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"Seacourt epitomise our core values of ethical, sustainable and environmentally friendly work."

Why Sustainable Printing Matters

Posted by: Gareth Dinnage | Mar 11, 2014

Did you know that printing is 5th largest manufacturing industry and in the same environmental risk category as mining, oil and nuclear*?  A hugely resource intensive and competitive industry where price is regularly set at loss-leader costing to gain market share.  Within this melange, how does a printing company attempt to consider and account for one planet living?  Well, the large majority just don’t.    
Sustainable printers are a different breed.  As with other sustainable organisations their purpose is not just restricted to profit/turnover, possessing a strong moral obligation to the environment and society.  Stepping away from the spiraling descent to the lowest common price, they have chosen to invest in a business strategy which does not cost the earth.  

So what makes a sustainable printer?  As with all industries, there are areas of contention.  At one end there are companies who provide a ‘tick-box’ approach and will do the minimum required to qualify as ‘sustainable’, and at the other end, those who wholeheartedly adopt sustainable principals into their core business strategy where it organically infuses every decision taken.  
Easy Wins do NOT constitute sustainable printing
The use of what is know as ‘low-hanging fruit’, all decent practices in themselves, are simply quick fixes and do not make a sustainable printer. 

These kind of practices should all now be standard use. 

-    Vegetable based inks
-    Use of recycled or FCS paper
-    ISO14001
-    Carbon Neutral
-    100% Renewable Energy

So what are the heavy-weight practices which make for a true commitment to sustainable printing?  

Investment  - in environmental, high-tech processes such as Waterless Offset printing technology.  This technology has particularly changed the worldwide printing landscape offering the ultimate in environmental printing.  The technology dispenses with the need to use water in the printing process.  This has a two-fold effect:  firstly there is an obvious substantial water saving; secondly, without the need for water there is no need to use the toxic substance IPA (Iso-propyl Alcohol) which immediately reduces VOC by 98%.  A further excellent benefit of this technology, though not environmental but none-the-less hugely desirable, is that this technology produces better quality print.   Surprising then that it has not been adopted by more.  
Environmental Management Programme – there are a few programmes to help you structure your environmental policy but by far the most exacting is EMAS (Environment Management & Audit System).  ISO14001 is hugely popular and is a good start to your environmental journey, but it does not consititute the weight and integrity of EMAS.  

Supply Chain – Sustainable initiatives should extend beyond the visibility of a company’s immediate processes.  Buying in sustainable goods and services not only grows the market for these kind of products, but by stipulating a sustainable buying criteria the organisation sends clear messages to suppliers to change their act.  This not only creates and expands the market for sustainable goods and services, but lowers average cost and hence accessabiity for everyone.    

Waste Management Programme – Printing is hugely resource-intensive.  There is a very real need to ensure that waste is handled effectively to reduce landfill.  Seacourt became the world’s first printing company to achieve absolute zero-waste to landfill.  Before our sustainable journey began, we were sending 6 large Grundron bins a week to landfill .  Since 14th October 2009, we have sent nothing to landfill.  We have no bins.  

Independent Awards and Accreditations – Independent recognition of efforts are always a good sign of having achieved a creditable level of achievement.    Although they were never a goal in our business strategy, our awards and accreditations over the years have stood us in good stead and speak volumes for us.  The Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development is the highest accolade in our opinion and it was very hard for us to achieve on either occasion, and so our utmost respect to all fellow-achievers.  

Beware the use of Alcohol Substitutes

In order to distance themselves from the negative press of IPA, many printers have substituted this chemical for other non-alcohol but relatively toxic chemicals.  Our best advice would be ask exactly  what the substitute is and research for yourself.  Or alternatively just switch to a printer who does not use any chemicals at all!

In Summary

As with all truly sustainable organisations, authenticy comes from having strong core values, integrity and transparency.  Choosing an authentic sustainable supplier doesn’t limit the good to that one act – it sets off a positive reaction: promotes new industry benchmarks; gives the right signals to competitors and the market at large to change for the better; provides investment in and rewards to companies who are “walking the walk”.  Critical mass is built one brick at a time and for us, one print job at a time.
Sustainable printing, and your choice of sustainable printer matters, as with every other area of life.    

* Source: Det Norske Veritas Global Risk Management Company