In order to align PRINTING United Alliance’s Sustainable Business Recognition Award with the United Nations' (U.N.) global standards, the program sought out companies who adopted several of the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One such goal was SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production). Simply put, this means everything we humans consume (water, energy, inks, substrates, etc.) and produce (manufactured products, waste, CO2, etc.).
Initially, responsible consumption and production means “less” — to cut back on utilities and products you don’t need. Figuring out what is and isn’t essential is a concept we have all become quite familiar with amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, we can’t cut everything out; ceasing consumption and production altogether is a sure-fire way to ruin an economy. After cutting back on nonessentials in your home or business, you can improve further by making your consumption and production habits more efficient.
Identifying Targets Aligning with the Industry
Achieving this goal could be as simple as fixing that leaky faucet or as involved as creating a comprehensive waste management plan to ensure the waste you produce is given a second life. Regardless of the scale, contributing to SDG 12 typically involves reducing your environmental footprint while saving money.
Each SDG has targets that identify the actions encompassed by it. The following outlines the specific targets for which businesses in the printing industry have the most potential impact.
• Target 12.2 – Achieve sustainable materials management through efficient use of natural resources.
• Target 12.4 – Achieve environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their lifecycle by reducing the release of chemicals to air, water, and soil.
• Target 12.5 – Reduce waste generation through reduction, recycling, and reuse.
• Target 12.6 – Integrate sustainability goals and achievements into your annual reporting. Encourage other companies to adopt sustainable practices.
• Target 12.7 – Promote sustainable public procurement practices.
• Target 12.8 – Ensure that people everywhere have relevant information and awareness for sustainable development.
• Target 12.C – Encourage responsible consumption of fuel. Reduce fuel use through increasing fuel efficiencies. Increase the usage of renewable energy sources.
If you have been following this Sustainable Business Recognition series on the 2020 award program and recipients, you may recognize some of these companies for contributing to SDGs 3 (Good Health and Well Being) and 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth). Many 2020 winners earned accolades in more than one sustainability goal!
How Companies Implemented SDG 12Here's how some of the 2020 winners made SDG 12 a priority in 2019.
Materials and Waste Management Activities — Targets 12.2, 12.4, and 12.5Triple Stamp Press, a custom screen printing shop from Richmond, Va., focused mainly on Target 12.5. In 2019, it initiated a fabric recycling program in which its customers decide whether tests and misprints are recycled or donated to a shelter. Global Products, a premier provider of promotional items, fundraiser items, logo apparel, and merchandise to organizations in Saint Peters, Mo., also reuses fabric scraps on its smaller machines to ensure it's maximizing all of its acquired materials.
Similarly, Vycom Corporation, TIG Environmental, and Packsize International all prioritized managing waste. In October of 2019, Vycom, a manufacturer of quality plastics products, residing in Scranton, Pa., unveiled plans for its new Recycling Take-Back Program for printed and unprinted PVC sheets and scraps. To implement this program, Vycom coordinated with authorized distributors for drop-off or collection of these materials to return them to the Scranton facility, where it is then recycled into Vycom's PVC and HDPE products.
Syracuse, N.Y.-based TIG Environmental, also known as The Intelligence Group, is a business investigations and intelligence firm serving corporations, government organizations, and their counsel. Their waste minimization efforts won them the Blue-Ribbon Recycler Award in 2019! Packsize International, a corrugated material manufacturer and on-demand packaging system provider located in Salt Lake City, Utah, also advocates for reducing, reusing, and recycling all applicable materials. Its “Packsizers” recycled or reused 90% of in-house materials and scrap last year.
Finally, Night Owls Print, a custom merchandising shop in Houston mainly focused on water-based screen printing, but also specializing in other items such as enamel pins, embroidered goods, and promotional products, contributed mainly to Target 12.4. At the beginning of 2019, it became a 100% water-based textile screen printer, ridding its facility of plastisol and other chemicals.
