The Independent Print Industries Association (IPIA) held its Autumn Conference on 1 September to tackle critical trends affecting the UK print industry.

Speakers at the event, which took place at the Manufacturing Technology Centre, Coventry, addressed how businesses can increase their environmental sustainability and how to ensure they are protecting the productivity and health of their teams by implementing well-being practices at work.

The conference opened the floor for discussion on how businesses can improve their environmental efforts, especially in light of upcoming legislation changes.

Proposed government legislation will mean printers will be asked to demonstrate their sustainability credentials more and more. The conference heard how it is also becoming a driving factor from customers deciding which print businesses to use.

First up was Lawrence Green, managing director of Greens the Signmakers and Digiprint, who explained how he installed 208 solar panels at his 26,000sqft factory at the beginning of the year to combat rising energy costs and become more self-sufficient.

Mr Green, who took over the helm in 2018, said his first focus was to refurbish the print room and extend the company’s wide-format offering. He soon installed a HP R2000 Latex printer as it uses water-based ink, meaning the material will be recyclable after use.

Mr Green said, ‘We didn’t need to buy a new printer. I wanted the HP Latex machine purely to push the environmental aspect. I looked out of my window and see the vans leaving laden with print and I know most of that is going to end up in landfill. That just didn’t sit right with me.’

Andy Place of RPM Digital highlighted how embracing sustainability has actually helped his business succeed by taking on new multi-channel campaigns and offering print-on-demand portals as a managed service. RPM exploited the power of its XMPie personalisation software to deliver a campaign for Dorset Wildlife Trust aimed at raising awareness of the role that bees play in pollination of crops.

The campaign, called ‘Get Dorset Buzzing’, saw Mr Place and the team deliver different messages and collateral to different types of people, involving video, articles, newsletters and pictures. Every part of the campaign was personalised to the recipient, which differed according to the experience the recipient has and the size of their garden.

Carbon impact ‘interventionists’ Tom Charles and Rob Pink of Sku Driver advised business owners on how to make products align to the highest possible carbon emissions reduction standards. The pair warned how the print industry will be greatly affected by new legislation by 2029, and advised how it makes very good business sense to start the sustainability journey now rather than later.

Mr Charles said, ‘We once had a client who had double the carbon emissions of Fiji and they were shocked. Our sole focus is to decarbonise and replace plastics used in traditional point of sale materials to help our clients begin their sustainability journey.’

John Conroy of Bradford-based Claremon uses sustainability as a tool to educate customers and has been involved in inspiring schemes such as the Resea Project; a portion of Claremon’s profits goes towards the charity.

The company’s sustainability focus is to hit Net Zero by 2023, reduce its carbon footprint, reduce plastic waste, reduce waste sent to landfill and improve the local environment. Via its support for Resea, the company has removed more than 50,000 bottles from the oceans since February 2022.

Mr Conroy added, ‘It is not good enough to talk the talk, you need fundamental change in your business to walk the walk. We are not perfect, we are not eco-warriors and we do not profess to be. But we have won new work where sustainability is a key concern for the client in terms of their print production partner.’


Help is at hand

Wellbeing at work was another topic widely discussed at the conference, spurred on by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and a shift in working patterns. Speakers at the event advised attendees on how to create a healthy environment, reduce stress, and increase productivity.

Marcus Timpson, founder of FuturePrint, was very candid about his own mental health journey in his presentation on ‘taking back control in a time of great uncertainty’.

Mr Timpson, who joined the print industry in 2006 developing the Fespa exhibition, said, ‘Covid has been brutal for our mental health and wellbeing. Since lockdown finally ended, it seems the world is more chaotic, uncertain and stressful. We all know that we need to embrace new methods of improving our wellbeing.’

He explained business owners should find a ‘middle way’ and do more of what makes them happy in order to live a sustainable life and lead a company properly. He added, ‘Why do so many of us do jobs we dislike, in order to have a lifestyle we cannot afford, and is this at all sustainable for life and health?’

The Printing Charity, founded in 1827, told attendees about its helpline service, where members of the print industry can find free and confidential practical, emotional and financial support 365 days a year. The service is also available to immediate family members.

Marianna Steel, relationships manager at the charity, said, ‘Offering wellbeing support for your staff can help them to address any physical, emotional and mental health concerns they may have, and prevent personal issues from impacting on their work.’

The emotional helpline is available 24 hours a day. All counsellors are members of and accredited to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). Members can discuss anything that may be troubling them, from relationships and stress, to work related issues including bullying, motivation or conflict.

Chloe Thompson, who joined specialist recruitment consultancy Harrison Scott Associates in 2013, concluded the event with a talk about how to demonstrate a commitment to staff’s physical, mental and financial wellbeing so that it creates a company culture people want to be part of. In turn, this will help build a platform that enables recruitment.

Ms Thompson asked, ‘All companies within this sector are making a great effort to become environmentally-conscious, so what else do printers need to do in order to attract and retain the best talent?’

She discussed the benefits of working from home and how the pandemic affected productivity levels. According to the company, 40.9% of homeworkers reported that they were able to get as much work done in June 2020 as they were six months later. A total of 28.9% said they got more work done and 82% of workers who worked at home during lockdown would like to continue in some capacity.

Running concurrently with the event, a supplier expo – showcasing all the latest media and technology – took place with companies such as Antalis, BCR Associates, Canon, Duplo, Fujifilm, HP, Imprint MIS, Konica Minolta, PrintIQ, Tharstern, Vivid, Worksthing, Xerox and XMPie.

General manager of the IPIA Brendan Perring said, ‘It’s becoming ever more critical that print businesses and our entire supply chain understand what it really means to be sustainable.’