Drupa 2020 is off until April 2021, which hopefully will give the organisers time to rethink their sustainability strategy. The event originally conceived for this year was to have had other priorities than sustainability. The speaker programme includes relatively limited sustainability input, for instance Achim Halpaap, a senior advisor from the United Nations Environmental Programme was to have been talking about sustainability in the printing and packaging industry with a particular focus on trends, tools and leadership.
It’s taken a while but interest in calculating the carbon footprint of print is starting to rise. Brand supply teams are finally showing mild engagement with the idea of carbon footprinting their prints, because it could improve production efficiencies and their bottom lines.
Nailing down what makes a system sustainable or not exercises some of the best brains on the planet. Mostly this is in response to the threats of climate change, but the graphics industry’s sustainability credentials are mostly based on responses to existential threats. The industry has been blessed with two life threatening events: digital technology gave us electronic prepress and typesetting; the internet wiped out whole sectors of publishing and production. Both events forced many businesses to the wall, albeit for different reasons, but the net result has been positive. We have seen huge innovations in production software and hardware and in applications. More importantly we have a far more environmentally sustainable industry. Waste continues to be forced out of print media production systems and process control cuts energy usage and the associated emissions. Printing close to the point of use reduces transport emissions too.
It’s the graphics industry’s most anticipated show. It’s the lynchpin show that has for years dictated research and development schedules, marketing budgets and contract signings. Attendance has been in slow but relentless decline since Drupa’s 1980s heyday, but this does little to diminish the show’s power to focus minds. Drupa 2020 takes place this June and hopes are high that there will be some loud shouting about the sustainability of the printing industry, along with some sort of leadership.
Important as they might be to us as individuals, environmental impact mitigation and sustainability concerns have much lower priority when it comes to most businesses. Say what they like, but if supporting environmental initiatives means adding cost or inconvenience, most firms are unlikely to take them up. It’s a terrible thing to admit, but sadly that reality is the case in the graphics industry. And yet supporting sustainability and environmental impact mitigation in graphics production can save money and help process automation. This should help overcome perceptions of inconvenience too and yet it doesn’t.