Sustainable Procurement — Target 12.7Impact International Pty Ltd., a family-owned company that has built a reputation for designing and manufacturing industry-leading packaging tubes for a wide range of companies across Australia, created three new products last year to promote sustainable purchasing practices. To create the new tubes — named Craig, Margorie, and Sarah — Impact International purchases sustainably sourced resin from sugar cane (a carbon neutral substitute for fossil fuel-derived resin), recycled polyethylene (PE), and a small percentage of virgin PE. The Craig tube contains up to 85% sugar cane resin; Sarah contains 41% of both sugar cane resin and recycled PE, with the remainder making up 18% virgin material; and Margorie contains up to 90% recycled PE.
Northern Arizona University (NAU) Printing Services, a full-service facility that provides small- and large-format printing services to NAU in Flagstaff, Ariz., began a take-back program in 2019 with departments across campus to collect old vinyl banners and fabric posters. From this, it creates upcycled tote bags and encourages all in the NAU community to purchase sustainably made products. Furthermore, it switched to buying only 100% recycled content, FSC-certified paper.
Richmond, Va.-based Wythken Printing, a full-service commercial printing company, stopped carrying signage products without environmental certifications to focus on selling its more environmentally responsible options. All packed products are now labeled with their specific environmental certifications.
Lastly, Packsize International requires suppliers to sign a Supplier Code of Conduct to ensure it is purchasing sustainable products.
Efficient Utilities — Targets 12.C and 12.2Having reduced its water, electric, and gas consumption in 2019, Global Products became a St. Louis Green Business Challenge member! The company achieved this by switching over from conventional textile and paper screen printing practices to digital.
Similarly, NAU's Printing Services achieved Green Office Certification in 2019 by managing its utility consumption and waste production. It shut down all lights in the building each night, shut off computer monitors when not in use, and has transitioned to high-efficiency bulbs and task-lighting throughout the building. It also has just begun adding an e-bike to its delivery fleet.
Wythken Printing, Albert Basse Associates, and Lawson Screen and Digital Products also reduced their utility usages. Wythken consistently keeps HVAC temperatures at the manufacturer-recommended settings for optimal energy efficiency, and posts notices throughout the building to keep lights off when not in use. Albert Basse Associates, in Stoughton, Mass., specializes in screen and digital production. Last year, it upgraded its entire facility to LED lighting fixtures, saving approximately $1,000 a month. St. Louis, Mo.-based Lawson, which offers numerous printing equipment and supplies as well as training classes, retrofitted and upgraded its electrical, plumbing, and HVAC system, and installed reflective material to its building’s exterior to reduce energy, water use, and waste.
Impact International, WS Display, and Packsize International all created energy efficiencies by utilizing renewable energies. Impact International’s packaging products are manufactured using green energy from its own solar farm that generates around 1,400 kilowatts of energy each day. It has reduced water usage on-site by 50% and replaced energy-hungry motors with new, more energy-efficient units, some of which are saving energy by 30%.
WS Display (Wholesale Trade Show Displays) offers quality display hardware and custom signage. It installed solar panels on the rooftop of its 83,000-sq.-ft. facility in Carlsbad, Calif, allowing it to consume much less traditional energy.
Packsize International powers its daily operations with renewable energies including wind, water, and solar. As of 2019, its Salt Lake City headquarters had 690 solar panels with plans to add 100 more throughout this year. Maintaining a fleet of alternative fuel vehicles, it has 52 electric vehicle charging stations — the largest installation in Utah — while incentivizing employees to reduce tailpipe emissions.
All of these companies achieved very impressive goals in 2019, and by monitoring, recording, and sharing their sustainable achievements with their communities and peers, the 2020 PRINTING United Alliance Sustainable Business Recognition Award winners have also contributed to SDGs 12.6 and 12.8. Many of these accomplishments can be replicated with little effort and they provide significant rewards for the company and their customers.
If you undertake any sustainability related projects, it is important for your customers to know the extent of your company’s efforts — without embellishment, of course, to avoid greenwashing. Many consumers are demanding to be in the loop about their own impact with what they purchase: Are they supporting the end market of recycled materials, or are they giving their hard-earned dollars to major polluters? It is equally as important to share sustainable accomplishments with your peers and encourage them to follow suit. Sustainable development is not always a one-person job; it takes a village — the entire village, that is — to achieve these global goals, including SDG 12, which urges the entire graphic arts industry to do more and better with less.
If you've implemented sustainable practices in 2021, learn how you can apply for the 2022 Sustainable Business Recognition Award.