Industry’s green efforts are paying off

In an era that has been dubbed 'the decade of decency,' printers of every commercial stripe have begun to realize there is gold in being 'green.'Environmental enthusiasm has now reached a fever pitch among printers and paper suppliers. Recycled paper, vegetable-based...

In an era that has been dubbed ‘the decade of decency,’ printers of every commercial stripe have begun to realize there is gold in being ‘green.’

Environmental enthusiasm has now reached a fever pitch among printers and paper suppliers. Recycled paper, vegetable-based inks and high-tech pollution control have become the industry norm.

And, it is paying off.

Making plants less polluting reduces printers’ overall operating costs, adding to the bottom line, says Vern Denholm, a representative with the Canadian Printing Industries Association.

And in the competitive marketplace of the 1990s, smart environment-friendly printers have not only got it, they are flaunting it.

Denholm says that being able to make an environment-friendly claim gives printers an important marketing edge.

Chris Fraser, marketing manager of Mississauga, Ont.-based Arthurs-Jones Lithographing, agrees.

Fraser says that with large companies such as 3M and Dupont developing environmental corporate strategies and marketing programs to reflect those efforts, it just makes sense to use suppliers that are playing by the same rules.

‘There’s no use putting $100 million into a communications strategy that suggests your corporation is making headway on environmental issues when your printer has got pcbs out in the back of their plant,’ he says.

Fraser says much has happened since recycled paper found its way into the market.

He says five years ago it was hard to convince clients that recycled paper stock could produce the quality products they demanded.

But, he says, today, clients not only expect the choice of using recycled paper, but also vegetable-based inks.

The second phase of the printing industry’s ecological evolution is now getting under way.

For some, the new issue is chlorine-free paper. For others, it is finding improved methods of de-inking paper. For many, the most critical issue remains reducing the paper pile-up.

Nearly all environment-sensitive printers are looking for better vegetable-based inks, and are continuing to search for ways of eliminating toxic emissions to the environment.

A complex body of federal, provincial and municipal legislation regulates the printing and paper industries. Many regulations regarding effluents exist at the provincial level and vary widely from province to province.

Ever-stricter legislation will continue to force printers and paper-makers to face up to their ecological responsibilities, says Ray Coutu, government affairs manager of the Canadian Printing Industries Association.

But the biggest change is that printers and paper-makers are now examining the extent of their own greenness – not just the greenness of the products they are producing.

Green giants

Who are the green giants of the industry?

St. Joseph Printing, a mid-sized printer based in Concord, Ont., just outside Toronto, is named by many industry experts.

As a general commercial printer, St. Joseph serves direct marketers and retailers as well as publishers, says Shane Smith, company environmental policy manager.

In 1991, the company plant was overhauled and replaced with state-of-the-art pollution control equipment.

Silver recovery systems are now in place to restrict heavy metals from entering the sewer system. High-efficiency motors and filtration systems conserve energy and water.

Smith says St. Joseph’s pollution control equipment is the most advanced to date.

For example, the katec thermal oxidation pollution abatement system is able to burn vocs (volatile organic compounds, which can cause smog) and return the air to the environment 99% free of the harmful emissions.

The same equipment saves on energy by rerouting the heat used from the incineration process to warm another part of the plant.

Vacuum system

St. Joseph has also introduced a huge vacuum system that tracks trimmed paper from the printing process, which is then put into a blue box for recycling.

As well, Smith says recycled paper and vegetable-based inks are used whenever possible.

He says an Environmental Advisory Board composed of 20 members from supplier, client and advocacy groups has also been established to find ways of improving the company’s environmental procedures and keep them on top of technological developments.

St. Joseph is also getting green at the grassroots level.

A joint venture called the ‘Partners in Growth’ reforestation program has not only seen the planting of nearly 50,000 trees, but provided the Boy Scouts of Canada with close to $200,000.

And the company has never been bashful about trumpeting its environmental stewardship.

Smith says its environmental record has figured big in St. Joseph’s marketing strategy.

He says the high-tech restructuring was an attempt to differentiate the company from its competition and to position it for stronger growth in the future.

‘There are sound business reasons for everything we do with regard to the environment,’ Smith says.

‘There’s no doubt that is why we’ve done what we’ve done,’ he says. ‘We make no apologies for it. We’re more than happy to talk about it, too.’

Newcomers, such as Queenstone Services, are also leading the competition down the environment-friendly path.

