3M’s sustainability work is guided by three strategic principles: economic success, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility. The company uses lifecycle management tools to evaluate a product’s environmental impact prior to launch, and it continuously improves on products and processes through both innovation and Six Sigma principles. In February, 3M Commercial Graphics joined the non-profit Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP) as a Platinum Patron of the non-profit certification organization. “We recognize that what’s good for the environment can also be good for business,” stated Jean Sweeney, VP of 3M’s Environmental, Health, and Safety Operations. “Our sustainability efforts are focused both on reducing our environmental footprint and growing 3M through the creation of products that help our customers address their sustainability challenges.”
A sampling of SGP-certified LF print firms includes POP producer GFX International (Grayslake, IL), Infinity Images (Portland, OR), and Image Options (Foothill Ranch, CA), whose 11 printers include an Epson GS6000 Eco-Solvent and an Epson 11880 Aqueous, both up to 64 inches wide. In-store graphics provider Great Big Pictures (Madison, WI) uses low-VOC UV printing with a fleet of Durst wide-format, roll-to-roll, and continuous board-fed machines as well as VOC-free, aqueous inkjet technology from HP. Meisel (Carrollton, TX) features an e:Graphics line of environmentally conscious products (e:CoreBoard, e:DuraBoard, e:Poplin, e:Vinyl). The SPG-certified firm employs 100 percent VOC-free UV flatbed, roll-to-roll, and dye-sublimation printing processes.
In Maine, SGP-certified Designtex Digital Surfacing Imaging (formerly Portland Color) uses latex inkjet technology in the HP DesignJet L65500. The new aqueous ink eliminates VOCs and is designed to replace traditional solvent printing, yielding high resolution and color accuracy. The firm also can print direct-to-substrate (DTS) on its HP FB6100?UV curable flatbed and roll-to-roll printer, which is compatible with a range of substrates and media made from recycled and recyclable materials.
A “Wicked” Problem
When it comes to demanding greener solutions and alternatives, however, the media supply chain is different. “There’s not a comparable concentration of demand as in Wal-Mart’s case,” Carli noted. Even large retailers and wholesalers have the same fragmentation problem as printers: There are so many of them that it is difficult to make an environmental dent in the supply chain. Carli pointed to the example of consumer goods giant P&G, the world’s largest advertiser, which spends more than $9 billion per year on paid media. But with nearly half a trillion dollars spent globally on advertising in 2011, “even P&G doesn’t buy enough to implement truly sustainable practices,” he said. Carli calls it “a wicked problem…that’s not going away.”
In a greenish glint of hope, Carli mentioned that the non-profit organization Two Sides started up in the US last year. Begun in Europe in 2008 to promote the responsible production and use of printing and paper, Two Sides encourages the use of print as an attractive, practical, and sustainable communications medium. Its more than 1,000 members represent the entire print media supply chain, including major pulp and paper producers, merchants, brokers, ink and chemical manufacturers, prepress, press, printing, finishing, and publishing. Two Sides is now present in 12 countries with links to similar projects in Australia and Japan.
Carli sees evidence that such coalition is the answer, but the thrust needs to come from marketers, not from printers. We’re seeing the power of strength in numbers in Europe. Mundo Media (see sidebar), for instance, is not driven by printing or paper companies. “It is an organization of media buyers,” he explained. And PrintCity works cooperatively with Print Power, a European initiative dedicated to promoting print media through marketing and advertising.
One US green highlight, according to Carli, comes from the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), which is continuing its commitment to sustainability through a “Better Practices, Better Planet 2020” campaign. AF&PA is establishing the most extensive set of quantifiable sustainability goals for a major U.S. manufacturing industry. “We have an active dairy board and a meat board in this country,” Carli added, “so it’s about time we have an engaged paper/print board.”
AF&PA has set specific goals for increasing recovery of paper for recycling, increasing energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and promoting sustainable forestry practices, while continuing to strive for the safest workplaces possible for employees. The organization will provide transparent updates on its progress through a biennial Sustainability Report.