World Environment Day: The importance of sustainable printing

As World Environmental Day comes around once again, Gemma Glen, product marketing manager of OKI Europe’s North West Region, outlines the various ways recycling has been shown to benefit the printing industry and how small milestones can play a significant role in contributing to the journey.

Every year, thousands of people gather to celebrate World Environment Day, with a passion to save the planet. The environment is polluted by various physical components such as: radioactive elements, plastics, waste, and industrial pollution. Printers are likely to generate more waste than any other sectors, due to the use of waste substrate, toner cartridges, ink, and office waste. However, over the years the print industry has been conscientiously pursuing green printing techniques. More and more printing companies have also been incorporating sustainable practices into their operations to reduce waste. A common green initiative adopted by many businesses is to recycle various products as it allows printing to become more environmentally sustainable. Some companies have even integrated their sustainability vision into their respective mission statement or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan, so that all stakeholders are better aligned with broader corporate goals – in the long term, both environmentally and economically.

As a sustainable environmental initiative, recycling has been shown to benefit the printing industry in the following ways:

Resource efficiency

Larger companies often have significant capital available for investment to identify and implement efficiency gains. One such example of effective resource management is hiring a team to strategically delegate recycling practices. This not only improves the productivity of the company’s printing programme, but also allows the management to act in a more socially responsible way. Due to financial implications, smaller companies may not be able to dedicate an entire team towards this initiative, but they would still benefit from other eco-sustainable changes. For example, by investing in economical printing technologies, such as green printers, they can help reduce the amount of ink used per page thereby getting more mileage from each ink cartridge. Any investment in resources will initially appear costly, but if the company invests in recycling equipment rather than new material, it proves to be cost-effective in the long-term. This shows recycling can help to conserve resources and costs, allowing a company to operate more efficiently.

Brand Image

The competitiveness of today’s markets is making sustainable business practices essential. Recent research shows that 82% of consumers want to buy and use products that are environmentally friendly, providing a larger incentive for the printing industry to go green. For example, as more customers crave high-quality services and products that are eco-friendly, high-efficiency recycling, the use of the non-hazardous materials becomes vital. By adopting a recycling programme, businesses can boost their green status in the marketplace, thus attracting new customers and improving their chances of winning new contracts. Better sustainable practices also mean companies can retain more of their existing customers, enhancing brand loyalty and strengthening brand image. Consequently, sustainable printing not only helps the environment but is a necessary element to be competitive and remain relevant in the modern market place.

Better measurability

Once a company has committed to a recycling strategy throughout various stages of their supply chain process, they are able to analyse the overall impact of this strategy via quantifiable data. For example, by recycling printing paper, a company will be able to monitor the current costs of paper waste to production. The monitoring of such waste will allow a company to better manage hazardous waste; its generation, management, recycling and disposal. Businesses could assess the financial savings achieved to further improve the objectives of their environmental strategy. Each strategy should include the following measurability steps: gather available information, identify opportunities and prioritise, measure savings, and review the next areas of focus. Following these steps to measure the total supply chain process delivers improved business efficiency.

Benefits outweigh the challenges

The printing industry encounters challenges in its own journey to becoming more sustainable. One such example results from advances in digitalisation decreasing the level of printing required. Due to this fall in demand for printing, the costs of raw materials have dramatically risen. Yet, the simple economics of supply and demand cannot fully capture the value of increasing demands for recyclables. When compared with their original counterparts, recycled products provide a number of intangibles yet increasingly crucial business benefits. For example, as previously mentioned, the use of recycled products or investment by industry towards new technologies would help win new customers, whilst retaining existing ones. Through an increased customer base, the price of fixed cost production can be lowered, thus, leading to a net saving that can offset the impact of a general drop in printing demand.

A change is possible

Overall, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development claims “to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources”. Recycling as well as other initiatives can bring sustainable environmental benefits to the printing industry. These include increased operational efficiency, a wider customer base and an overall improved brand image. The success of a sustainable printing industry lies within a process of continuous improvement. The key is to reduce the carbon footprints of any input material, design process, and the printing process as a whole. Even small milestones can play a significant role in contributing to the printing industry’s journey to environmental sustainability.

To find out more information about OKI’s Environmental Challenge, click here.

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