Business Advice

Sustainability Spotlight: actionable advice for speciality printers

by FESPA Staff | 26/06/2023
 Sustainability Spotlight: actionable advice for speciality printers

In May, FESPA Global Print Expo created six core themes for greener manufacturing, and showcased innovative material alternatives.

Returning for its second year, the Sustainability Spotlight feature – brought to you by FESPA and our partners – provides useful, informative and actionable advice for speciality printers looking to transform their businesses.

First introduced at the FESPA Global Expo in 2022, the Sustainability Spotlight identified six core themes to provide clarity in what can be a complex set of choices. 

  • Brands and the benefit of reducing scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions plus supply chain transparency.
  • Curated list of both textile and graphic alternative materials with their sustainable characteristics.
  • Circular economy as a system based on the reuse and regeneration of materials or products.
  • Energy reduction addressing the opportunities to reduce consumption through renewables, energy efficiency strategies and management.
  • Carbon foot-printing facilities and benchmarking, providing a platform for decarbonisation.
  • Certification schemes, both self-certification and externally validated systems to add value to your business while avoiding greenwashing.

Energy reduction, efficient use of materials and circular thinking all build towards lower emissions and cost benefits that support operational resilience. Brands are demanding more transparency and accountability from their supply chain, for which certification and carbon calculation schemes are valuable.

Finally, innovative materials provide better alternatives and can simplify end of life and increase recycling opportunities.

Textile alternatives

To that end, FESPA collaborated with The Good Factory to produce a textile material display that showcased more than 40+ products across four categories:

  • Leather and leather alternatives
  • Synthetic fabrics
  • Cellulosic fabrics
  • Natural fabrics

Each submission was evaluated to provide visitors with clear, transparent and relevant sustainable materials, available across three clearly defined sectors: short-term graphics, interior decoration and fashion. All materials were available in white grade for printing.

The information provided within the displays included manufacturer location and information, associated quality standards, composition, weight, width, stock service, low/high MOQ (Minimum Order Quantity), recycled content, recyclability, lower emissions, how products fit into a water policy, energy policy, social policy and if yarns are fully traceable. Each material also offers a short summary covering their highlights.

Visitors could also consult a certifications key that covered the following: Global Recycling Standard, GOTS, OEKO-TEX, Bluesign, Crib 5, Fire Retardant Certification and Martindale results.

An example of an information sheet, describing Antalis Katz Display Board Glazed 3mm wood pulp board, is shown below. 

FESPA’s commitment to sustainable solutions extended to the Sustainability Spotlight feature itself, partnering with Re-board, ATC Groupe and CarbonQuota to produce and measure the impacts of the stand. Overall, associated carbon emissions were reduced by 91% compared with standard MDF. The materials used were lightweight, so producing the stand led to 85% fewer carbon emissions from raw materials, and 82% fewer in the printing process and 83% fewer from transporting the stand to Munich. The Re-board stand, which was fully recyclable, emitted 10.9 tonnes of carbon less than MDF.

New destinations

Sustainability is a journey, with multiple considerations to be assessed, acted upon and communicated along the way. The materials you print on make up one of the threads, moving towards those that are more sustainable than some of the traditional materials as new options become available. 

An important point from the Sustainability Spotlight was the arrival of many new and innovative materials on the stand that have made big improvements on previously existing materials. There is no perfect, single material yet that resolves all the issues and works for everyone – speciality print is a complicated industry with many different performance and durability needs that materials must fulfil. But one key message from the expo was not to allow perfection to be the enemy of the good: journeys comprise many steps forward to reach the goal.

And although much of the information might be outside your current knowledge or experience, certifications, standards, and ecolabels can help printers make the right decision. 

Suggested first steps for considering new materials included the following:

  • Think circular
  • Protecting resources: materials that have recycled content or are recyclable – this includes those made from a single material rather than different things sandwiched together, or that can be printed on directly so there is no need to laminate other materials on.
  • Protecting biodiversity and avoiding deforestation: certifications for timber-based products, cotton materials, other bio-based materials can help.
  • Energy efficiency: does making the material need a lot of energy, and if so what is the manufacturer doing about it; is it more energy-efficient for you to use?
  • Minimising pollution: how was the material made or grown, what processing will be needed during its life and at end-of-life, and what is the manufacturer doing to avoid hazardous substances?
  • Consider the uses of the material: will the processes affect reuse or recycling, for example.


by FESPA Staff Back to News

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