Everyone in the graphics industry depends on Microsoft and Apple to provide the software infrastructure so vital to prepress and workflows. Apple’s commitment to environmental impact mitigation is extensively publicised but we hear relatively little from Microsoft on the matter. That changed with Microsoft’s recent announcement that it aims to be carbon negative by 2030. Even bolder, by 2050 Microsoft will “remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975”. This is quite extraordinary, not least because calculating “all the carbon” is a Herculean task on its own.
Consolidation in the graphics industry has been a fact of life for many years now. It’s tempting to blame the losses on the onslaught of digital media and delivery, despite it’s heavy carbon footprint compared to print. Consolidation is tragic for its many victims and their families, but consolidation is not all bad for the industry. There are a couple of reasons for this. Most importantly, if brutally, consolidation takes inefficiency out of the market. And in times when cutting environmental impact is so important, efficiency enhances the survival chances of those printing and publishing companies who understand how to exploit technology and are in tune with the zeitgeist.
In December 2019, the European Union (EU) announced that it is investing €100 billion to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050. By climate-neutral the EU means that emissions will be balanced with the removal of warming gases from the atmosphere. This is an ambitious undertaking. Much of the funding will be directed at business and industry as part of the EU’s commitment to protect human life, animals and plants through reduced pollution. In addition the EU has aspirations to help companies become world leaders in clean technologies and products, and to manage the transition to climate neutrality with full inclusivity. This means that emissions are controlled balanced with ways of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The €100 billion is only the start: the EU aims to mobilise an astonishing €1 trillion over the next decade to jumpstart the continent’s shift to a net-zero economy.
It’s been a depressing few weeks when it comes to making progress on climate change, for the graphics business as well as everyone else. The recent COP25 was widely panned for the lack of consensus on some pretty basic issues, and for a paucity of outcomes for the event. The biggest disappointment has to be the fact that nothing was done to set up rules for an international carbon trading system. That has to be the foundation for emissions management and control, but ideas for how to do it failed to achieve consensus.
Newspapers are struggling still as they wrestle with new business models that shift from printed copy sales to digital delivery. The environmental impact of digital media is largely unquantified, but obviously digital media generate emissions throughout their lives. Print on the other hand, has a one-off carbon footprint and is based on a sustainable resource: wood.