The Starting Point For A Sustainability Programme For Print Businesses

The Starting Point For A Sustainability Programme
Credit: Michael Olsen,

Laurel Brunner of the Verdigris Project writes that sustainability one-upmanship from service providers will be a good thing for the printing industry, as long as it’s based on facts and actions.

Getting with environmental sustainability is important for the planet, but most print service providers do it for their clients. Appealing to the environmental sensitivities of customers and prospects is why more and more companies are touting their environmental credentials. This must go beyond flimsy commitments such as using sustainably sourced papers or motion-sensitive lighting. These are worthy efforts, but far more needs to be done. Fortunately, the market is starting to demand more concrete efforts from their supply chains.

A sustainability programme should be based on achievable targets as part of a long-term plan. Goals and progress towards them should see the business reduce its environmental impact over time. The obvious place to start with this is with ISO 14001, which provides requirements and guidance for environmental management systems.

This standard can be described as pretty loose in that it can be implemented on a very general level in the beginning. Over time, its implementation will gradually get more rigorous, but it is an easy place to start with one’s sustainability programme. ISO 14001 is all about management, so once one aspect of the business gets under control one can focus on something else. Starting with energy management is an easy win. Ensuring that the equipment used is energy efficient and that lights are turned off when offices and factories are closed is simple to achieve. As one aspect of the business gets under control, focus can shift to more demanding stuff such as waste handling or reducing the use of hazardous materials.

The goal for the business is to develop and implement policies and management processes that make improvements part of the natural business cycle. Just as a business regularly reviews its cash flows, so it should be reviewing its environmental impact criteria and performance and ISO 14001 can help with this.

The starting point for a sustainability programme depends on the size and nature of the business, but key to change is ensuring engagement at all levels of the organisation. There can be no improvements without everyone’s commitment and everyone’s active involvement. It comes down to people and behaviours, so setting up a workable system is almost more important than setting up the targets. Fortunately ISO 14001 is only 36 pages long and only 27 of them are the meat of the document, so not too much to read.

ISO 14001 is about continual improvement of a business’s environmental management processes. It can provide a vital reference point for customers, whether through formal certification or self-declaration. An environmental management system should do what it says on the tin, but it should also support competitive and strategic goals for the business,  and that is what sustainability is all about.

This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. Verdigris is supported by: FESPA (, Fujifilm (, HP (, Kodak (, Practical Publishing (, Miraclon (, Unity Publishing ( and Xeikon (


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