We worry a lot about the environmental impact of the graphics industry but the health of people working at the job of printing and publishing should also be of concern. Putting in long hours at a computer screen, reading and writing are all stressful and can lead to ailments such as repetitive strain injury, headaches, eye stress and back problems. But overusing a mouse and keyboard are far less likely to cause long term health problems than overexposure to chemicals used in print media production.
The graphics industry is at the heart of the recycling industry, but when it comes to environmental accountability, how solid are its credentials? This is an impossible question to answer, but that doesn’t mean we should all give up on trying to answer it or on pursuing a green agenda.
Processless platesetting, makes for more efficient and sustainable production, because it removes the need to chemically remove unexposed plate coatings. It’s a big step forward in making print media production more environmentally friendly, but it has taken a while to gain traction. Early iterations were not entirely processless and the plates were not much use after a few thousand impressions. But over time the technology has improved and now it is finally starting to come into its own, even for long runs and with aggressive inks.
We’ve presented at countless industry events around the world where environmental impact and the graphics industry are on the programme. But unfortunately, for the most part the addition of the topic to the agendas has been more about box ticking than intentions to make any real difference. Nothing ever comes out of these sessions, beyond individual interests for help with ISO 14001 compliance, or a pre-audit or a sustainability training session. From a business point of view for us this is fine, but from the point of view of making a tangible difference for the industry as a whole, this is far from fine. We need major players to take a much more active environmental leadership role.
HP Inc is without doubt the biggest player in the graphics industry. Net revenue in 2018 was a cool $58.3 billion. The R&D spend alone for the year was $1.4 billion. As a founding member of the Verdigris project, we are glad to have HP’s support and glad they can afford it. Support is what environmental impact mitigation is all about, especially now when sustainability and the planet’s health are in crisis. Sustainability efforts from HP, Kodak, Miraclon, Ricoh et al, however are grounded in commercial reality: if the planet crashes and burns, there is no business, only survival. So the more investment into developing the foundations for circular, low carbon economies, the better. It makes good sound business sense, both in the near future and long term.