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A license to print

by FESPA | 27/07/2018
A license to print

Laurel Brunner discusses how brands communicate their environmental responsibility and how it is beneficial for businesses and the planet.

As the graphics industry’s technological infrastructure comes together, brand owners are putting project designers and printing companies under more pressure. But then again, brand owners are under more pressure themselves. Retailers are now gradually selling own brand goods; local producers are serving slow food markets and upstart entrepreneurs across all sectors are chasing market shares that were formerly controlled by entrenched brands. Brands also must manage the changing expectations of consumers. A main problem is the view that brands have a responsibility when it comes to impacting the environment.

The view is that brands are accountable for the sourcing of packaging and signage waste therefore they should be accountable for dealing with it. For consumers, the dispute is a way of relieving guilt and guilt is a contributing factor for large companies increased environmental engagement. Environmental responsibility is beneficial for both businesses and the planet.

The notion that consumers expect more from their brands is not something new. Originally, brand engagement was concerned with leading consumers who wished to be cool, sporty, elite, trendsetting or conspicuously wealthy. Brands appealed to consumer aspirations and their herd instincts. Therefore, they created images they wished consumers would want to emulate or embrace. Whatever the brand required to embody for target markets, it has always been about persona and identity. People used to wear clothes that showed a brand logo. They purchased products from suppliers whose carrier bags were chic and the unquestionable chicness of the person toting the bag. Printers particularly did well in the luxury packaging industry due to the high production values that represented a brand’s posh image and customer aspirations. Printed material had specific quality expectations that matched the brand’s identity. However, this is now changing.

Today, consumers no longer want to signal their identification with a brand that is entirely based on self-image and aspiring ambitions. Now, consumers expect brands to reflect social values and sustainability. A slight shift in the contractual terms linking brands and consumers is now occurring. Power is moving closer towards consumers. It is important that today’s brands embody more than just identity hint and they need to take visible social responsibility for managing their environmental impact.

What this means for the graphics industry is not clear. Using more sustainable materials and production processes in printed materials is a clear benefit that brands can communicate. In addition, they can boast the recyclability of printed matter and the sustainability of paper’s raw materials. They can use ISO 21331 to illustrate the sustainability of their media investments. This document offers big brands a way of declaring the recyclability of their communications media and encourages brands to go with print over electronic alternatives.

Source: This article was produced by the Verdigris project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, Spindrift.click, EFI, FESPA, HP, Kodak, Kornit Digital, Ricoh, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

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