Since we started the Verdigris project in 2008, obviously much is different in the printing industry. Five years of economic mess and confusion have forced change on all of us. One of the apparent casualties of the rubbish commercial environment has been environmental impact reduction initiatives.
However all is not bleak, despite the printing industry’s fiscal straightjacket. For instance Dai Nippon Printing in Japan is participating in a project sponsored by the Japanese government for carbon offset products, based on its carbon footprint program. Dai Nippon Printing is a leading contributor to environmental impact reduction in Japan but this is the first time the company has cooperated directly with the government on a project to develop carbon offset products. Another interesting initiative in Australia is the government programme to provide A$800 million in energy efficiency grants. Printers can claim a 33% rebate on investments into energy efficient machinery, including presses. And the PIAA is surveying printers to learn more about the impact on them of the country’s carbon tax.
Awareness of environmental impact reduction in governments is mostly high. But although print’s role in sustainability is definitely better appreciated, this industry still has a very long way to go. The hopefully imminent publication of an ISO standard for calculating and communicating the carbon footprint of print media products, marks a milestone of sorts. That the working group responsible for its development is now looking at environmental impact standards for e-media is also significant. And the decision following industry pressure by Google to remove the environmental claims from its Paperless 2013 website, is massive.
Google’s “Go Paperless in 2013” campaign claimed that using paper is bad for the environment. It unleashed a torrent of squeaking and squawking objections from across the global printing industry. Google’s campaign, to promote electronic transactions on behalf of the Paperless 2013 cohort, continues. However the erroneous environmental claims are gone from their website. This is a happy result and hopefully the whole fiasco will have encouraged everyone involved to think more carefully about what environmental impact sensitivity is all about. It certainly isn’t about encouraging the use of unsustainable resources.
It’s great that this campaign is now more transparent, however it is only one example of how easily people outside the printing industry misunderstand the difference between paper based communications and electronic content transactions. This is why we still have much to do: changing the mood is tricky even though sustainability is an economic as well as an environmental argument. Companies who have cut energy costs and waste are increasing in number because cutting energy bills by as much as 50%, improving resource use by 70% and reducing remakes by 10% produces numbers that snuggle down onto a company’s bottom line very tidily. So maybe environmental reduction initiatives are not such casualties after all.
– Laurel Brunner