FESPA President: putting eco-design first
Christophe Aussenac on credibility and accreditation, and building a business around the new greener demands of customers.
FESPA President Christophe Aussenac is a founding director of ATC (Autorise Toute Creativité), which he established with his business partner in 1991. Specialising in screen and digital printing, the company has grown to employ 60 people, with an annual turnover of around €9m.
Below are excerpts from a speech he made at the FESPA Global Print Expo 2022, outlining how ATC has evolved to become a leader in sustainability and eco-design:
When I committed my company to environmental policies 16 years ago, my starting point was an observation: we were a young company in an older profession. We produced very aesthetic and fashionable works much appreciated by younger generations, including graphics, signage and decoration. But we were printing on PVC with solvent inks, which was totally ridiculous. It’s not a permanent solution, so what could we do? Our challenge was to reduce our environmental impact with a strategy focused on the future.
That was the most important step at the time: to find information and share experiences
At the beginning, our first difficulty was to find sources of information, because in 2006, the subject was not very common. We decided to give a name to our project, ‘equal attitude’, where we listened to all our stakeholders, employees, suppliers and also our customers. We created the ‘equal attitude club’, which has become a meeting place for over 40 companies to discuss best practice and learn, an event organiser for national and international companies. That was the most important step at the time: to find information and share experiences. Our strategy at ATC has since been focused on greener policies and products.
Great leap forward
We decided at that time to invest in our first large format printing machine, using vegetable-based ink. It was a huge investment, around €300,000, but we were able to offer our first products with a lower environmental impact and PVC free. We discovered, to our surprise, that it had a very, very low impact on production – only 0.03%. One big company in France began to work with me because we had a new solution that helped us a lot, and now everybody wants to buy green products.
It was in 2008 that we asked how we could further improve our other tasks. Our biggest leap forward was when we took the decision to integrate the principle of eco-design throughout the organisation. I believe this is the only way to approach the subject, considering everything from choice of materials, manufacturing locations, production, delivery, recovery and recycling.
We began constructing new buildings with the idea of being as green as possible, and all our decisions today are now around our impact
Just to focus on production, for example, involves team support, training, management matrix, choice of more ergonomic production machines and safety. These are all important questions of sustainability. We bought France’s first electric car. We began constructing new buildings with the idea of being as green as possible, and all our decisions today are now around our impact. We always ask: how can we reduce our environmental impact? We try to never make photocopies, and if we do, it’s colour blind, printed in black, for example.
ISO 14001 accreditation
A few years later, to formalise our work on this subject, we obtained ISO 14001 accreditation for our entire organisation. We are very proud of this award, and it gives us additional credibility in the market. To carry out such a project, it was necessary to convince and bring together all the team, the stakeholders, and communicate this to our customers. We have since created an internal position with the recruitment of a full-time employee specialised on the subject. This allows us to integrate all our challenges and communicate our approach and prospects with our customers.
We have invested a lot financially in this project, but today, we can say that we’ve made the right decision, because we are now known and recognised as experts in eco-design. Improving your environmental impact is a very bold project, and it can take a lot of time to motivate people, but first you – as the boss – have to be motivated yourself. And despite my 16 years of experience, I can say that I’m still learning about something every day, and that we must stay humble. Today, we no longer have a choice. If we want to sustain our business, think of our children. We must continue our efforts. It’s never too late.
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