Tomorrow's World

A roadmap to profiting from the three Ps approach

by FESPA | 18/02/2022
A roadmap to profiting from the three Ps approach

In his final article, Matthew Parker, Founding Director of Profitable Printing Relationships, describes simple steps for implementing a people-planet-profit (3Ps) principle in your business.

Sometimes we really like an idea, but it can be hard to put it into practice. Often the end goal seems intimidating. Where should you start?

Putting theory into practice can be hard

In my previous two articles I have discussed the 'triple bottom line', developed by John Elkington, as an alternative approach to developing a leading printing company in the 2020s. This approach is also called the 3Ps: people, planet and profit. I have demonstrated how this approach can be used for printing companies to increase profits and build a more sustainable business model.

However, trying to change a large-scale culture while running a busy printing company is a hard task. Therefore, in the third part of this series, I have focused on creating a simple roadmap to start putting theory into practice.

Small steps to success

This roadmap can be used in two ways. Firstly, it can be a complete system for starting a 3Ps approach. However, if this is too much of a radical approach, you can use it to make small changes using the action points that I outline. This allows you to start working towards a more sustainable culture without trying to implement a significant culture shift in one go.

Numerous brands are starting to demand a more sustainable approach. Printing companies that cannot demonstrate a sustainable policy, and a route to further improvement, are likely to start being excluded from approved supplier lists. This approach is likely to be adopted by a wider range of organisations as public demand for a more ethical approach increases. In addition, your staff are more likely to become more discerning about the type of organisations they work for.

The changes you make in the planet and people areas of your business should improve profit margins. So how can you improve sustainability through profit?

Here are factors that you should consider to ensure your business is using the 3Ps model. I have created a series of action points for each of the 3Ps, starting with people.


There are some quick wins to be made with staff benefits. Here is a list of benefits you might want to consider offering:

  • Flexible hours
  • Home working options
  • Volunteer days where staff can help their preferred charities
  • Mental health programmes 

The first items on this list may be less realistic for production staff, but it can be surprising what can be achieved if everyone discusses different ways of working together. For instance, it may be perfectly possible for digital pre-press staff to work from home or to pre-prepare jobs to offer more flexible hours.

Another effective way to improve company culture is to ensure regular engagement with your people. Ideally, there would be regular face-to-face company updates from senior staff, with the opportunity to ask questions. If not, even company updates on notice boards or in Slack groups will help.

Consider incentivising your staff more. Here are three ideas:

  • A company profit share scheme
  • A rewards programme for ideas that help the organisation become more sustainable or improve profits
  • Commission on profit gained from new customers that staff have referred.


One of the most beneficial steps that a printing company can take is to undertake an energy review. This will highlight all the ways that energy consumption can be reduced, the investment required, the grants available and the payback time. Some of the key areas that a review might include (depending on the size of your organisation) are:

  • Reducing heat loss from premises by reviewing insulation 
  • Lighting efficiency: usually more efficient bulbs can be used and movement detectors installed to reduce the time lights are on
  • Opportunities to reduce energy consumption (for instance, traditional presses can often reduce energy consumption with more modern drives)
  • Waste reduction and recycling opportunities, perhaps by including more recycling stations in staff areas
  • Waste energy re-use may also be a possibility for larger factories
  • Opportunities for energy generation, such as installing solar panels to factory roofs.

Typically, not all options will be practical or affordable for some companies. However, most energy reviews will highlight numerous benefits that can be made for a limited investment.

Printing companies should also consider creating a transparent, sustainable procurement policy. Already, companies in the UK with a turnover of over £36m are legally required to create an annual statement that shows an audit ensuring that human trafficking and slavery do not exist in their supply chain. However, a procurement policy can go much further than this. It may require purchasers to put sustainable sourcing above lowest cost. It may also dictate the type of supplier that a company will deal with. It can also help implement a scope 3 carbon reduction strategy. A procurement policy such as this is not yet common within the printing industry. Adopting one can make a real difference when dealing with ethical customers.

If a supplier is not adopting the same environmental approach as you, then should you be dealing with them?

Taking things further, companies may also consider implementing ISO 14001. This requires considerable commitment. However, it ensures that your environmental processes are documented and audited. Although this exercise is not cheap, you should expect to recieve payback from the changes that you implement.

Finally, consider reviewing your supply chain and customers. What changes are they making to become more sustainable? This can be linked in with your procurement policy. If a supplier is not adopting the same environmental approach as you, then should you be dealing with them? Ask your customers what they want: they may have valuable ideas to help you become more sustainable.

The changes you make in the planet and people areas of your business should improve profit margins. So how can you improve sustainability through profit?


Your first task should be to set a profit policy. In other words, what are you going to do with your profits? If we are trying to create a truly sustainable environment, think about implementing a policy where a certain percentage of profits is set aside for charity, investing in your team, and improving your company. Here are some thoughts on how you can put a policy like this into place.

Firstly, set up a charity committee. If you are donating a percentage of profits to charity it is good if your staff can feel that they are involved in the process of choosing a charity.

Consider also how you will invest in your staff. Here are some ideas:

  • Training schedules
  • Apprenticeship programmes or similar
  • Profit share schemes
  • Investing in extra staff to allow more flexible working.

Finally, consider a research programme. What new products or services could you launch if you invested in more product development?

Implementing a number of these action points ensures that you will be well on the way to creating an organisation that follows the principles of the 3Ps.

Does implementing this mean I need lots of consultants?

Not necessarily. You will benefit from specialist input in certain areas, but a lot can be done in-house without external input. Remember that many people will run with projects if they are engaged with them. They may often find that they are more engaged with your organisation if they are given the responsibility and the freedom to make a difference.

What should you do next?

  • Make a list of specific strategies to implement first
  • Delegate this implementation to individual employees or to small working parties
  • Communicate with your people: schedule your first company update about 3Ps.

Putting the 3Ps into practice doesn’t have to be hard

The important issue to remember is that you don’t have to implement a company-wide programme straight away. Even if you just choose two or three of these action points you will discover that you are on the way to creating a sustainable company. Having sustainable business sets you ahead and apart from the competition. 

Take the first few steps and many people will be incentivised to do more. You will start the necessary measures to initiate sustainable change. 

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