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RIT Study: Printing Industry Getting Serious About Sustainability

Commercial printing remains one of the three largest manufacturing industries in the United States. Its commitment to environmental sustainability matters — a lot. So where does the industry overall stand on the issue of sustainability? What steps is it taking to monitor, measure, and control its environmental impact? RIT’s Sustainable Print Systems Laboratory decided to find out.

In its study “Exploring Existing Measures of Environmental Impacts of Print: A Survey of Existing Practices,” it conducted a 31-question survey of printing businesses (filled out by 105 respondents) that looked at five different areas: sustainability policies, sustainability metrics and measures, involvement in formal environmental certification programs, influence of sustainability on company decision-making, and obstacles.  All of the responses were self-reported.

The results?

  • 37% have a formal sustainability policy in place
  • 17% have an informal sustainability policy in place
  • 14% are working on one

Not only do they have policies, but they are attempting to quantify their efforts. More than half (54%) of those responding to the survey said they had sustainability metrics or were developing them. Most of these were internal, but the point is, they’re doing it.

In addition, a minimum of one-quarter (22%) have already implemented at least one formal environmental certification like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

When looking at an industry as large and environmentally influential as printing, this is great news. Printers are aware of their environmental responsibility and are taking it seriously. This commitment is translating into practical steps that can be quantified. It’s environmental news worth celebrating.

Written by Heidi Tolliver-Walker

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.

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