The path to the independent and honest measurement of carbon emissions in printing

One reason the positive side of printings environmental message is falling on deaf ears is the lack of consistent and transparent carbon data. This has led to mixed and confusing messages going out to the marketing world at large.

The environmental paper standards were always difficult to compare, with different interested parties promoting the label that best suited their current business practices. FSC has helped but this is fundamentally about the tree source not about the way the pulp is converted and delivered to the printer.

It’s also about time we had a proper, informed debate about recycled paper. Currently we have a mishmash of measurements with all sorts of boundaries showing what’s in and what’s out when compared to that ‘evil virgin paper.’

The current technique that is attempting to stem the flow of marketers all ‘dot-dashing’ to the on-line world is self managed carbon calculators.

“Measure your carbon footprint on the next job we print for you. Then we will help you feel better by planting a tree to replace the one you just murdered to help sell your product.”

Now a part of this does works for me. At least it is transparent and if the other channels are brave enough to show their carbon footprints in the same manner, printing will be seen in its true light. However, the problem is still going to be a confused marketer.

Do you not think Big Green Printing Company (BGPC) will not hesitate to shave a few dollars off the quote to ensure that they get that nice new long-term contract? And if that client has a propensity for ‘Green’ how tempted will BGPC be to ‘economize’ the carbon statistics to keep everyone smiling? More important is how our Green print buyer is going to compare BGPC with Even Bigger Green Printing Company if they are both running their own closed carbon calculators.

Everyone’s stated intention is on the one hand to do the right thing environmentally while balancing the need for commercial survival on the other.

So what’s the answer? Here in Australia we are fortunate enough to have a homegrown company that can bring standardization to the measurement of carbon in printing. The Gaia Partnership has been researching, testing and developing a unique methodology that is now available to all buyers and suppliers of print.

The CO2counter is an on-line application that assists buyers and producers of all forms of marketing communications, including printing.

Gaia is working with some of Australia’s leading companies to better understand the carbon footprint being generated by the buying decisions they make across all marketing channels.

The ‘bespoke’ printing section allows well-run printers to have their independently audited green house calculations hosted in a fully maintained secure site. So when customers are looking to measure the CO2 from their printing they can quickly and independently see the CO2 emissions from their chosen activity.

The buyers are then able to make informed comparisons in a transparent and consistent manner. Printers can market green credentials in a standardized, independent and cost effective way.

This is not about removing competition. It is about allowing true comparison leading to greater understanding against other marketing channels. There are many risks facing the printing industry in these uncertain times. Mixed and confusing environmental messages only add to the burden and increase the bleeding to non-print marketing channels.

If the printing industry wants to re position itself as the only truly sustainable marketing channel it has to make it simpler for the end consumer.

“it’s a crop stupid!” or “Look how many environmental labels we have to prove how green we are.” is not a sustainable business proposition.

Consistent and independent measurement in a transparent manner will allow the environmental message to be clearly understood.