Five things to ask your printer when buying sustainably.

Marketing departments the world over have cottoned on to the fact that ‘green’ sells. Just as a company always supplies ‘quality’ goods and services, companies the world over are now all ‘green’.

So how do you know the company you are buying printing services from provides these in a ‘sustainable’ manner?

Q: Does the company have a green ethos or does is simply make generic and bland statements?

A: Many companies make meaningless and unconvincing statements to project a green image. Therefore ask to speak to the Directors of the company and feel convinced that they understand and are driven by sustainable goals. If they are reluctant to speak to you or try to pass you over to someone else within the organisation then tread carefully.

The web site has a number of examples of claims made by organisations that are marketing exercises with little validity. Make sure the sustainable goals of the company are generated and monitored by the owners of the business – not the marketing department!

Similary companies that have a ‘green’ range of products in additional to non green products can hardly have sustainability at their core.

Q: Does the company only refer to paper when making environmental claims?

A: The production of paper has significant environmental impacts and therefore the choice of paper used in a printed job is very important. However, printing companies that offer to print on recycled paper or FSC paper as a claim to being sustainable probably don’t understand the issues of waste, VOC’s, process efficiency and energy which are key internal indicators of a sustainable printing company. Simply printing on FSC or recycled paper means they have to do very little (or nothing) about the real issues. They will probably want to charge you more also!!

Q: Does the company have any environmental awards or accreditations?

A: Sustainability in business is a big issue. British business accounts for the same amount of carbon emmisions as does transport. In the last few years there have been numerous awards set up that reward businesses that make genuine commitments to a sustainable agenda. Has the printing company you use been recognised by sustainable business awards. If not, why not?

Accreditations such as ISO14001 are also good indicators of environmental status. However, with these accreditations it is important to note that they do not suggest an environmental standard. Rather, they suggest that the organisation is involved in a process of improvement. It is quite possible for a poor performing company to achieve ISO14001 accreditation as long as it presents some indication (no matter how little) of improvement. A criticism of the ISO accreditation system is that environmental status can be ‘bought’ rather than earned and many companies go through the process in order to qualify for tenders with little commitment to sustainability.

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