The graphics industry is massive and yet the number of printing organisations with more than 500 employees is small. This means that very large customers buy their print from a host of small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Such organisations tend to be under the radar for most environmental reporting regulations, because their individual impact is likely to be quite trivial, although collectively it adds up to be large. The only time the printing industry’s SMEs really bother, is when their customers or shareholders require it. This is at once problematic and an opportunity for printing companies.
Within the graphics industry there are numerous examples of companies’ efforts to improve energy generation and management. And there is ISO 50001, the standard for energy management to which companies such as Agfa and Kodak have certified compliance. But Fujifilm has gone far beyond these efforts at its Tilburg facility entirely powered with renewable energy generated by wind turbines. Employing around 850 people this site is one of Fujifilm’s largest manufacturing sites outside of Japan, producing photo paper, offset plates and membranes.
Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is expensive, takes a long time and can be fiendishly complex. Companies who undertake it generally do so in order to demonstrate the environmental credentials of their product or service. But there are other more nuanced reasons for doing LCA, such as providing proof points for marketing statements and guidance for product designers and engineers. An LCA can also help demonstrate regulatory compliance and be an aid to sales and marketing projects. It’s obviously a useful tool for carbon offsetting and for carbon credits.
Arguments for using digital technology for textile printing are pretty much the same as for using it in any other print sector. Markets appreciate bespoke short run options, customisation and on demand production. Digital printing cuts waste and improves cost control through inventory minimisation. Collapsing traditional supply chains to produce goods in weeks and even days instead of months, fits the fast fashion ethos. But one benefit trumps all others: sustainability.
Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke made a bold admission during the company’s drupa press conference. He said that: “the print industry is a dirty industry … one of the things we can do is to clean up the dirty chemicals.” A key technology for achieving this goal is water wash digital flexo photopolymer plates, processed using water.