European initiatives and a push for greener manufacturing by multinational corporations are factors that are beginning to have an impact on specialty printing companies in the US. Learn what the pressure to standardize health and safety regulations and adopt sustainable business-operation methods means for your company.
Sustainability means creating a better quality of life for all people now, and for generations to come, and using the planet’s resources at a rate at which nature is able to replenish them. It’s a smart way of doing business, and a method that is increasingly in demand in our competitive global economy.
With sustainability strategies, prosperity, fairness, and a healthy environment are all interrelated—each of these elements can only sustain its existence indefinitely when the others are in balance. A sustainable business strives to achieve high standards by creating value for its investors, customers, suppliers, employees, and communities.
The printing industry will continue to be an integral part of the world’s manufacturing community. Print plays a vital role in communication, education, and daily existence. The printing industry understands its effect on the natural world and accepts responsibility to continue its efforts to reduce its over-all environmental impact.
As an industry sector, we are being asked to print on biodegradable products, compostable products, and with green ink systems. The difficulty lies in the definition of these terms, and the important fact that consistent definitions or benchmarks do not exist for the printing industry. The second most important concept to grasp when considering sustainability is that there is no silver bullet that a company can implement that will instantly make them sustainable. Recycling products and using less solvent in production are great goals, but they do not create a sustainable company. A sustainable company develops a strategy to integrate principles of people, profit, and planet into its business framework.
Sustainable businesses adopt strategies and activities that allow the enterprise and its stakeholders to realize their profit goals in ways that protect, sustain, and restore the earth’s life support systems for future generations. Ultimately, the printing industry strives to become sustainable by incorporating principles of economic, corporate, and social responsibility, as well as environmental stewardship, into business operations while adhering to sustainable business practices.
In the long run, sustainable practices can help specialty imaging companies to lower their operation costs, gain a competitive advantage in the market, and maintain a loyal customer and employee base. It has often been said, “Sustainability will be successful because it is economically sound,” because a bus-iness seeking sustainability is developing meaningful, long-term economic, environmental, and societal policies in its overall makeup.
To help the printing facility start down the pathway of sustainability, the Sustainable Green Printing (SGP) Partnership was born. The group was formed by a collection of printing industry trade organizations, including the Printing Industries of America/Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (PIA/GATF), the Flexographic Technical Association (FTA), and SGIA. The intent of this coalition is to provide direction for the printing industry, as well as develop consensus on the use of terms within the industry. The goal of the SGP partnership is to create a registry of printers who are truly moving down the sustainability path. Presently SGP is developing criteria that printing companies will be required to meet before being recognized as operating as sustainable businesses and earning an SGP Printer designation. More information about the coalition can be found at www.sgppartnership.org. Our global economy dictates that a facility look beyond its traditional backyard. We are operating within a different paradigm. Not only will we need to respond to regulatory challenges at home and abroad, but also to new pressures for responsible and sustainable business operation that originate from within the marketplace.
Marcia Y. Kinter is vice president for government and business information with SGIA. She represents association members before federal and state regulatory agencies and the US Congress on environmental, safety, labor, trade, and other issues directly impacting screen-printing and graphic-imaging businesses. Kinter is a member of the Academy of Screen Printing Technology.
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