Care About Green Printing? Better Tell Your Printer!

Published on October 12th, 2009 | by

Du Pont Tree FrogI’ve blogged a lot about how the printing industry is far greener than people give it credit for. The presses are more efficient. Paper often has high recycled content. Marketing strategies emphasize smart use of data over volume production. There are many ways that printing is green — greener, many argue, than electronic media. But what about individual printers? To what extent are they consciously pursuing a green strategy? It can be a significant investment, after all. Are their customers making it worth their while?

Last year, the commercial printing industry information portal What They Think released a report on the status of green in the printing industry. This month, in Printing Continues to Go Green, WTT updated the report with fresh data, comparing the numbers year over year.

In the June 2009 survey, WTT researchers found the following year-over-year changes:

  • Printers are far more likely to identify themselves in their marketing and promotional materials as environmentally sensitive businesses — 33%, up from 26% last year
  • They are slightly more likely to justify new equipment purchases because of their more favorable environmental impact — 22%, up from 20%
  • They are more likely to have special “green” certifications from independent organizations (Forest Stewardship Council, Green Seal) — 22%, up from 15%
  • They are slightly more likely to say that promoting their green efforts helps their business image — 39%, up from 35%.

But it’s not all good news. Commercial printers don’t see a lot of customer gratitude for their efforts. In the June 2009 survey, they were noticeably less likely to say that it was essential to their customers and more likely to say that it was a major expense without a major business benefit. Only 2% said it was critically important to their customers.

This is a real problem. Why?

Environmental sustainability is important to printers, but it’s an investment that doesn’t come free. Printing is under severe price pressures. It is facing declines in print volume due to electronic media and requires tremendous capital investments in new printing technologies, workflow, software, applications development, database management and programming, and more.

Like all businesses, printers need to make money, too. If customers don’t appreciate or respond to those efforts, why keep doing it? After all, revenues only stretch so far. A printer’s personal conscience about environmental sustainability doesn’t pay the bills. Customer dollars do — and those dollars give printers the margin they need to make those — frankly — optional environmental sustainability investments.

If printers aren’t getting positive feedback from customers that green is important to them or that their (printers’) green efforts are an important part of their customer loyalty, then green risks taking a big hit. Green initiatives cost time and money. If customers couldn’t care less (or aren’t showing it), printers may have a hard time justifying the continued investment.

If your printers’ green efforts matter to you, don’t keep it hidden. Tell them. Let them know that their investments in environmental sustainability matter to you and that they are part of the reason you do business with them. Your printers’ future sustainability investments may depend on it.

Like this post? See all my “Greening Print Marketing” posts.

Image source: Du Pont


About the Author

Heidi Tolliver-Walker has been a commercial and digital printing industry analyst, feature writer, columnist, editor, and author for nearly 20 years. She is known for her meticulous research and no-nonsense perspective. In addition to having written thousands of industry articles for top industry publications, she and Richard Romano have been the face of the well-respected industry research firm The Industry Measure (TrendWatch Graphic Arts) for many years. In her more than 13-year tenure with the firm, she has written countless reports on digital printing, 1:1 (personalized) printing, Web-to-print, personalized URLs, and other hot industry applications. She is also a long-time contributing editor and columnist for Printing News, for which she writes two monthly columns, including "Personal Effects," which features monthly analysis of 1:1 (personalized) printing case studies. She is also the author of three titles for the National Association of Printing Leadership: Designer's Printing Companion, Ink & Color: A Printer's Guide, and Diversifying Via Value-Added Services. As a small, niche publisher (Strong Tower Publishing), she is active in utilizing these technologies in her own business, as well.