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With the environment becoming an increasingly important issue for wide-format printers, SignLink speaks with businesses about the steps they have taken to improve sustainability

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How to be a sustainable wide-format print business

If there is one talking point that has remained consistent in recent years, it is sustainability. With customers demanding more planet-friendly work from wide-format printers and sign-makers, there is little option but for those in these markets to adapt the way they operate and offer a more environmentally friendly service to clients.

However, as many in the industry may well be aware, this is easier said than done and also something that cannot be done overnight. But the good news for companies working in these markets is that there are plenty of simple steps that they can take to start the process of becoming more sustainable in the long run.

With this in mind, SignLink caught up with companies widely recognised and celebrated for their advancements in this area to find out what advice they can offer to those seeking a greener future.

Take Considered Steps

First up is Very Displays, a trade display solutions specialist that works with a wide range of companies. Marketing manager Kirsty Corcoran says sustainability has never been higher on the agenda than it is today and Very is seeing an influx in companies getting on board with sustainable print and manufacturing.

“Designing, producing, shipping, and selling products in an environmentally responsible manner is crucial for long-term environmental protection and as a business we’re aiming to improve our impact on the planet and embed sustainability in our company culture,” Corcoran says.

Designing, producing, shipping, and selling products in an environmentally responsible manner is crucial for long-term environmental protection

“We are taking considered steps in everything we decide to do to ensure it truly makes a difference and benefits the planet and customers. We want to ensure that the changes we’re making are sincere and contribute to long-term, impactful effects.”

“Here at Very Displays, we’re currently on a progressive journey to improve environmental inefficiencies across our full supply chain.”

With this, Corcoran draws attention to a five-year plan and active projects at Very. Focus areas include only using recycled paper for brochures, price guides, and office supplies, while all delivery boxes are made from recycled materials.

Corcoran also notes that all lighting within Very’s warehouse and dispatch are LED censored and an office overnight shutdown policy is in place. All company cars are electric or hybrid with new economical car charging points at both sites.

As for kit, Very recently introduced the Agfa Avinci CX3200, a low ink consumption printer that uses ‘thin ink layer’ technology that Corcoran says makes it more sustainable than previous models. In addition, Corcoran says its new Titanium 3025 cutter means more accurate, precise cutting and finishing, resulting in less excess material waste.

Very Displays recently added a new Agfa Avinci CX3200 low ink consumption printer to its production setup

Add in that all Very Displays products are reusable, as well as ensuring any new products to the range have a sustainable credential or longevity/reusability as a component, and Corcoran says this maps out a green future for Very and its customers.

“We recognise that it’s not as simple as making a few changes,” Corcoran says, adding: “It’s a long, steady process that we are actively working on, and we are fully committed to this journey. By thoroughly researching and becoming educated about the industry, our products, and partners, we can ensure that we make the best long-term decisions for our company and the planet.”

Build Brand Loyalty

Next up is Tradeprint, which, like Very Displays, delivers a trade service to the market. Anthony Rowell, sales and customer success director and sustainability lead at Tradeprint, says sustainability has become a cornerstone in shaping the future of the print industry.

“The emphasis on sustainability is crucial for several reasons,” Rowell explains, continuing: “Firstly, it addresses the environmental impact of printing processes by minimising waste, reducing energy consumption, and promoting the use of more sustainable materials, thereby contributing to the preservation of our planet for future generations – we all have a responsibility to reduce our environmental impact and help slow down the impacts of climate change.
“Secondly, sustainability resonates with the growing consumer demand for sustainably responsible products, enabling businesses to align with the values of their customers and build brand loyalty. Moreover, sustainable practices open avenues for innovation in product development and operational efficiencies, leading to cost savings and competitive advantages.”

So, what is Tradeprint doing? At the last count, it sent just 0.66 tonnes of 901 tonnes of all waste to landfill, with the other 99.9% being diverted. Longer term, the company has set some targets aligned with those of Cimpress, the wider business of which Tradeprint is a part of. The end goal for Tradeprint is to secure a net zero carbon footprint by 2040.

To achieve this, Tradeprint has in place a series of smaller targets. These include a 2025 goal of 100% of wood-fibre product spend being FSC, while by the same year, Tradeprint hopes 95% of wood-fibre packaging spend used is made from FSC or PCW (Post-Consumer Waste) materials.

Other aims include eliminating all problematic plastic across its product and packaging by 2025, with the additional target of ensuring products containing plastic are recyclable, reusable, compostable, or eligible to return to Cimpress.

To support this, Tradeprint is working closely with industry organisations such as FESPA UK and Reconomy, signing up to the Sustainability partnership.

Meanwhile, with the IPIA and the BPIF, Tradeprint is looking at funding opportunities to support investments in green initiatives. In addition, it takes part in lobbying the government and raising awareness across the industry is crucial to making an impact.

“By integrating sustainability into the core of our operations, Tradeprint not only demonstrates leadership in environmental stewardship but also ensures long-term sustainability of the business itself, setting a benchmark for others in the industry to follow,” Rowell says.

Dress to Impress

Also championing sustainability is Result Clothing. Director Sara Sanders-Smith says Result’s duty as a provider to the promotional clothing and uniform sector is to educate, encourage, and provide customers with products to not only improve CSR but help preserve the planet.

“Our main message is that we are offering recycled garments for the same price as standard garments, so customers only need to make a choice based on their conscience and not their fiscal bottom line,” Sanders-Smith says.

“Instead of bringing in all new recycled products, we are currently in a programme on transitioning the production of current best-selling styles over to recycled fabrics. We also aim to import in using carbon neutral shipping lines only.”

Opening up further on Result’s sustainability initiatives, Sanders-Smith says in addition to producing a range made from recycled fibres, its warehouse uses solar powered renewable energy, has timing sensors for lighting, heating and cooling as well as an energy saving air recirculation system.  Result also ships in using fully packed, 40ft-high cube containers by rail and sea with close proximity to dock manufacturing and distribution. 

“We ship out using efficient pallet packaging wrapped on recycled wooden pallets wrapped in 30% recycle wrap on weekly, not daily full load transport to wholesale distributors,” Sanders-Smith says, adding: “Opaque biodegradable bags ensure garments are kept pristine on their journey but leave no environmental trace.”

While sustainability is not easy, it is by no means impossible or unrealistic for sign-makers and wide-format printers.

Yes, it will take some time to make the changes and adjust the way you operate, but in the longer term, this will set you up for a planet-friendly future that will likely attract new customers from a range of markets.

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