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Sustainability: The Print Buyer’s Perspective

(July 2013) posted on Sat Jul 27, 2013

Sophizio: Five steps a print shop can take toward earning a sustainability-driven partnership.


“Many times, big brands don’t recognize the opportunities for their sustainability goals to be achieved through their printing partners,” says Martine Padilla, president of Sophizio (sophizio.com), the Lawrence, Kansas-based consultancy that educates Fortune 500 companies on smart print procurement.

“They simply don’t realize what they don’t know about printing. When companies and organizations don’t understand print, they’re not able to identify or implement relevant or successful sustainability initiatives.”

At the same time, says Padilla, print providers often don’t recognize the tremendous opportunity toward becoming a preferred print partner of big brands through their own sustainability efforts.

“Big brands and print shops need each other to advance best practices when it comes to global sustainability,” she maintains.

Padilla provides the following five steps that a print shop can take toward earning a sustainability-driven partnership:

1. Know who you are and embrace it
• Clearly define and communicate who you are by sharing your core business expertise and mission statement.
• State how you are a specific “niche market print provider,” not just a “solution provider.” Although the latter title is used by some print shops to ensure they’re viewed as more than companies simply putting ink on paper, the “solutions” moniker also has a downside: It does not enable clients to quickly identify exactly what you can do for them.

2. Define your sustainability positioning
• Set and share objectives and goals; emotional, environmental, and fiscal goals are all important. Keep the four Ps in mind: people, planet, profits – and my favorite, prosperity.
• Own certifications endorsed by non-profit organizations (or non-governmental entities) and industry communities, which bring third-party verification and credibility to your efforts.

3. Identify the right clients for you
• Know your clients’ vision, mission, corporate-sustainability initiatives, and priorities. Clients are seeking supply-chain partners whose ideals align with their own; you should do the same.
• Grow sustainability best practices together with your client.
• Have more fun by earning clients with products for which you are already a brand advocate or category enthusiast.

4. Build a transparent relationship
• Increase discussions and reduce demands: Allow clients to understand your costs and margins in order to build a strategic partnership.
• Share more. In return, your client will likewise share more about what risks concern them and exactly what they are seeking in a sustainable relationship.
• Tell your sustainability story – from its inception, inspiration, and intangible results to the documented metrics, tangible ROI, and plans for continuous improvement.
• Live what you say you do 24/7; offer and be prepared for onsite audits.

5. Add unexpected value
• Educate, educate, and educate again – on how print projects are unique and how they are not widgets.
• Do not simply take orders; instead, perform what Sophizio refers to as Specification Rationalization on each and every project, including sustainability-driven improvements. By this we mean right-sizing a piece: maximum press sheet of right weight to fit on the right press and the right finishing equipment, enabling the most efficient production, finishing, mailing, and logistics plan – all toward reducing waste and costs.
• Position yourself as your client’s personal subject-matter expert of the printing industry and print-related sustainability.
• Understand your buyers’ corporate individual objectives and help them become a hero within their own organization.
• Lead.

Part of the Callahan Creek marketing agency, Sophizio helps its clients “reduce costs through strategic supply-chain partnerships while championing sustainability initiatives.” Its clients have included Fortune 500 companies such as Wal-Mart, Toyota Motor Sales USA, and others.


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