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Doing the Right Thing

(April 2014) posted on Mon Apr 21, 2014

How to balance your company’s needs with government regulations and customer demand for products that are environmentally friendly and cost effective.


By Rick Mandel

Closed-loop material cycle: The traditional manufacturing cycle involves extracting raw materials from the earth, forming them into the product, using them, and then disposing them in a landfill. This is known as the material line. With a closed loop, or cradle-to-cradle cycle, materials are extracted, formed into products, and recycled into other materials after the product’s useful life. This system reduces landfill waste as well as the harmful extraction of raw materials.

End of life: The ultimate destination of a P-O-P display, poster, or banner after it has served its purpose in-store is sometimes out of the hands of the producer or designer, but it’s important to recognize that an intelligent design can play a significant part in the outcome. Consider a display in which plastic and metal components are glued to one another instead of being bolted or clipped together. The first approach will be much more difficult to reuse or recycle than the second.

Sustainable graphics production
In 2008, four major trade associations—Printing Industries of America (PIA), Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA), Flexographic Technical Association (FTA), and National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers—started an initiative to encourage sustainable practices in the printing industry. The result was the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP, www.sgppartnership.org), a fantastic step towards changing the printing industry’s mindset toward environmental responsibility.

Similar to the POPAI program, SGP involves a certification process designed to warrant that sustainable practices are used throughout a printing company. Prior to SGP, no parameters existed that defined what a printing company actually does to be considered sustainable. “Green” products were marketed to printers, but they didn’t address the manufacturing process. As explained on the Partnership’s website, SGP evaluates three main criteria during the certification process to evaluate a company’s sustainability endeavors:

• The Product, including the materials used to produce products such as substrates, inks, and coatings.
• The Process used in the printing facility, including the printing equipment and supporting technology.
• The Envelope, meaning the facility in its entirety, including energy consumption, employees, and supporting activities.

SGP-certified printers can promote themselves as organizations that have tighter production guidelines, are more efficient, and are ecologically responsible. Today’s global marketplace requires you to stand out and differentiate yourself from the competition, and having independent confirmation of your sustainable practices can be a factor that sets you apart. Investing in sustainability is not only a sound business practice, can reduce your overhead costs and your environmental footprint.

SGIA also offers a 4-Step Sustainability Action Plan that can help you integrate sustainable practices in your organization. It’s based on the Plan/Do/Check/Act model, with suggested steps and resources provided at each stage covering everything from securing top management commitment to identifying and resolving challenges after a sustainability initiative has been implemented. More information is available at www.sgia.org/graphic_imagers/govt/sustainability/index.cfm.

SGIA members can also participate in peer–to–peer network groups to discuss sustainable business practices. The group meets every other week and is led by Marci Kinter, SGIA’s vice-president of government and business information. Contact Marci at govtaffairs@sgia.org for more information.

Final thoughts
Consumers care about doing business with responsible companies. They want to buy products that such companies produce, and sustainability will increasingly influence their purchasing decisions in the future. In several consumer product categories, sustainability-related considerations have risen in comparison to conventional buying factors such as brand image and whether the product is seen as being a premium or luxury item.

You need to be a part of this wave. We haven’t yet seen the full effects in the P-O-P and signage industries yet, but we will. The price and performance of alternate technologies have been the biggest impediments. Having a sustainability program seems to go hand in hand with being a well-run shop that makes a quality product—the first time, every time. I truly believe that as individual companies and as an industry, we want to be seen as responsible businesses that do the right thing.

What’s our next step at Mandel? We’re looking into SGP certification.

 


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