According to Laurel Brunner from the Verdigris Project, why printers have been so reluctant to get with the sustainability programme is a bit puzzling. They only seem to recognise it when clients ask about what they are doing to improve sustainability and their capacity to deliver some sort of environmental sign off. As this generally has a cost attached to it, many printers embrace it as a value added extra: if indeed it is possible to deliver.

Brand owners are starting to be a little bit more systematic in their enquiries. They want to know the environmental credentials of their print service providers, particularly for high value commissions. Often their enquiries take the form of surveys, asking service providers to answer a variety of questions about their sustainability measures and adherence to environmental standards. These are not the sort of generic surveys put out to all comers by the trade press and consultancies. Rather they are specific to a given brand’s concerns and are framed in line with the brand owner’s sustainability policies. They are also sector specific. For instance, what IKEA wants to know about the environmental policies of their sign and display service providers, is not the same as what IKEA wants to know about their gravure printers’ sustainability credentials.

The questions being asked range from the staggeringly complicated, through to the extremely simplistic. Supply chain queries are the hardest to frame because they tend to involve many unknown parties, and don’t lend themselves to binary responses. And different types of organisations use all manner of complex vendor communities. Asking the right questions can also be extremely tricky, if the responses are not to be muddled. For brand owners, identifying excellence in sustainability and environmental performance is difficult, but this is what some big brands are trying to do.

Print buyers are starting to put real effort into quantifying the environmental commitments of participants in their graphic media supply chains. The goal for buyers is to be able to identify their most sustainable production options. They want to configure supply chains that share environmentally friendly practices within a common mutually supportive framework. This isn’t easy to do, but it could really help move climate change mitigation forward.

This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. Verdigris is supported by: Agfa Graphics (, EFI (, FESPA (, HP (, Kodak (, Kornit (, Practical Publishing (, Ricoh (, Spindrift (, Unity Publishing ( and Xeikon (

This work by the Verdigris Project is licenced under a Creative Commons attribution-noderivs 3.0 Unported licence

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