Footprints with a lighter touch

Print media’s carbon footprint can be dramatically reduced by taking environmental concerns into account at every stage of the creative process – from planning to disposal. Tim Weissberg reports

Footprints%20in%20the%20sandWith increasing public scrutiny on corporate social responsibility and the media waiting to pounce on any company that slips up in its efforts to help the environment – as Sainsbury’s discovered when it was revealed that its eco-friendly, reusable bags were made in allegedly unethical conditions in China – it has never been more important to make sure print marketing materials come from sustainable sources and can easily be recycled.

As Adrian Watts, chairman at retail marketing agency Live & Breathe, says: “The environmental impact starts with the creative process and doesn’t end until the print has been delivered, used and recycled.

“The marketing industry has always been ‘wasteful’ in some people’s eyes,” he continues. “However, by reducing waste through better targeting and better research into print formats and suitability, we can maximise use. On top of this there is nothing worse than producing material that never sees the light of day and, while monitoring and ensuring compliance will not reduce the environmental footprint of our work, it does achieve maximum benefit from the financial cost and the environmental cost.”

So, environmental concerns should not just be introduced into the proceedings when it comes to selecting the materials used. They should be taken into consideration at all stages of the creative process.

“No one would suggest that the creative process should be completely constrained by environmental concerns, but once the chosen creative treatment has been passed there can be ways of addressing environmental concerns without harming the creative and, in fact, this can sometimes enhance the creative,” says Watts. “A good example is Live & Breathe’s ‘Less is More’ work for Hi-Tec in support of the Hi-Tec V Lite. By printing onto recycled brown stock we were able to reinforce the creative strategy.”

Using material from sustainable sources is obviously a good way to ensure print marketing is environmentally friendly. “When sourcing marketing materials, check they are from sustainable sources. This can best be confirmed by ordering accredited stock such as FSC or PEFC,” says Nick Barbeary, sales director of printing company Howitt.

The accreditation bodies Barbeary refers to are the Forest Stewardship Council and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification. The FSC is an international organisation that promotes responsible management of forests around the world. The PEFC Council is also an independent organisation, founded in 1999, that promotes sustainably managed forests through third party certification.

Green standards

Other green standards include the ISO 14000, a series of international standards on environmentally management, and EMAS, the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme. EMAS is a voluntary initiative designed to improve companies’ environmental performance.

As part of its efforts to make its print and production of marketing materials more environmentally friendly, Howitt has attained ISO 14001, FSC and PEFC accreditations and is in the process of gaining EMAS standard. The printer has also begun looking at becoming carbon neutral.

The aim of becoming carbon neutral, balancing the amount of carbon released with the amount offset, is high on many companies’ agenda. In 2006 Charterhouse, an independent print management company that has been accredited by the FSC, PEFC and ISO 14001, launched the Carbon Neutral Print Production programme in partnership with the Carbon Neutral Company. Charterhouse measures the CO2 emissions of any print job and neutralises the effect through investing in carbon friendly projects. This method can carry with it the added bonus of providing environmental sources for print marketing material.

Carbon offsetting

Some of Charterhouse’s clients, such as ING Direct, have followed its lead by joining the Carbon Neutral Print Production programme. All of the bank’s marketing and operational literature is now produced alongside carbon offsetting programmes, while electronics giant Sony made two recent, high-profile print campaigns carbon neutral.

Becoming carbon neutral can be as simple as paying a fee to the Carbon Neutral Company, as Live & Breathe’s Watts explains: “The Carbon Neutral Company audits our CO2 emissions and then we pay a fee that contributes towards carbon offset schemes that neutralise our emissions. This really encourages us to reduce our carbon footprint in all manner of ways. As part of this we welcome clients of the same mindset and often with a little bit of thought there are some really easy ideas that do not cost more or compromise on quality.”

Hybrid mail – a concept that has obvious environmental benefits for the print marketing industry, especially for those companies that rely on direct mail campaigns – is just being introduced in the UK. It works by sending information for the campaign electronically to a printer for local distribution and results in a large decrease in the amount of mail that needs to be transported around the country, therefore the related CO2 emissions are reduced.

The perfect mail

Michael Herson, managing director of The Strategy Works, a member of the Independent Consultants Group, has conducted research into the UK mail market for the past two years. He explains how Procurement for Housing (PfH), a social housing purchasing and advisory organisation, launched a Postal Service agreement on March 10 to enable housing organisations to save up to 58% on the cost of sending one letter.

The agreement uses DeskDirect Global, one of the operators that has recently taken up the hybrid mail strategy, and its print partner, Inkfish Services, and allows documents to be transmitted electronically from multiple sources to a central hub where they are printed, folded, inserted, sealed and sorted, ready for injection into the postal service. According to Herson: “The service cuts the cost, time and environmental impact of sending mail.”

Julie Craig, director of PfH, adds: “Sustainability is an important consideration for social landlords. We want to provide housing organisations with clear ways in which they can reduce their impact on the environment through procurement.”

Herson adds that downstream access is only an option for large businesses because the costs small businesses will incur for collections are “punitive”. Hybrid Mail is designed to provide SME’s with a realistic alternative.

Another of the companies to enter into the agreement with PfH is Royal Mail. The company is keen to stay at the forefront of any issues that regard the mail, and an environmental focus is no different. “Royal Mail understands that mail has an environmental impact and we are doing all we can to address that,” says Royal Mail head of media solutions Matthew Neilson. “We’re specifically interested in mail media, which we believe can be produced in an environmentally responsible way.”

In order to be able to provide the industry with guidelines for green print marketing, Royal Mail realised that the best way to find out how best to go about reducing your carbon footprint was to do it itself. In 2006, Redwood – the publisher of Royal Mail’s customer magazine Contact – was briefed by Royal Mail to find ways of making all stages of the magazine’s production more environmentally friendly.

Jo Dorrell, production co-ordinator at Redwood, says: “The cover was previously printed by a separate company, so sourcing them from the same printer helped reduce the magazine’s carbon footprint. Other environmental steps included replacing petrol-based inks with vegetable-based ones and UV cover finish seals with clear, aqueous seals.

And to wrap it up

“In addition, the magazine now comes in an oxobiodegradable polywrap that will break down after a year in the right conditions, requiring no specific disposal method from the end user.”

Royal Mail’s Neilson is very happy with the solutions provided by Redwood: “According to our own independently audited carbon calculator, we have reduced Contact magazine’s carbon footprint by 40% by introducing these changes.”

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