond national interests and take a collective view for mutually improving environmental impact.

– Laurel Brunner

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