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.
The environmental benefits of digital printing are obvious and broadly recognised. Print buyers and publishers can operate with reduced inventories. Less waste is produced during production and through excess production. With a digital workflow, make readies are faster and direct output means lower consumables and energy usage. The added attractions are the cost effective production of short runs of highly targeted materials, with higher value and effectiveness and of course bespoke variable data documents. The list goes on and on, but tax benefits have not previously been considered in the mix. Maybe they should be, particularly for governments who want to encourage sustainability.
The packaging industry is ripe for disruption, especially when it comes to inks. The sector’s in the sights of digital press manufacturers, print service providers and print buyers. And consumers want to feel better about using packaging that cannot easily be recycled. They don’t want to be responsible for generating waste, but if they do so, they want to believe that it won’t hurt the environment. Ink science is moving forwards to help balance and resolve the industry’s various concerns, but it isn’t moving particularly fast.
Insurance companies are starting to pay more attention to certifications in the graphics industry. If you can prove that you run your business well, for instance with a certification to ISO 9001 or 14001 management standards, they reckon you are a lower risk outfit. This can mean that your business qualifies for reduced premiums. It’s an interesting added dimension to the certification conversation and one that hasn’t been particularly well explored. Assisting insurance companies to assess risk, is an important role for consultants. It’s also important for certification bodies who can tout an additional benefit in their certifications marketing.
In his Bruno Kessler Lecture last year, Roberto Viola, Director-General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology at the European Commission, said that energy usage by European data centres will grow by 20% by 2020. The calculation is based on figures from 2015 when data centres consumed over 104 terawatt hours, which is 104 million million watts. Data centres accounted for 3% of all of the electricity used within the European Union and Mr Viola said that their energy usage requirements will grow by 35% by 2029. The communications industry will account for a substantial amount of that volume, primarily to support rising electronic media usage.