Sustainability: To Pay or Not to Pay

We see it and hear about it every time we turn around. Green. Eco-friendly. The trends toward sustainable products touches on the products we use as a consumer and how we run our businesses each day.

However, the quest for sustainability in the wide-format market presents both an exciting opportunity for businesses and a challenge for everyone, according to Rick Scrimger, VP/General Manager for Roland DGA (Booth 4338). “Across the industry, there is a trend toward more sustainable business practices including cartridge recycling and the development of eco-friendly inks and media. The definition of ‘green’ continues to evolve, and we expect standards to be put in place in the near future,” says Scrimger.

“The biggest immediate challenge we face as an industry is simply defining the term. The good news is we aren’t alone,” says Mark Overington, VP of Marketing, EFI VUTEk (Booth 2000). “The terms are highly subjective. The industry has made some good strides forward in developing recycled substrates, printers with greater energy efficiency and an overall reduction in VOC’s. However, there’s still a lot of misleading information and general confusion about what products are truly ‘green’ out there.”


Model brings challenges

Sustainability is one of the industry’s greatest challenges in part because so much revolves around economic benefits and challenges, according to Marco Boer, Vice President, I.T. Strategies.

As Yariv Avisar, VP and General Manager, Scitex Large-Format Printing, HP, (Booth 1200) points out, end-users want to get their product cheaper, faster, at a higher quality and with a fast turnaround time. “Customers are not usually willing to compromise on any of these points just to go green, so the PSP is left struggling to cover costs,” he says.

The majority of wide-format executives concur. “The cost of sustainability continues to be the largest hurdle to overcome,” says EFI’s Overington. “A common response we get from customers is that many brand managers and print buyers will specify sustainable solutions, but they’ll typically opt for less expensive alternatives.

“The biggest challenge is whether the end user is willing to pay a premium for sustainable products,” says Sal Sheikh, VP, Marketing at Océ North America (Booth 1217). “Second to that, is the burden on the manufacturer to ensure that all elements of the production process subscribe to sustainable practices—from the substrate to the ink to the method of freight delivering raw goods for manufacturing. It even translates into end product packaging. If one of these elements is not sustainable in nature, it will compromise the sustainable initiative/integrity by that company.”

Print shops need to keep “expenses under control without sacrificing product quality,” says Mark Radogna, Group Product Manager, Professional Imaging, Epson America (Booth 617). The current “model” of printing green, however, calls for premium pricing—which can lead to challenges and loss of revenues.

“If print service providers have to charge a big premium to print ‘green’ then I think it will be a long, tough challenge to convince buyers that these are additional costs they have to pay,” says Tim Greene, Director, Wide Format, InfoTrends. “There are companies that have taken a holistic approach that have dropped disposal costs, reduced energy consumption costs, taken advantage of tax incentives etc. to drive costs out of their business to offset higher materials costs that allow them to be more cost competitive with ‘green’ printing. If you don’t do those things, and you try to charge your customers more—you will see very limited success in the current market given the competitive nature of this marketplace.”

Manufacturers are not immune to the challenges of a greening industry. Costs of raw materials are high and customers are demanding high quality alternatives to the more ink chemistries and equipment currently on the market. “One problem is that many green technologies are not able to deliver the performance characteristics of current technologies,” says Roland’s Scrimger. “Customers demand image quality and durability and we look forward to developing and implementing future green technologies that meet these high demands.”

“As an industry, we need to help focus the message where wide-format print is sustainable, and what is being done to minimize the impact of the raw materials that are used,” says I.T. Strategies’ Boer.

“The biggest challenges in wide-format have to do with the coating of medias, imaging inks, the recyclability of equipment and parts, consumable containers and waste toner,” says Rich Gigl, Vice President of Marketing, KIP, (Booth 1658).

“Manufacturers are working very hard, through better technology, ink efficiency, ink formulation, more easily recyclable media, media recycling programs, etc., to facilitate sustainability,” says InfoTrends’ Greene.