With a staggering 81% of global consumers reporting that they feel strongly that companies should help to improve the environment and some of the world’s biggest retail brands making ever bolder commitments to meet this demand, sustainability is no longer a matter of preference but a publicly-mandated business need.
The print industry has not traditionally been known for its stellar environmental credentials. With significant potentially harmful waste products such as solvents and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) involved in the production and use of inks and large-scale flexo and litho presses requiring huge amounts of electricity to run to name just a few, it’s perhaps no surprise that for many business owners the idea of overhauling their practices in the name of sustainability has seemed daunting and expensive.
That said, industry evolution means going green no longer needs to mean expense, with the sector adapting to create environmental solutions that offer benefits both ecologically and financially. In fact, thanks to these new developments and the dramatic increase in consumer demand, taking steps toward sustainability can deliver significant business benefits.
Boosting sales through sustainability
Given the intense scrutiny surrounding packaging as a result of the ‘Blue Planet effect’, brands, manufacturers and retailers across all sectors are looking to make sustainable shifts and changes wherever they can. While plastic reduction was the clear primary focus in the months immediately following the BBC programme’s broadcast in 2017, consumers’ wants and expectations continue to deepen when it comes to environmental issues. This means brands and retailers, and therefore the packaging industry, must take a holistic view and make adjustments wherever possible throughout the entire supply chain.
Though their demands are undeniably higher, consumers are willing to put their money where their mouths are and pay more for sustainable products; sales of fast-moving consumer goods, such as chocolate, coffee and bath products, with strong sustainability claims grew significantly faster than their respective overall categories. By adopting green practices and supporting their customers in an effort to be more environmentally friendly, printers can share in this growth, as well as opening up further opportunities with brands looking to enhance their sustainability credentials.
In particular, gaining the relevant ISO certification is a big factor in today’s market, as it serves as a clear and unequivocal assurance that a printer is operating in an environmentally responsible fashion. At Creation we have gained ISO 14001 accreditation, an international standard that specifies requirements for an effective environmental management system within a company, to demonstrate our deep-seated commitment to minimising our environmental impact.
Driving enhanced efficiency
Though it may feel counterintuitive at first glance, given much of achieving sustainability revolves around better use of resources, it makes sense that implementing environmentally-conscious business practices can help to drive enhanced efficiency, minimise costs and create a streamlined operation. The key to achieving a genuinely efficient business is mastering Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) – a process in which total business efficiency is assessed through thorough measurement and analysis. By measuring equipment availability, performance and quality across the production process, printers can identify areas of strength and gain a more comprehensive understanding of how to properly address any areas of weakness.
When it comes to sustainability, OEE can give printers clear touchpoints to measure the effectiveness of their green efforts and how those efforts are positively impacting the business as a whole. True sustainability is about so much more than simply the physical print process itself, it covers the whole spectrum of design, production and business choices, from anilox and ink selection right through to energy efficient machines and appliances and even down to the smallest office details like lightbulbs. Long-term, even the most miniscule changes can add up to big sustainability benefits and significant cost saving through enhanced efficiency.
To help printers achieve simultaneous process optimisation and sustainability enhancement, Creation has launched its online OEE calculator to demonstrate the benefits of using Asahi AWPTM photopolymer flexo plates, which are water washable and therefore not requiring the use of solvents, removing these potentially harmful chemicals from the wash-up process. Printers simply insert their typical set up and run scenario and the calculator will show the average OEE improvement they should expect switching to the Asahi AWP plate, often 30% or more.
As with all other businesses across the packaging supply chain, the retail sector and beyond, printers are feeling the push to adopt sustainable practices faster and more thoroughly than ever before. By taking a holistic approach to business assessment and proactively making environmentally friendly changes, printers can not only survive but thrive in today’s green age.
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