We recently completed a week’s worth of global online meetings, discussing ISO standards for the graphics industry. In many virtual sessions spanning multiple time zones, we looked at everything from the comparative performance of spectrophotometers to managing viewing conditions for soft proofing in modern pressroom environments. In the working group addressing the environmental impact of print, we completed preparations of the draft of ISO 22067-1. This is an important document for ensuring that ecolabels use accurate data when evaluating printing companies and printed matter. The next stage is a vote on 22067-1 and the chance for people to comment on the draft, a process that should be completed by the end of the summer.
Ecolabels are a useful way to signal a company’s commitment to sustainable and environmentally friendly business practises. They confirm to customers, shareholders and staff that a company really is committed to managing its environmental impact. And the discipline required to achieve certified compliance with an ecolabel invariably yields other business benefits, such as process control and efficiency. The business benefits from the process of getting ready for certification audits just as much as the assignation.
Flexography is often considered a sort of industrialised version of letterpress printing, and capable of producing only rudimentary quality. But that hasn’t been true for years. Flexographic printing has evolved considerably over the last few decades and has been quietly stealing market share from gravure, offset and even digital printing applications. Flexo printers produce the largest share of print used for packaging applications today and that includes flexible packaging, corrugated and labels. Thanks to advances in materials and imaging this printing method has also become increasingly sustainable over the years.
Call it denial, call it boredom, call it what you like, but I can’t go on any longer ignoring this global pox. It has struck down too many people, devastated lives, trashed economies everywhere and still it shows only slender signs of abating. The only good news is the clean, quiet skies, waterways and roads. The UK graphics business is a tale of unrelenting woe, and colleagues in other countries say much the same.
The need to solve the sustainability conundrum touches all businesses, including publishing, not least in these challenging times. Major brands such as Penguin Random House (PRH) have implemented sustainability policies, with defined commitments to reducing carbon emissions. Until recently, UK based PRH processed around one million books per week. They came into a central warehouse from printers and were delivered to bookshops around the country. It’s very strange that a company this successful and this plugged into the need to streamline and manage costs, is still operating with this model.