Green Printing - The New Bottom Line
Author Anil K. Gupta said, "Strategy is the art and science of creating the future, managing the present and selectively forgetting the past."
Many forget that little over a century ago, when paper was primarily made from recycled rags, arguments raged about whether paper made from wood pulp was fit for use as a printing substrate.
Today over 3.5 million people are employed in the wood pulp, paper and paper converting industries worldwide. Book publishers are responsible for buying over 1 million tons of paper made from wood fiber each year.
That's a small slice of the more than 100 million tons of paper used annually in the United States. But environmentally responsible book publishers can have a big impact on the paper market.
Book publishers have power and influence disproportionately greater than the megatons of paper they employ. Books spark revolutions and inspire change. Book publishers have the power to enlighten, entertain and enrich society.
With this power and influence comes responsibility for thinking strategically about what the product—books—are made of. Such responsibility calls for strategies that balance the "triple bottom line" goals of economic prosperity, environmental quality and social justice.
This will require a new sensitivity to the interests of investors, customers, employees, suppliers, environmental groups, regulators and other stakeholders. It will also require new skills in life-cycle cost analysis and environmental accounting, and supply chain environmental management.
Over the past 30 years, the forestry and paper industries have made great strides in improving their environmental performance. Many have made significant commitments to sustainability's triple bottom line goals.
Driven by government, private-sector and voluntary initiatives, paper recovery rates nearly doubled from 23% in 1970 to 43% in 1999. Yet papermakers remain the third largest industrial user of fossil fuels, and the #1 industrial user of water per pound of product.
The scarcity of these resources is expected to increase as demand for paper grows by an expected 50% by the year 2010. Consumer, investor and stakeholder pressure for corporate environmental responsibility is also mounting.
There are implications for publishers. Now is the time for publishers to use their awesome power and influence to help create a sustainable future for printed books and book printing substrates.
One strategy is to use current resources more wisely. Global consumption of wood fiber for papermaking can be cut by more than 50% through a combination of reduced paper consumption in industrial countries, improving papermaking efficiency, and expanding use of recycled and non-wood fibers, according to a study from the Worldwatch Institute.
Another approach: use renewable bio-polymer substrates, as described in the recent book Cradle to Cradle (William McDonough and Michael Braungart.
A paragraph from the book: "The tree, among the finest of nature's creations, plays a crucial and multifaceted role in our interdependent ecosystem. As such, it has been an important model and metaphor for our thinking … but also, as such, it is not a fitting resource to use in producing so humble and transient a substance as paper. The use of alternative material expresses our intention to evolve away from the use of wood fibers for paper as we seek more effective solutions. It represents one step toward a radically different approach to designing and producing the objects we use and enjoy, an emerging movement we see as the next industrial revolution."
Market and regulatory forces are likely to make managing and reporting the environmental costs associated with printing substrates as important to purchasing decisions as price is today.
Environmental groups and institutional investors are two market forces gaining considerable influence. Markets Initiative, a Canadian environmental group, has been catalyzing change in the paper purchasing decisions of the Canadian book publishing market.
As a result of their efforts, over 25 of Canada's leading publishers have committed to phasing out paper made with ancient forest fiber. Last year, two million Canadian books were printed on papers that preserve ancient forests.
Markets Initiative's success has helped build momentum in for the Green Press Initiative (GPI) in the United States. So far 15 U.S. publishers have committed to phasing out paper made with old growth fiber, and to maximize the use of post-consumer recycled fiber.
These forward-thinking publishers include Lantern Books, Island Press, New World Library, World Resources Institute, Parallax Press, Word Bank, Chelsea Green, Hampton Roads, New Market Press, Snow Lion Publications, Cornell University Press and others.
The majority of small and mid-sized publishers contacted by the Green Press Initiative pledged to join the movement or are planning to do so, according to GPI officials. Conversations are still in the early stages with multi-national media companies and publishing houses.
New SEC rules mandating registered investment advisers to adopt proxy voting policies and procedures are likely to increase the influence environmental groups and socially responsible investment funds have on publishers' strategic priorities.
Environmental activist groups are not the only influencers publishers should be paying attention to. Some of the world's largest publishers can expect a more active influence on corporate governance priorities and strategies related to the environment, according to a report published by the Rose Foundation.
The report presents compelling evidence connecting environmental performance with positive influence on financial performance. It finds institutional investors have a fiduciary responsibility to take an active role in setting corporate governance priorities with regard to environmental performance.
Raising awareness of the supply chain's environmental impact, and implementing systems to manage that will be a challenge for many publishers. The stakes are high, but the rewards for leadership are great.
At stake are brand reputations, shareholder value, regulatory risk and the ability of book publishers to entertain, enlighten and enrich vast, untapped markets in the developing world.
A growing body of evidence from companies such as Anheuser Busch, Bristol Myers Squib, British Telecom, CitiGroup, DuPont, Dow Chemical, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Procter & Gamble show it's possible to save money, grow markets and create shareholder value when supply chain environmental management is approached proactively.
There are no good reasons for book publishers to stand idly by. The best practices of 37 global multinationals that successfully integrated environmental considerations with supply chain decisions has been compiled into a report, New Paths to Business Value, published by the Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI).
Publishers were notably absent from the rarified roster, which includes Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, Johnson & Johnson and Mattel. The report presents a great opportunity for publishers to study the body of evidence and tools that GEMI developed.
Another group of stakeholders publishers must consider are employees responsible for book substrate specification and purchase decisions. Although the primary factors employed by buyers are price and quality, there's growing interest in energy conservation and environmental protection.
Paper buyers are increasingly expressing their personal interest in the environmental impacts of the purchasing decisions they make. But their job performance continues to be measured by their ability to get the best price. That must change.
Market leaders in other industries learned profitability and environmentalism can go hand in hand. They establish rewards and recognition for purchase decisions that improve environmental performance and competitiveness.
They also provide education and training in environmental lifecycle analysis, so buyers can make more informed decisions. Knowledge of environmental accounting principles will allow buyers to build sound business cases for specifying green alternatives.
Executives and line managers need to be informed of best practices developed by groups like GEMI. They also need to familiarize themselves with guidelines and emerging standards for selection and rating of suppliers on the basis of environmental and social performance.
International environmental standards, such as the ISO's 1400I (ISO.org) and Global Performance and Reporting Initiatives (GRI.org), along with market-based emission trading schemes such as the Chicago Climate Exchange (ChicagoClimatEx.com) are gaining momentum.
As consumers become implicated, influenced, educated and interested in environmental performance, publishers need to lead the charge, or be ready to respond rapidly to new priorities.
Book publishers are among the most influential of all industries. Few industries wield comparable influence over how organizations, governments, children, teens, young adults and parents think about what matters in our world.
This influence demands strategies that balance the economic, environmental and social bottom lines. Ask your printer and paper suppliers how their companies measure, manage and report on environmental performance.
Ask how the environmental lifecycle impacts of their products and services. Ask how much time their CEO spends on environmental performance strategy. Ask if they reward operational and supply chain line managers who improve the firm's environmental and social performance.
Ask what they are doing to develop sustainable strategies for continuous improvement. Lastly, publishers must ask themselves if their bottom line priorities are based on smart, sustainable strategies, or a shortsighted view on near term profit.
If you're interested in new book substrate and printing technologies, or how to create business value by greening your supply chain, write to me at Carli@NimaHunter.com.
Don Carli (Carli@NimaHunter.com) is president of Nima Hunter Inc., in New York.