The Mississauga, Ont.-based company, which prints annual reports, brochures and catalogues, among other products, is one among a handful of ‘waterless’ printers operating in Canada.

Queenstone Vice-President Steve Pierce says waterless printing is that rare thing: a new technology that is better for both industry and the environment.

Pierce says the quality of printing is much higher with the waterless press, adding the system also gets good marks because it reduces both water and air pollution.

More importantly, however, is the fact that alcohol is eliminated from the process.

Pierce says getting rid of alcohol – which produces vocs – is a priority in the industry.

And while a number of printers have replaced it with substitutes, many of those substitutes contain other ingredients recognized as air toxins.

With waterless printing, water, alcohol, and alcohol substitutes are all eliminated from the system.

‘We’re way ahead of the game,’ Pierce says. ‘I can assure you the day will come when alcohol won’t be allowed in the pressroom at all.’

Pierce admits that, so far, there is little evidence of a big financial payback. But he says that is likely to soon change.

He says spreading the word – selling clients on the environment-devout properties of the waterless press – is likely to get them backpeddling from traditional presses.

Cocooning

In the decade of decency, big players such as G.T.C. Transcontinental Group and Quebecor Printing are cocooning: they are looking inward for solutions to the ’90s environmental problems.

‘If there’s a trend, it’s about better management practices – co-ordinating and improving our own internal processes rather than looking to high-tech equipment,’ says Bob Erbstein, vice-president of technology at Transcontinental.

Rob Wood, director of printing and writing supplies at the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, agrees.

Industry is looking to a total life-cycle analysis, he says.

There is a growing recognition that environmental responsibility for printers and paper-makers goes far beyond using recycled paper stocks.

All factors – overall energy use, the effective use of forest resources and internal recycling programs – should be considered in evaluating the overall environmental healthiness of an end paper product, Wood says.

‘You’ve got to remember what else goes into your product,’ he says. ‘There’s a growing need to look at all of the procedures and everything that went into delivering it to the marketplace.’

In 1992, Transcontinental articulated its corporate commitment to becoming a socially and environmentally responsible citizen.

The first company-wide environmental conference was held in early June to co-ordinate policies among many of the plants’ environmental specialists.

‘I think it signifies a coming of age in environmental programs within our company,’ Erbstein says. ‘The heavy focus on continued training is a recognition that environmental programs have reached a level of complexity that requires co-ordination and facilitation from the corporate office.’

And while Erbstein says the company is not marketing its environmental ways to its clients, at least one subsidiary will soon be taking the plunge.

‘Quite frankly, the competition is better at it right now,’ says RBW Graphics marketing and new business development manager, Rob Grant.

‘We should be blowing our own horns because we’ve got a lot to talk about,’ Grant says. ‘And we’ll be looking to do it very soon.’

The RBW Graphics plant, located in Owen Sound, Ont., is the single largest plant in the Transcontinental group of printers.

$1-million investment

The plant has recently invested $1 million in pollution control equipment, according to Grant.

Like St. Joseph, the company has thermal pollution control equipment that has reduced emissions of vocs by more than 99%.

Grant says that between 65% and 75% of all products are produced on recycled paper.

The plant also won the Ontario Waste Management Award in 1990 for a program that reduced 200 drums of waste to one by recycling ink.

Like Transcontinental, Quebecor has concentrated its energy this year on developing better environmental management processes.

Their own trophy

While many Canadians were focussing their attention on the Stanley Cup play-offs in early June, Quebecor employees were busy battling it out for their own top trophy.

The company’s first in-house Environmental Performance Contest got under way, giving individual plants a chance to showcase their environmental accomplishments.

‘I think it says that we take pride in our environmental initiatives,’ says Quebecor Marketing Director Tim Boissinot.

The company, which prints retail inserts, catalogues, directories, coupons and brochures as well as magazines, has 59 printing and related service plants in Canada, the u.s. and Mexico.

Printers at Quebecor will be following the fundamental concepts – reduce, reuse and recycle – to the letter of the law this year.

The company is not just promoting recycling programs within its own plants, but working hard to get clients and suppliers to join in the effort, says Benoit Brasseur, director of environmental affairs.

The company is also working to promote its Enviro-Printer program.

The plan encourages waste reduction in community outreach events, such as local recycling drives, adopt-a-park cleanups and tree-planting activities.

It has also recently published a community action handbook advising groups on how they can get involved in events and activities to protect the environment.

‘Caring for the environment is a lifestyle here,’ Boissinot says. ‘We want to be on the leading edge of environmental developments.’

