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.
The European Union (EU) has a special board that, among other things, determines evaluation criteria for the EU Ecolabel for products and services. In January 2019 the outcome of their latest chat was published and makes for interesting reading (yes, really). Instead of having two separate classifications for copying and graphic paper, and newsprint paper, the two are to be merged to form a single product group called graphic paper to sit alongside the other product group which is tissue and tissue based products. The rationale for this is that the merging of graphic paper and newsprint reflects “scientific and market developments”, ie decline. The Commission Decision also removes the limit on weight that applied to the older product groups, so it now includes a wider range of more rigid papers
Waitrose is one of the UK’s posher supermarkets and it has joined the growing list of retailers trialing new approaches to packaging. Part of the commitment is that by 2023 all Waitrose own brand packaging will be reusable, home compostable or recyclable. And there will be no more black plastic packaging trays for meat and fish by the end of 2019. The initiative is a bit of a reversion to past practise, in that it is based on customers reusing their own bags. Except that this idea extends to customer supplied containers for goods that would otherwise be packaged in plastic.
It’s surprising that there are so few sustainability prizes that award cash, but Ricoh is leading the way, especially in the USA. Cash prizes for sustainability are a brilliant tool for encouragement and for getting sustainability up the agenda, especially amongst the young. The Ricoh Sustainable Development Award (RSDA) has been awarded annually for the last fifteen years, and totals over $430,000 in scholarships for young people. As yet Ricoh makes no such investment into sustainability innovation in the graphics industry, but perhaps they might consider it for young people and for clever environmental impact mitigations in printing and publishing.