Drupa 2020 is off until April 2021, which hopefully will give the organisers time to rethink their sustainability strategy. The event originally conceived for this year was to have had other priorities than sustainability. The speaker programme includes relatively limited sustainability input, for instance Achim Halpaap, a senior advisor from the United Nations Environmental Programme was to have been talking about sustainability in the printing and packaging industry with a particular focus on trends, tools and leadership. Laudable but with no focus on the printing industry’s challenges. An afternoon to discuss the circular economy and in packaging were also planned, so printing companies and manufacturers will miss the opportunity to learn about the circular economy. A feature called Touchpoint Packaging was expected showcase new designs for reducing packaging quantities ,as well as designs for new substrates that can be more readily recycled. This could be extended for 2021 to include workflow control and management, particularly for designers who want to create more sustainable packages.

The folks at Drupa 2020, now Drupa 2021 say that sustainability is a “high priority” in all of the forums and that it will be woven into all discussions. But there needs to be a much stronger focus on sustainability in both the Cube sessions and in Touchpoint Packaging. It isn’t enough to “sensitise visitors and companies alike to be economical with resources”, even though this is a good starting point. The DRUPA 2021 organisers emphasise that “economic growth can be increased by sustainable production and circular economy … [and] sustainability is interwoven with digital transformation”. They add that the objective with the conference and related sessions is to “strengthen the production on demand for a lower environmental impact”.

For many printers it should be a given that they need to work more closely with customers and partners to be more effective when it comes to waste management. This should lead to a lower environmental impact. The problem for many printing companies is that they have only limited understanding of the tools available to them and their supply chains for cutting waste. ISO standards are an important part of the picture and yet they do not figure at all in the Drupa conference programmes.

Businesses in all industrial sectors need practical guidance, guidance they can apply to their businesses. In the graphics industry, as in others, this comes down to ideas and raising awareness of what’s already been achieved and what is relatively easy to achieve, such as process automation and control. We are in the data business, so managing data more effectively provides sustainability savings plus new business opportunities. And who knows, it might get us to a circular economy within print sooner rather than later.

– Laurel Brunner

This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa GraphicsEFIFespaFujifilmHPKodakRicohSpindrift, Splash PRUnity Publishing and Xeikon.