By Cassandra Carnes
The word "green" has developed into a phenomenon. Reputation is important to a business, and organizations are tapping into their environmental conscious to increase consumer appeal. Print providers are no exception. An industry associated with paper waste and chemical processes is transforming its image with the help of digital technologies and environmental practices.
Business processes that are beneficial to the environment are coincidentally beneficial to an organization’s bottom line. However, eco-friendly solutions are often associated with higher costs. It is also a fad consumers are weary of, as it is grossly overused in marketing gimmicks. To legitimize environmental claims, many certifications and validations are available through reputable, third party organizations.
Approximately three years ago, InfoPrint Solutions Company, a Ricoh company, commissioned a survey of print service providers (PSPs) and their environmental practices. The study showed that roughly 40 percent were practicing environmental sustainability, and indicated that another 40 percent expected to start. "Our firm estimates that about 80 percent of PSPs have begun their journey toward sustainability," states Joe Czyszczewski, chief sustainability officer, InfoPrint.
Rick Mazur, director, commercial segment marketing, Americas region, Eastman Kodak Company, helps further clarify the picture of environmentally conscious print providers by classifying them into three categories. Regarding the adoption of environmentally friendly practices, Mazur recognizes leaders, informal adopters, and those that have yet to take action. "About 15 percent of printers—the leaders—have formal systems for overseeing their environmental performance by setting clear objectives and processes to practice and improve. The next category, which makes up about 40 percent of printers, have less formal programs but target the financial benefits of reducing energy and waste, while building a safe employee environment. The rest have not taken any real action to adopt sustainable practices for a variety of reasons," he explains.
Driving the Adoption
On the surface, environmental practices are driven by concern for limited natural resources and employee health. However, it also comes down to the bottom line. Business owners want to leverage environmental practices to save money, reduce cost, and improve revenue. Maintaining customer satisfaction also plays a role.
"The driving force in the adoption of environmental practices is split between the customer and the PSP," says Karen Schmuch, manager, marketing communications, RISO, Inc. The propensity to adopt environmental practices often comes after customers begin to request particular services, such as recycled papers, soy inks, and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. However, environmental sustainability is also a priority of PSPs.
While cost is almost always a factor, the type of print provider has a direct influence on the primary drivers towards environmental sustainability. The goal for commercial printers is often based on generating higher revenues, while in-plants need to reduce costs. "Therefore, adoption rates of in-plants tends to be higher than print for pays," says Schmuch.
Stephen Goddard, environmental leadership program manager, Graphic Solutions Business, Hewlett-Packard (HP), sees the first major benefit of implementing green business practices in the opportunity it presents to revenue growth. "This may come from building deeper relationships with existing clients seeking a PSP’s support in reducing the environmental impact of the prints they purchase, or through acquiring new environmentally conscious customers by differentiating themselves in the market on the basis of environmental responsibility," he says.
Laws and government regulations also play a roll in the adoption of environmental practices. The commercial print industry has been scrutinized and regulated in terms of environmental practices for years. "Back in the early 1990s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) put together the first Design for the Environment programs with a focus on the printing industry," recalls Patty Calkins, global VP of environment, health, and safety, Xerox Corporation.
Ted Schaffer, business manager, pressroom and flexography, Graphic Systems Division, Fujifilm North America Corporation, explains that in his experience, the majority of truly green practices are driven by state regulations.
While environmental practices continue to be of concern to the printing industry, the importance and popularity of following them is gaining importance as it offers a cost savings and branding dimension once not realized. "With some of the newer technologies, environmental sustainability also enables a PSP to generate new business. The increase in market demand presents a competitive opportunity, which is a change over the past five years," adds Calkins.
"Print buyers—some of which are high profile brands—stated that they will only use green printers. This prompts printers to adopt environmental practices that can be used as a marketing tool to attract business," says Schaffer.
Czyszczewski agrees, stressing the supply chain as a primary driver for environmental practices among PSPs in a commercial setting. "Print buyers are beginning to include environmental preferences in their selection criteria and PSPs are responding," he notes.
This transformation helps fuel growth. New business opportunities, such as bids where a company’s environmental practices help win the job, are becoming more of a reality. The perception that eco-friendly automatically translates to higher cost is also changing as organizations experience financial benefits.
"End users are unwilling to pay more and risk reduced performance in order to implement environmentally friendly products," says Reed Hecht, product manager, Professional Imaging, Epson America, Inc. "However, when the product offers the same performance at a similar price point, there is a greater motivation for adoption," he adds.
Getting to Green
Print industry professionals consider a number of options when trying to improve environmental practices. It means choosing inks that release fewer volatile organic compounds, utilizing recycled or recyclable media, partnering with environmentally conscious suppliers, and becoming certified.
