The Olympics motto of faster, higher, stronger has never had the airplay it’s had in this Olympic year. It’s everywhere and, in the UK at least, it’s a risk of becoming noiseless and meaningless. But it’s a motto the printing industry could readily adapt, especially in terms of environmentalperformance improvements. In the green room of carbon footprinting, calculating carbon footprints is a preamble to the main event of reduced environmental impact.
Not that we want higher carbon footprints, rather higher standards of control. And we do want to be able calculate them faster and for those calculations to be as robust as possible. Of course when it comes to standards for doing these complex calculations it is very easy to forget that industry needs them far more than their authors and publishers to. Whether it’s printing or sports equipment, standards provide a framework and tools with which great things can be achieved. There is no room for squabbling or religion in the development of environmental standards. There is however plenty of room for understanding how industry sectors can implement standards, because they are not about defining perfect scenarios. It is important to remember that there are no absolutes, and that very few things can ever be definitively nailed down, particularly in environmental science where change in the variables that affect it is constant.
The graphic arts industry needs standards in order to establish benchmarks for performance improvement. We do not need them in order to prove the viability of print versus electronic media, although that may come. The first step is for industry and for standards writers to start measuring carbon footprints, so that we have data against which to compare not with our competition, but with our own performance.
Standards authors working on environmental impact and carbon footprinting standards need to keep this in mind. There is no magic pill that will make the process any less tortuous. But there is an industry desperate to improve its edge, going for gold on behalf of its customers. They may not always know it, but customers are the people ultimately driving standards development because the work benefits them at the end of the day. Olympic Gold Medal sprinter Marlon Devonish fronts a brilliant ad for GlaxoSmithKline, the official testing body for the London 2012 Olympics. Fabio Abram of TBWA one of London’s major advertising agencies scripted the Devonish line: “the crowd is my only drug”. Standards bodies and volunteers should keep this in mind. We work for our industries, not our vanities.
– Laurel Brunner