Important role

And while marketing those efforts is not the main marketing thrust, it plays an important role, he says.

For example, ads in trade publications have been placed to highlight the company’s environmental efforts.

Smaller printers, such as The Printing House and Ward Press, are also taking an environmental approach in peddling their paper products.

Toronto-based The Printing House is a quick-printer with 60 branches across the country producing brochures and direct mail pieces, among other commercial printed products.

Brochure

Alan Roberts, Printing House business development director, says the company began marketing its environmental message last year, with the Concerned About Recycling and the Environment brochure.

Roberts says the care logo is used in conjunction with all paper and printing products that have been produced in a more environment-friendly way.

He says part of the push to become more environment-friendly – such as using fewer solvents in the printing process – is not just a concern for the environment, but for the health of the printing plant’s workers.

Don Ward, president of Toronto-based Ward Press, agrees.

Ward says many toxic elements such as alcohol have been eliminated in the printing process at his company.

This year, he says he will be telling his clients that he wants to do less of their printing.

‘You can talk a lot about recycling, but you’ll save a lot more trees by cutting down on direct mail,’ Ward says.

With consumers demanding that flyer printers and distributors reduce the flow of paper, he says printers can help by encouraging their clients to make better use of their databases as a way to achieve more targetted direct mailing.

However, printers’ efforts to get green would all be for naught, if not for recycled paper stocks.

They are the dna of environment-friendly brochures, annual reports, retail flyers and catalogues.

Domtar is considered by many to be among the most ecologically responsible paper-makers.

The company has had a long history of being an innovator in its search for environmentally preferred solutions, says product line manager Michel Debonville.

For example, it was the first to introduce a 100% recycled paper stock. And it has just unveiled a patented technology that will allow it to recycle corrugated containers into paper.

The process has at least two important environmental benefits: it will significantly reduce the number of corrugated boxes heading to landfill sites; and it will decrease the amount of liquid waste produced during the traditional de-inking process.

Debonville estimates that 120,000 tons of corrugated boxes will by recycled by the company’s Cornwall, Ont. plant, where the technology is being introduced, that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill site.

He says the amount of ‘sludge’ produced in the de-inking process will be reduced from 25% to 3%.

Domtar is also licensed to use the EcoLogo symbol. The official green stamp of approval is the envy of paper-makers everywhere.

Stringent requirements

To qualify for the EcoLogo, paper manufacturers must meet or exceed stringent requirements for recycled waste paper content as set by the federal government’s Environmental Choice Program.

Papers must contain at least 50% recycled waste paper, with a minimum 10% post-consumer waste paper.

The whole purpose of the program is to help consumers identify products that will ease the burden on the environment.

Debonville says getting the EcoLogo was an important step in being able to market Domtar’s environment-friendly ways to clients.

Marketing Manager Gary Helik admits it will take a long time to see a return on investments such as the one at Cornwall.

‘There’s no doubt it’s a lot more expensive to produce recycled papers right now,’ Helik says. ‘But sooner or later there’s going to be no difference between the two.’

Chlorine-free paper

Debonville says the company is also one of among a handful of plants in the country making a chlorine-free paper and perhaps the only one selling it in the Canadian market.

While chlorine-free paper is all the rage in Europe, it has not caught on in Canada yet.

However, that may soon change.

There has been much debate about the health effects of the bleaching process, says Fraser of Arthurs-Jones Lithographing.

He says bleaching, a multi-stage process to get pulp white and bright, is near the top of Greenpeace’s target list.

He says Greenpeace and other environmental groups argue that chlorine leaves traces of dioxins in the water system which affect the fish population.

‘There’s still a lot of debate going on,’ Fraser says. ‘The science isn’t in yet,’ he says, referring to a recent Ontario study which contradicted earlier findings about the impact of chlorine bleaching.

While the jury is still out on the environmental effects of the bleaching process, Debonville says there is a market for chlorine-free paper.

And although Domtar is currently only making the paper for the federal government, it will soon begin a national promotion to get other clients on board.

Ken Stevens, marketer for Provincial Papers in Thunder Bay, Ont., says getting green means that sometimes trade-offs will have to be made by consumers.

‘There have to be some quality trade-offs,’ Stevens says. ‘Chlorine bleach gets you nice clean, bright white pulp.

‘The issue is, `Does the world really need it?’ And until the world says `No, we don’t,’ papermakers are going to have to keep making it,’ he says.

