Looking at technology and raw materials processing is only part of the graphics industry’s sustainability picture. It’s easy to forget that if people don’t read, we lose whole markets for books, magazines and newspapers both in print and online.
The history of textile printing is a history of innovation, from transferring colours to substrates with carved woodblocks to digitally printed fabrics. In between such bespoke options are a slew of industrial processes that produce all manner of textiles from linens and curtains through to couture garments and t-shirts. The reversion to technologies that allow us to have custom clothes and interiors is creating all sorts of opportunities for new businesses, mostly driven by e-commerce.
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.