It’s generally agreed that the planet is in dire shape and that more needs to be done to cut emissions. Industry and science lead the way in all sectors, including printing and publishing, where we have seen impressive advances in energy efficiencies and consumables recyclability. But technology is only part of the solution to our climate crisis. The much bigger part is the part that requires organisations to work together on cutting emissions.

This takes working across and within supply chains to improve the sector’s environmental profile. But we still too often operate in silos, where the paper industry keeps its own council and printers are preoccupied with getting the next orders out the door. The space for information sharing and cooperation is dominated by industry associations and trade fairs who still do not talk to one another often enough.

The Sustainability Industry Forum recently established in the UK by the UK’s Independent Publishers Guild is an excellent example of how things might be different. The Sustainability Industry Forum is an idea that other countries might also want to consider. The objective is for leading trade associations to agree and coordinate plans for cutting environmental impacts.

An industry forum brings together different industry associations. Together they can work together on common projects, reduce duplication and share best practice, in a transparent and accountable way. In the UK there are six current Sustainability Industry Forum participants, including the leading book and publishing associations. The UK group has a central steering committee of twelve plus a chairman. Together they are responsible for agreeing the purpose of the group, its objectives and scope for actions. The group meets every quarter and is setting up various working groups to consider environmental impact improvements in supply chains including “transportation and the use of plastics”, end of life, paper and printing, and finishing and embellishments.

This is a laudable effort, but to really make a difference a Sustainability Industry Forum really does need to include representatives from the whole supply chain. Printing and finishing industry associations have much to contribute to the discussion as do paper and recycling folks. Let’s hope the core group of six adds members and that other countries take up the idea.

– 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 Graphics, EFI, Fespa, Fujifilm, HP, Kodak, Miraclon, Ricoh, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.