Stevens says Provincial Papers does not use chlorine bleaching in any of its processes. And the company has just recently started letting clients know of the company’s environmental efforts.

‘We’re spending big dollars to let everybody know we’re the champions of the green cause,’ he says.

Island Paper Mills in New Westminster, b.c., also carries the EcoLogo for its recycled paper stock.

Costly process

Getting more environment-friendly is a costly process that has not paid off yet, says advertising and promotions manager Elizabeth Chase.

‘There’s a sense out there in the marketplace that while people want recycled products, they can’t really afford the price,’ Chase says.

However, she says over the long-run the investment will pay off, particularly as the cost differences between producing recycled and non-recycled papers begins to disappear.

Like many printers, Island Paper has begun to look more at the ‘cradle-to-grave’ process.

The employees of the company are running their own recycling program – it includes everything from waste-paper to skids and pallets to glass and metals.

The company has also invested in producing educational literature to inform clients about environmental issues.

Some packaging manufacturers are also riding high on the green wave.

Get on the bandwagon

‘It’s best to get on the bandwagon now,’ says Roger Keeley, marketer and general manager at Scarborough, Ont.-based Atlantic Packaging Products, outside Toronto.

‘We are in a very enviable position,’ Keeley says. ‘We’ve done our homework, and we’re ready for the future.’

Atlantic offers environment-conscious clients the Enviro-Corr corrugated box made from 100% recycled newsprint.

Lawson Margo Packaging is also trying to find environmentally preferred solutions, says Marketing Co-ordinator Nevine Elchibini.

The company, which is located just outside Montreal, in Baie d’urfe, specializes in manufacturing folding cartons for the pharmaceutical, liquor, cosmetic and tobacco industries across North America.

Lighter weight

Reduce, reuse and recycle translates into making lighter weight packaging by reducing the calliper, or thickness, of the board used and by using the perfecting process.

Perfecting means printing on the inside of the cartons, eliminating the need for separate instruction sheets and coupons.

‘Clients can use it as an additional billboard, so it’s great for delivering a marketing message, or telling their environmental story,’ Elchibini says.

And while both of these packagers are looking at ways of making their products more environment-friendly, it is not an issue that is being talked about enough by others in the packaging industry, according to Dieter Doederlein, vice-president of Toronto-based packaging design firm, The M2000 Group.

Doederlein says when a visible means of identifying packaging material that is less harmful to the environment comes – such as the EcoLogo for the paper-makers – it could have dramatic consequences for major manufacturers.

‘I can see major brands in Canada facing disaster literally overnight,’ Doederlein says.

He says today the green issue is to marketers what the private label issue was two decades ago.

Back then, Doederlein says brand managers were sitting in large corporate offices scoffing at private labels.

‘I think that illustrates where I think the issue is heading,’ he says.

Everyone agrees that all industries are being transformed by the need to become more environment-friendly.

‘We’re going through a dramatic paradigm shift,’ says Fraser of Arthurs-Jones. ‘The ’80s were the `I-can-do-anything’ decade. In the ’90s, large corporations have come to realize we’re all interconnected.

Responsibilities

‘We’re not our own islands,’ he says. ‘And we have responsibilities to the environment.’

For printers, it is not just putting ink on paper any more. Technological advances are hitting the industry on all sides, says Denholm of the Canadian Printing Industries Association.

The next logical steps for the printing industry in their struggle to get greener will require costly investments, he says.

Some printers are reluctant to make huge investments because technology is rapidly changing.

‘If you buy pollution control equipment today, you’re not sure if it’s going to be sufficient tomorrow,’ says Denholm.

For the most part, technological advances have had a positive impact on the environment.

Technology

Electronic technology has eliminated a lot of the pre-press stages and therefore bypassed a number of environmentally harmful chemicals and solutions.

Printers are not only grappling with new technologies and old environmental problems, but changing government legislation, says Roberts of The Printing House.

What happens in the future is going to depend on where the legislation takes the industry, he says.

Grant of RBW Graphics says new equipment to produce smaller flyer sizes is likely to be the next step for flyer printers.

Recycled stock

Most in the paper industry agree that recycled papers are not only here to stay, but that many printers will move to using only recycled stocks.

Fraser says reduce, reuse and recycle will continue to be the corporate creed of the ’90s.

‘But the fourth `R’ should be `Relax,’ ‘ he says. ‘We’ve always had a garbage problem. And the printing industry is facing up to their responsibility and learning to deal with it.’