Assessing the goals and thoughts of employees throughout an organization is the first step towards environmental sustainability. It is also important to research what customers are looking for. "Someone in the organization should be responsible for this effort. Successful companies have a senior leader who reports directly to the top accountable," notes Kodak’s Mazur.
Understanding the meaning of sustainability within an organization is the initial challenge. "It’s important to solicit the perspectives of customers, industry associations, regulatory authorities, certification bodies, and others when establishing a sustainability plan," says HP’s Goddard.
Start simple with the help of manufacturers. "Many of our customers use our toner cartridge recycle program and make use of recycled papers during production. They are also proactively inquiring about manufacturing efficiencies and our sustainable programs during the purchase process," says Frances Cicogna, manager, ISG product marketing, Canon U.S.A., Inc.
Consolidation is another method for reaching a more environmentally friendly operation by reducing power consumption and electronic waste over the printer’s lifecycle. "Some PSPs consolidate farms of cutsheet printers with a significantly smaller number of continuous form printers," notes Czyszczewski.
Another trend is replacing equipment with more efficient technologies, such as inkjet. Inkjet printers are estimated to use less energy because the paper is dried based on the amount of ink used, while toner-based printers heat all of the paper, regardless of toner coverage.
Fujifilm’s Schaffer explains that inkjet devices also offer a reduction in chemical usage and disposal. On the offset side, PSPs are opting for CTP solutions with a smaller environmental footprint.
At Graph Expo, Epson announced the Stylus Pro 7900CTP wide format printer. The product is developed with the environment and worker safety in mind. With the device, lithographic press plates are imaged using a unique plate curing device, which is a combination of the company’s Epson Stylus Pro 7900 printer, RIP software, and a plate guide attachment. With the 7900CTP, small- to mid-sized printers print directly to Epson DirectPlate, a high-resolution aluminum press plate that is chemically coated to work with standard Epson UltraChrome ink. Once a plate is imaged it follows a quick heat curing process, and can be mounted on the press.
Reuse is another core ingredient towards environmental sustainability. The remanufacture of machines, units, and parts lead to significant environmental benefits. "When a machine is remanufactured, approximately 85 percent of the weight of the machine is reused. Océ’s policy focuses on reusing original parts, which means there is less need for virgin materials," explains Guy Broadhurst, VP, new technologies and client development, Production Printing Systems Division, Océ North America. He notes that an Océ study from 2009 revealed that the CO2 footprint for producing a typical remanufactured system is almost half that of a newly produced system.
Help is On the Way
Taking on environmental sustainability often requires thought and dedication throughout the entire organization, starting at the top. With so many ways to improve a company’s environmental footprint, it’s tough to begin. Many media and ink manufacturers clearly identify eco-friendly solutions. Toner and ink recycling programs are also popular amongst manufacturers.
There are unique ways to support the environmental movement. "Several years ago, RISO partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant 25,000 trees in U.S. National Forests. A PSP with an FSC certification may consider partnering with a similar group to sponsor tree planting in their own community. It’s a great way to help the environment and promote the PSPs commitment," adds Schmuch.
At Graph Expo, Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc. established a new program for making recycling easy for its customers. Used toner cartridges, waste toner boxes, imaging units, and developer units and drums for the range of bizhub products are disposed of in an environmentally friendly box and picked up for recycling by Konica Minolta.
Beyond sustainable equipment engineering, manufacturing, and recycling processes, Océ created the Océ Eco Start program as a first step to achieving carbon-neutral production. "When customers purchase an Océ production system, we plant trees to offset its CO2 emissions from energy consumption for the first year they own it," says Broadhurst.
Turn to organizations such as FSC, Printing Industries of America, Print Council, and the Sustainable Green Partnership for tips, research, third part certifications and other helpful resources towards environmental sustainability.
It’s Not Always Easy Being Green
There are significant advantages to adopting environmental practices, however every new venture comes with its own unique set of challenges. Kodak’s Mazur highlights one fundamental step—define sustainability at the beginning. He explains that many environmental sustainability programs never get off the ground because the meaning isn’t clear. Organizations should decide and agree on what sustainability is, why it’s important, and to whom it’s important.
When the adoption of green practices makes sense for your organization, assign leadership, draft a plan, and stick to it to ensure the best results. The advantages to an eco-friendly workplace are definite, however several stereotypes and challenges hinder the adoption of environmental sustainability.
The adoption of environmental practices can lead to real business advantages. HP’s Goddard believes the trend towards environmental sustainability is real, simply because the benefits are real. "Few other initiatives are able to offer such a wide range of potential benefits, including deeper customer relationships, revenue growth, reductions in waste and cost, and an improved working environment for print shop employees," he notes. dps
For more information on companies mentioned in this article, click on the logo below.