As we all know, process control is fundamental to every aspect of the circular economy. But publishers, printers and all other players in media supply chains can only benefit, if they can work out a solid business model and make money from it. In order to do this several structural elements must be in place. The first is widespread consumer awareness, a societal norm that encourages end users to only buy products which can be recycled or reused within a zero waste model. But this is an enormous ask.
The splintered nature of modern communications has encouraged ever more people to become eco warriors of one sort or another. But these fragmented efforts are really not much good, because they are largely uncoordinated or aligned. Far better to get the world’s biggest companies to commit to ambitious global campaigns. Graphics professionals can do their bit by supporting projects such as RE100, a collaborative, global effort that brings together businesses committed to 100% renewable electricity.
It’s the thing that appears to matter most for companies considering an investment into digital printing, be they printers or print buyers. It’s the primary reason why offset continues to command such a healthy lead over digital printing. But calculating the cost per printed page is also the thing that is least understood and most fraught with ambiguity. If we are to fully understand the environmental aspects associated with print so that we can mitigate their impacts, we need a common basis for calculating cost per page.
When it comes to claims relating to environmental certifications, always question the source. There has been a glut of announcements recently by manufacturers claiming that their products are certified to international standards. One ink company is offering products that meet the Cradle to Cradle standard, a standard which has been invented by a group in California called the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute which sounds very impressive. This unaccredited organisation provides its own certification for products, thereby helping companies to demonstrate to customers and regulators that they are committed to sustainability. The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute’s reference document is one of its own invention and is based on continual improvement. In this respect it is much like ISO 9001, the international quality management standard but that is where the similarities end.
Marks & Spencer, a global retailer best known for knickers, socks and divine foods, has recently reported on progress with its Plan A. The 107 environmental commitments enshrined in this plan were originally outlined in 2014, with a goal of achieving them all by 2025. So far 64 have been achieved with a further 25 on track, 11 lagging and six apparently abandoned. The global graphics industry has many reasons to engage with Marks & Spencer from signage and packaging, through to commercial print applications, so being aware of Plan A might help when bidding for new business or striving to hold on to existing work.