According to a white paper published by sustainable print exhibition, EcoPrint 2012, Europe’s printers are concerned that confusion over standards for sustainable printing is preventing print’s eco-message from getting through to buyers.

The Print Sustainability Standards and Communication white paper, produced by Print and Media Certification Ltd (PMC), is based on a survey of European printers where just 7.3% of respondents said they believed print is effectively communicating its message about sustainability.

The paper also found that smaller printers are being discouraged from taking the first steps to sustainability because of the perceived cost of adopting standards, and the difficulty in determining why and how to make that first leap towards, for them at least, a very high bar.

According to the paper, print needs to start work now on developing simple and effective ways to communicate the sustainability of the whole print process to buyers. Accessible standards focussing on the entire printing process and recognising the value of those taking the first steps as well as those with the highest standards is the natural place to begin.

Marcus Timson, Director, EcoPrint, said, It’s obvious that a lack of clarity when it comes to sustainability is holding us back. If the industry is to ensure its enduring relevance for the future then it must open up an accessible and frank debate on print’s current strengths and admit where there’s room for improvement – if we clarify the discussion internally, together, then it will be easier to communicate to external audiences.

Print Sustainability Standards and Communication is available to download free for those who register to attend EcoPrint 2012 in Berlin on 26/27 September. It also features three exclusive case studies from a certified printer (Erler+Pless, Hamburg), the designer and owner of the POPAI UK & Ireland standard and a specialist green printer (Addison Design).

The white paper is sponsored by INX Digital, whose president Ken Kisner said, The research reveals some interesting insights and goes some way to confirming our feeling that confusion over the definition of sustainable print is in part responsible for the industry’s general inertia. Perhaps EcoPrint’s biggest contribution will be as a platform for enabling this discussion between the industry’s leaders to take place. In that respect, it’s a discussion that almost no-one can afford to be left out of.

The full paper analyses the results of the survey in detail, uncovering revealing insights such as:

– The top three standards which were most quoted as useful for printers seeking to be more environmentally sustainable were ISO 14001, FSC/PEFC and carbon footprints. 56% indicated ISO14001 as useful, 49.2% FSC/PEFC, and 32.6% carbon footprinting.
– When asked if a new standard focussed on providing print buyers with information regarding sustainable innovation would be a positive thing 45.2% agreed, 36.3% said maybe and only 18.5% didn’t agree.
– 50.4% were certified to an environmental standard, and a variety of reasons were cited for not being certified: 40.5% thought it too costly and time consuming, 31% didn’t see it as necessary as customers did not require it, and a further 27% saw no need at all.

The paper’s author, Jon Stack, Director and founder of PMC said, The results of the survey undertaken make it clear that print is not getting its sustainable message across to print buyers and consumers of printed and other media. This is partly due to the wide range and nature of the standards adopted, but also that many small companies in the sector, which make up a large proportion of the industry, believe that it is costly and difficult to reach the standards set, and so are deterred from changing their business practices. The challenge for the owners and developers of standards, those who implement them, and the industry in general, is to communicate the good news about print’s sustainability to buyers and consumers in a simple and effective way that focuses on the whole printed product.

Print Sustainability Standards and Communication can be downloaded by registering on the EcoPrint website: