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Focus On

Energy Efficiency

With an ever-growing consumer demand for companies with a focus on environmental impact, Carys Evans takes a look at the different ways print businesses can go green

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There is increasing demand from consumers looking to invest in environmentally friendly companies

How to be more green

Given a recent surge in media coverage and documentaries highlighting the negative effect we are having on the Earth, more and more consumers are beginning to take notice of what they are buying into, with environmental impact climbing higher on the list of priorities. This means that now is as good a time as ever to reassess your business’ impact on the earth and strive to be a greener company.


More and more consumers are beginning to take notice of what they are buying into, with environmental impact climbing higher on the list of priorities

Going green is not only good for the environment but it can also improve sales. A survey commissioned by Close Brothers Asset Finance, found that 55% of consumers are willing to pay higher prices for goods and services from companies that have environmentally-friendly business practices. However, despite 71% of small to medium businesses (SMBs) saying they actively encourage employees to be more environmentally responsible, 76% favour cost of goods over environmental impact.

These results demonstrate decisions business owners are faced with – they want to be ethical in the choices they make but they need to protect their profits.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), solar power is the fastest growing energy source in the world

With an increasing demand from consumers, many companies are choosing to obtain the ISO 14001 Environment Management Standard certification which checks how a company is run and covers areas of pollution and compliance with environmental regulation. Companies can also obtain the ISO 50001 Energy Management certification.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) also accredits printers and promotes the use of paper from sustainable sources.

Although many companies are working to obtain such certifications, not all businesses are. Why might some choose not to obtain certification? For many SMBs cost can be a deciding factor.

As well as the initial cost for certifications such as the ISO and FSC, there is ongoing commitment and additional expense. Businesses may need to invest in time, training and literature to get employees ready for ISO implementation. Businesses also need to pay for two subsequent surveillance audits following certification. These are all factors to consider before deciding whether to obtain a certification.

Although ‘going green’ isn’t necessarily straight-forward and simple, the print industry is still leading the change. Through continual investment in new technologies and materials, print has significantly and steadily reduced its environmental impact. Wood and recovered paper, sustainable forestry, paper recovery systems, and forest certificate schemes are all part of the industry’s drive towards corporate social responsibility.

So, how can businesses in the print industry work to reduce their carbon footprint and boost their energy efficiency?

Going green

According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), buildings account for 30% of Carbon Dioxide emission globally, so reducing the footprint of your building is a really simple place to start. Adding effective insulation, triple-pane windows, and investing in solar water heaters or solar power can all reduce the footprint of a building.

When it comes to production, using digital print tends to be a more environmentally-friendly method. It eliminates waste as there is no need to print extra packs or to print stock that is then reprinted. Digital ink is also easier to extract in the recycling process as it is less absorbed by the paper than in traditional methods.

Using organic, vegetable-based inks is one way to reduce impact on the environment. The reason printers are turning to alternative inks is due to the fact that petroleum-based inks rely on crude oil, a non-renewable resource. Petrol and alcohol also evaporate during the printing process, releasing Volatile Organic Compound (VOCs) and affecting air quality.

Herbal tea company, PUKKA, prints its designs with vegetable ink onto recyclable card made from renewable sources.

The plastic casing that inks and toners come in can also be a cause for concern. KYOCERA, an environmentally focused manufacturer, has developed a Toner Take Back scheme which recycles over 600,000kg of used toners each year, building on the company’s investment in producing simplified toner cartridges which require fewer components and consume less energy in production.

By 2020, KYOCERA also aims to use its solar power generation systems to generate a carbon benefit which is three times greater than the carbon footprint for global operations.

Opting for LED lighting rather than florescent tubes could reduce power consumption by 60-70%

According to LED lighting company, Zeta Specialist Lighting, switching to LED lighting can reduce power consumption by 60-70%, making it a simple way to improve a business’ footprint. Zeta recently completed a £2m LED energy efficient street light upgrade for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and upgraded heritage lanterns in Bath. Following the project, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead has saved approximately 80% of its energy consumption and Bath is expected to see a 70% reduction – making the project cash-positive in just a short timescale.

Zeta explains that by switching to LED lighting from florescent tubes, businesses can benefit from this switch in both energy and cost savings.

Adrian Dennis, Zeta’s managing director says those making the move to LED can expect to receive a full turnkey solution from its light provider, including a full energy audit and site survey allowing them to know exactly how much energy usage there is and identify key areas for improvement.

He says: “A lighting design is proposed enabling you to achieve the best results in performance and savings, once you are happy with the design an energy and cost analysis is provided with details of your return on investment period, and energy, carbon, and cost savings. Following this, the LED lights can be installed,” explains Dennis.


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Factoid: A survey commissioned by Close Brothers Asset Finance, found that 55% of consumers are willing to pay higher prices for goods and services from companies that have environmentally friendly business practices.O


Starting small and working up to larger projects is the best way to begin, according to KYOCERA. “It’s important to take small steps at first. That may be something as small as using recyclable coffee cups in the office. Software can also be put to use to boost security and reduce the amount of printing wasted through duplicated print jobs,” says Nobuki Takada, general manager at KYOCERA’s marketing innovation centre. “Schemes such as KYOCERA’s Toner Take Back initiative offers companies an opportunity to contribute to the environment with just a few clicks, with no cost and even less time needed to be dedicated,” continues Takada.

The paper debate

You may have come across email sign-offs reminding you to consider the environment before printing its contents, or your bank may have encouraged you to go paperless. However, the view that paper is an unsustainable material is one that is being challenged. 

