Day 9: Charting Wide-Format Printing’s Course – Sustainability

14 days of critical information to prepare your business for 2012.

Big Picture

BPIC: Although it did not only take wide-format print providers into account, a recent Printing Industry Center at RIT survey indicated that 37 percent of print shops had a formal sustainability policy in place, while another 17 percent had an “informal” policy in place. Do you think that’s representative of our market as well? Do shops still endeavor to be green?

Marco Boer, I.T. Strategies: Sustainability is becoming a marketing checklist item. Virtually every single website of printshops that own an HP latex printer, for instance, list sustainability among the top three marketing messages. At the moment, it’s a “feel good” time, but over time we expect it to help printshops find ways to actually reduce costs, as the awareness of energy consumption of printing hardware, inventory inefficiencies, wasted prints, etc, becomes more commonplace. Rather than accepting those existing inefficiencies as part of the cost of doing business, printshops will profit from reducing their environmental footprint. The key is awareness of environmental issues, and that is certainly a hot topic.

Dan Marx, SGIA: Sustainability continues to have a strong place in our industry, and has become increasingly important as some of the print customer base (major retailers, manufacturers, and others) are requiring a certain environmental pedigree of their printers. This means that to even compete for the work, you must have a proven, formal sustainability plan in place. I would say to any printer that is looking at sustainability: Take it seriously and do it right. Sustainability is so much more than having a recycle bin in the office and a few low-VOC products on the shelf. True corporate sustainability is top down, bottom up, and pervasive in the company.

Peter Mayhew, Lyra: Absolutely yes. Apart from being fundamentally good business practice, it’s becoming a business generator, as more clients are demanding that their marketing collateral comes with fully demonstrable, green credentials. We also note that it’s when PSPs invest that the desire to act in a “green” way is most noticeable.

Art Wynne, BERTL: Most organizations are green to the point that they can afford to be green. For large-print providers that can afford it, investing in being green provides them with a great marketing pitch. For larger printing companies it’s often essential to their business that they have a program in place because of the large quantities of paper that they typically run. In wide format, waste is often found in lamination and finishing. Typically there is very little organizations can do to recycle in these two areas.

Tim Greene, InfoTrends: There’s no question that we in the US are behind other parts of the world in terms of “going green,” but it seems that demand for “green” wide-format printing and a willingness to pay a premium for it from the buyer side is lower than it is in other parts of the world as well. That said, it seems like demand for “green” printing is growing based on our print-buyer research, but I think there’s a real cost-savings element to why print buyers may want “green” prints – for example, maybe they want a lighter-weight substrate that would save them money on shipping costs. Anyway, based on what they told us in 2009 and then this year, it does seem like demand here in North America may have increased overall – but I’m sure this varies greatly by region.

The Big Picture has assembled five of the marketplace’s most informed analysts and consultants and asked them to help you evaluate the wide-format industry. Each day over the next two weeks, we’ll post a new, critical question from The Big Picture with invaluable answers from our panel – all designed to help you ensure that your company charts its best course for a prosperous year ahead.

Our 2011 panel participants include: Marco Boer, consulting partner, I.T. Strategies (www.it-strategies.com); Tim Greene, director, visual communication technologies consulting service, InfoTrends (www.infotrends.com); Dan Marx, vice president, markets & technologies, SGIA (www.sgia.org); Peter Mayhew, director, Lyra Research Europe (www.lyra.com); and Art Wynne, president, Business Equipment Research and Test Laboratories (BERTL, www.bertl.com).

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