Maintaining Focus on Our Environmental Footprint in a Weird Market

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About the Author

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Ken McDonald

Ken leads a team that is focused on making IWCO’s Supply Chain program a driver of competitive advantage for clients. As Chief Supply Chain Officer, he works to find new ways to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and generate value. His background includes more than 30 years of experience, including a long tenure at UnitedHealth Group, successfully executing best practices in sourcing, contracting, supplier performance and risk management, and enterprise logistics and transportation. Outside of the office you can find him golfing, skiing, bicycling, hiking, traveling, or volunteering in his community.

The forces influencing today’s print industry and related sustainable printing efforts are complex and often confusing for printers and their clients. Key factors include electronic media, technology and innovation, environmental regulations, global economics, and increasing use of mobile and interactive platforms by consumers.

Sustainable printing methods are becoming more and more popular as individuals and businesses work to reduce their environmental footprint. Advances in technology allow print suppliers to produce sustainable printed material with no detrimental effect on quality. Understanding what sustainable printing methods are available in the market is important for your business to support its eco-friendly credentials.

In 2021, more than 5% of the paper and 97% of the plastic purchased by IWCO Direct contained recycled content. In addition, approximately 19% of the paper purchased was FSC® certified, with about 5% of the paper purchased used for FSC chain-of-custody work.

Top sustainability trends in 2022 will likely impact a wide variety of consumer-based products and services as Gen Z consumers focus on renewable resources and sustainable products as one of their top sustainability trends. Research suggests that 54% of these young adults think a company’s environmental and social efforts are very or extremely important when considering whether to purchase a service or product.

IWCO Direct’s Sustainable Printing Focus

Five of the latest sustainable printing methods available include LED UV Printing, Recycled Paper, Digital Printing, Carbon Balanced Paper and Print, and Uncoated Paper. IWCO Direct’s ongoing focus on sustainability encompasses three of these methods:

  1. Recycled Paper – Paper choice can influence how effective a sustainable printing method actually is. We’re often led to believe we should only use recycled paper, when the truth is, virgin fibers are needed to maintain the paper cycle. Recycled fibers degrade after several uses, and the paper industry needs fresh fiber to keep the cycle of renewable resources going. As long as the new fibers are from sustainably managed forests, printing companies can utilize either virgin paper or recycled paper in a sustainable manner.
  1. Digital Printing – IWCO Direct is in the midst of an equipment transition, adding new, more efficient HP PageWide digital presses to our platform in 2022. Key benefits include: a reduction of waste resulting from overruns and make-readies, and leveraging true water-based inks with no reactive chemistry components. This enables printing on a range of recyclable papers including FSC certified stocks and utilizes HP recyclable printheads and Eco-carton ink cartridges, reducing plastic use per liter of ink by 80%.
  2. Uncoated Paper – Uncoated paper stock is one of the easiest materials to recycle. As a result, it is widely accepted by many mills for recycling. At IWCO Direct, 80% of the paper purchased is uncoated stock, primarily offset, opaque, and white wove products, and 100% of our paper waste is recycled. IWCO Direct is involved with the Forest Stewardship Council® and is Chain-of-Custody certified. The FSC Chain-of-Custody is the highest and most trustworthy international certification for paper and timber products. It reassures our customers the paper being used supports the growth of responsible forest management worldwide.

Taking a Continuous Improvement Approach to Sustainability

Managing print’s environmental impact demands commitment to commercial, practical, and sustainability goals, and their clear communication. We must be able to produce products within a cohesive environmental framework and be profitable. Development of sustainability policies and production models is a massive challenge for printers and supporting supply chains, but it’s one all players can embrace.

Sustainability, is in fact, a continuous improvement process which requires an all-encompassing commitment throughout the organization and the supply chain. It is a key business practice and an essential investment for all printing companies. We’re proud of our current efforts related to sustainable printing and look forward to working with our teams and clients to uncover additional opportunities in the future.

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