Despite the growing adoption of sustainability programs in certain sectors, many industries lack comprehensive metrics and established best practices to effectively guide these green initiatives.
In the printing industry, for instance, consistency remains a significant problem. Some printing companies have responded aggressively to environmental challenges (more eco-friendly inks, process efficiencies, recycling, etc.). But, others have failed to show a clear commitment to sustainability matters. That’s a problem. First Research estimates that the US commercial printing industry includes some 35,000 companies with more than $100 billion in annual revenue. Obviously, printing has an enormous environmental impact –and sustainability is going to become an increasingly important driver of both competitiveness and profitability.
A new study from the Printing Industry Center at RIT deep dives into these issues with the intention of establishing a baseline for the current state of adoption and implementation of sustainability practices within the printing industry. The research found that:
- The term “sustainability” needs more consistent use and interpretation within the industry. More than one-quarter (27 percent) of the printing companies in the survey did not have a sustainability policy in place, at all. Among those that did have a policy, there was wide variation in how environmental, economic and social areas were addressed.
- Metrics are deficient. Early half of respondents (46 percent) were not actively developing sustainability-related metrics, while only 35 percent and 47 percent had reported activity on LCA and carbon footprinting, respectively. The study authors described the lack of familiarity with some of the better-known methods for quantifying environmental impacts and certifications programs as “surprising.”
- Printers use metrics inconsistently. While more than one-third of respondents (34 percent) did not report any influence on decision-making, the remaining fraction reported that metrics have a relatively large influence on marketing/image-related decisions. According to the Center, this suggests that consumers are being given information from competing firms that is most likely being developed in an inconsistent manner.
The report, titled “Exploring Existing Measures of Environmental Impacts of Print: A Survey of Existing Practices,” is available for download as a PDF from http://print.rit.edu/research/show/160. It’s a valuable start to help guide the industry toward a more sustainable future.