Digital documents are increasingly becoming the default option in European legislation and communications. Against this digital-only approach, the leading European print and paper industry associations have now joined forces and issued a joint statement. In it, they not only draw attention to critical aspects such as participation and accessibility for all people or the ecological footprint, but also warn of the consequences for the printing industry.
The joint statement by Intergraf (European umbrella organization of the printing industry), CEPI (Confederation of European Paper Industries), UNI Europa graphical & packaging (federation of employees in the graphic arts and packaging industry), FEPE (federation for envelopes and for light and e-commerce packaging in Europe) and industriAll (interest group for employees in industry in Europe) points out, among other things, that the EU Commission’s emphasis on digital transformation has already led to the extensive elimination of printed paper products in numerous pieces of EU legislation, such as industrial and medical products and other consumer information.
Digital change is important, but so is inclusion
The associations are not concerned with denouncing the digital – because they also recognize the importance of the digital transformation, they say. However, they are critical and “not neutral” about the approach of making digital the standard and offering communication and documents exclusively in digital form. “For an inclusive digital transformation that respects the fundamental rights of access to information for all, print is indispensable,” says Intergraf, for example.
For example, the one-sided “promotion of digital technologies over printed paper can lead to social exclusion,” which particularly affects older people, people with disabilities, people with limited incomes or without digital skills – and thus more than one-third of EU citizens. Those who focus exclusively on digital communication are also taking social and economic risks, the associations conclude.
Sustainability of paper and printing
In the joint declaration, however, the associations are not only concerned with participation, but also with emphasizing the sustainability of paper and printing and their role in the European circular economy. The ecological footprint of digital solutions is hardly taken into account any more, they say, even though data centers, servers and the like consume an extreme amount of energy and at the same time generate a great deal of electronic waste. In addition, this would “perpetuate misleading stereotypes about paper that harm the print media and their industries and are not based on scientific findings.”
Print industry takes a hit
The increasingly practiced digital-first or digital-only approach, the associations further explain, also has a negative impact on companies in the printing industry, which nevertheless make an important contribution to growth, democracy, (opinion) formation and inclusion with their products. Thus, large digital companies, often headquartered outside the EU, would be strengthened disproportionately and at the expense of local, small and medium-sized enterprises.
Finally, the European printing and paper associations formulated four basic recommendations or requests to EU policymakers in their statement:
- EU policymakers should refrain from implementing a standard digital or digital-only approach in European legislation.
- Print should always be considered in parallel with digital communication.
- EU legislation should consider the environmental and recyclable value of paper products in the context of the current climate crisis.
- EU legislation should consider everything relevant, including (in particular) circularity, inclusion and choice.
For the detailed joint statement of Intergraf, CEPI, UNI Europa graphical & packaing, FEPE and industriAll in text click here.