“We know from research that consumers continue to believe that using paper destroys forests. Encouraged by major companies to ‘switch to paperless billing as it is better for the environment’,” says Tandy Wakeford, events and membership manager at Two Sides, an educational not-for-profit organisation which challenges myths surrounding the sustainability of paper.

“This ‘greenwashing’ is hugely detrimental to the industry and requires our strongest response. Our anti-greenwash campaign has engaged with companies making these anti-paper statements and globally has changed the messaging of 353 organisations.”

To challenge such ‘greenwashing’, Two Sides runs a consumer-focused campaign called ‘Love Paper’ to educate on the responsible forestry in Europe. The Love Paper adverts appear regularly in the UK’s national and regional newspapers, reaching 30m people in the UK every year.

“Anyone familiar with the Two Sides messages will know that forests in Europe are not shrinking, but in fact are growing at a very healthy rate. Between 2005-2015, European forests grew by 44,000 sq km, that’s an area the size of Switzerland! Equally, paper is one of the most recycled materials, with a recycling rate of 72% in Europe,” Wakeford adds.

With a rise in the development of recycled paper, Jonathan Tame, managing director at CarbonCo, an environmental consultancy, defends the sustainability of ‘mainstream’ paper. “Paper from trees is a renewable source. Recycled papers are important but do require virgin fibre into the mix such as grass, bagasse, or even elephant poo in the first instance. These papers are often “boutique” and not manufactured in volume,” he says.

“The reality is where mainstream papers are manufactured in volume, often by modern, integrated mills, the impacts of these products are managed carefully. These alternative products may not be as beneficial as you may imagine if a full life cycle analysis is undertaken. Can they be recycled? Paper made from trees is a renewable resource that can be recycled and re-manufactured back into a new product.”

In a time of growing corporate responsibility, how can companies assure their consumers that they are reducing its impact on the environment?

Carbon Balanced Paper is an initiative administered by CarbonCo, where the average carbon impact for paper production is balanced, or offset, by the World Land Trust, through the preservation of high conservation forests. Through land purchase of forests under threat of clearance, carbon is locked, which would otherwise be released.

Ten species identified on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list for extinction are protected through Carbon Balancing. Picture: Bjornolesen.com/Viet Nature

The Carbon Balanced logo enables adopters to communicate clearly to their customers, and stakeholders, a commitment to reducing their carbon impacts and effects on climate change.

From 1st March 2018 – 31st December 2018, by using Carbon Balanced Paper for Print Monthly through the World Land Trust, 22,700 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide has been balanced (offset). This has enabled the World Land Trust to preserve 15,900m sq of critically threatened tropical forest at the World Land Trust Carbon Balanced Paper Project sites. 

Tame says: “Printers, designers, publishers, print management, and other communications companies can add real value to their customers simply through the selection of paper. Using Carbon Balanced Paper can deliver on their customers’ corporate responsibilities and help them meet their carbon reduction objectives.”

Play the long game

Iggesund Paperboard is part of the Swedish Forest Group and has been conscious of its environmental impact for over thirty years – investing millions to increase its energy efficiency and reduce fossil emissions. “Within the Swedish forest industry, we started to discuss the effects of global warming back in the eighties. Iggesund Paperboard implemented this thinking and other environmental concerns into investment processes and strategic directions as a consequence of what we see happening,” Johan Graås, sustainability director of Iggesund Paperboard, explains.

Johan Graås, sustainability director at Iggesund Paperboard

Through its various environmental efforts, Iggesund Paperboard has found that there are lots of continuous factors to balance such as cost, time, and the task of maintaining standards once you reach them. “It can be challenging to meet the more stringent environmental requirements that are imposed on us. We are operating huge sites with a lot of capital bound in machinery and buildings. To change set-up or make larger changes in our processes is extremely costly and takes time. In today’s business environment there is little understanding of this aspect.”

Graås believes a strong economy is vital to maintaining long-term green practices. “We spent over €380m (£335m) on our Swedish mill and €180m (£158.6m) on the UK mill in Workington on the most recent major upgrades to our energy systems. And those projects took more than two years from start to completion. With such timescale it is difficult to jump on all green trends. We have to work long term and focus on the real issues.”


Producing things that there is no real demand for, cheaper than the next guy is not a future as we see it. Get the knowledge, do the analysis and act accordingly

It seems that having your mind firmly set in the future and developing a clear plan is crucial to maintaining environmental goals. “Some of the things you take on will require investments and to be sustainable that also means to be profitable. Think about what you can do that brings us forward and you will find that there is a demand for it. Producing things that there is no real demand for, cheaper than the next guy is not a future as we see it. Get the knowledge, do the analysis and act accordingly.

Takada says: “Every business faces a challenge when looking to prioritise sustainability, but it can be hugely beneficial to companies beyond simply contributing to the environment. Often being more environmentally friendly is strongly linked to being more efficient and reducing operating costs such as through a saving in energy use.

Iggesund Paperboard’s Workington Mill

“Another argument against dedicating resources to environmentally friendly projects is often that they are time consuming. In reality, the first steps towards being more sustainable are to make your existing ways of working more environmentally friendly, rather than setting up whole new projects dedicated to doing just that.

“Once those initial impacts have been made, it is easier to find time to look into significantly rewarding projects such as volunteering, which offer real value from the point of view of HR and can really motivate a workforce.”

“There are probably some quick wins, but the long-term success is highly dependent on your ability to implement a holistic view on sustainability in your organisation,” adds Graås.

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