The foresight of both the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) is to be commended. Both organisations provide Chain of Custody (CoC) certifications for wood and wood-based products (furniture, paper and so on). The two have long been striving to make it easier for everyone to trust that products such as paper and building materials, are responsibly sourced. Their considerable efforts have also raised awareness of the need for proactive forest management. We also appreciate the urgent need to stop the loss of forests in developing markets. And we are especially keen on rain forest and habitat protection in places such as Indonesia, where the most egregious examples of arboreal vandalism occur.
Imagination, ideas and technological innovation are what progress is all about. We care about what we understand, what we know, so we generally focus only on what directly impacts us. It is time for this narrow view to change. When it comes to graphics industry inventions that reduce impacts on the environment, we must start thinking bigger as well as thinking different. New technologies for reducing environmental impact cannot be considered in isolation. What improves a carbon footprint in one way might make it much worse in another.
It should be a normal expectation that companies would choose to police their own sustainability performance. And yet we still cannot manage to do it on any sort of realistic scale. This is dangerous for the graphics industry, because the alternative is regulation by external entitites. We already see this in restrictions on chemical usage and the disposal of waste.
The environmental benefits of digital printing are obvious and broadly recognised. Print buyers and publishers can operate with reduced inventories. Less waste is produced during production and through excess production. With a digital workflow, make readies are faster and direct output means lower consumables and energy usage. The added attractions are the cost effective production of short runs of highly targeted materials, with higher value and effectiveness and of course bespoke variable data documents. The list goes on and on, but tax benefits have not previously been considered in the mix. Maybe they should be, particularly for governments who want to encourage sustainability.
The packaging industry is ripe for disruption, especially when it comes to inks. The sector’s in the sights of digital press manufacturers, print service providers and print buyers. And consumers want to feel better about using packaging that cannot easily be recycled. They don’t want to be responsible for generating waste, but if they do so, they want to believe that it won’t hurt the environment. Ink science is moving forwards to help balance and resolve the industry’s various concerns, but it isn’t moving particularly fast.