Sustainability is a buzz word, but it is so much more than that: awareness of the ecological footprint has been growing for a long time, and not just since “Fridays for Future”. The topic has also long since arrived in the print industry. As a raw material- and resource-intensive industry, it is under particular scrutiny by some customers. A recent report by the Bundesverband Druck und Medien (bvdm – German Printing and Media Industries Federation) shows that print and sustainable production are not mutually exclusive.
As the saying goes, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. One thing is also clear: Wherever printing takes place, paper, cardboard, film and, of course, inks are needed – it doesn’t really work without them. The demand for environmentally friendly and fair production is growing on the market at the moment, but it was there before. Environmental awareness has a long tradition in the printing industry. Since raw materials such as paper are practically (still?) indispensable for many products, production conditions and supply chains are coming under scrutiny. Of course, hardly anyone wants to print on pulp shredded from wildly deforested tropical woods just to save a few cents. But who is supposed to keep an eye on all the suppliers and their standards in addition to normal day-to-day business? The printing industry and its suppliers work with a variety of certificates for this purpose. The environmental labels promise the customer independently tested and clean production. Some of the inspection bodies, such as the seal of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), are themselves coming under criticism: they are accused of softening their standards and thus no longer being truly sustainable. Critical printing companies and consumers would therefore be well advised to check the auditors from time to time. A green label that loses its credibility ultimately harms everyone involved.
Despite the industry’s efforts, there is still a vague gut feeling among some consumers and critics against the environmental compatibility of print. The bvdm has now presented a study that should help to convince even skeptics of the sustainability of the printing industry: According to this study, the CO2 value of all printed products in Germany accounts for less than one percent of the footprint that a person leaves behind per year. According to the association, this makes print one of the most sustainable means of communication of all – and one of the most transparent: all emissions are accounted for directly during production. Hidden burdens, such as subsequent energy consumption, are avoided. Although the industry is already comparatively climate and environmentally friendly, many companies are going further: In addition to certificates, companies are now offering to make production climate-neutral for a surcharge through offsetting. You also get the feeling that there’s hardly a startup left that doesn’t have tree planting in its portfolio. That’s a good thing: Climate awareness is already an important topic for the future. Sustainability should not be a corporate gimmick, but a conviction. A green strategy is not only better for the planet, but also for the individual printing company: Sustainability is an important part of product quality and as such demanded by customers.