Sustainability within our industry has been present for years – but the past 12 months has brought about a renewed focus. Topics like carbon neutrality, sustainable sourcing and greenhouse gas emissions seem to be on everyone’s minds. This is especially true with younger Millennials and Gen Z – who will soon take over responsibility for print buying.
Printer sustainability program efforts need to be more than just a bullet point on a sales sheet or an offering that includes only one “green” product. Customers are looking for companies to have an ongoing dedication to sustainability, and this dedication needs to be integrated into all parts of your business.
Hemlock (a printer based in Burnaby, British Columbia) has taken their printer sustainability program to the next level. In a recent Paper Matters podcast, we learned how they’ve successfully set themselves apart with sustainable print practices. Be sure to listen to this fascinating podcast when you have a chance.
I wanted to share a couple of helpful insights (from the podcast as well as from Domtar) that may help you develop (or grow) your printer sustainability program:
Make your goals (and make them clear)
The first step to grow your printer sustainability program by setting (or resetting) your goals. To help with this, Hemlock does research to help them determine their focus areas. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is one tool they have used to guide their sustainability strategy. This tool gives you a big picture look (at things like life on land; clean and affordable energy; and responsible consumption and production) that will help you develop your day-to-day goals for your printer sustainability program.
Once you’ve figured out what your goals are, you must turn your focus to how you will communicate them. It is imperative that you make your goals clear, factual and outcome-oriented in order to stand out. Research has found that one reason consumers are deterred from engaging with sustainable companies is because of communications challenges. This includes insufficiently knowing about, trusting and understanding sustainability claims. By being able to clearly articulate how and why you are committed to sustainability, you can help customers choose you over the competition.
Make it part of your everyday culture.
Support of any externally focused environmental goal is only made stronger when your internal teams are on board. Hemlock believes in making sure their staff is aware of what’s happening in relation to their printer sustainability program. Not only are you making employees feel included, but you may also pique their interest – which may lead to additional suggestions and opportunities.
A great example at Domtar is the EarthChoice® Ambassador program. This group was started over 10 years ago with the intent of providing an employee engagement program through sustainability. This group promotes sustainable practices and education, and strives to emulate Domtar’s sustainability messaging throughout the organization and community.
Whether that be through an internal newsletter, a townhall meeting or an employee subcommittee, be sure to keep your staff in the loop. It gets them involved, gets them excited and ultimately helps strengthen that printer sustainability program messaging to your customers.
Make those connections
Hemlock has also found success with their printer sustainability program initiatives by taking a more proactive stance on communication with the sustainability community. They have partners who introduce them to things like forest conservation commitments or innovative substrates that they would have never been aware of or pursued on their own. Similarly, Domtar continuously works with association and advocacy partners. This collaboration allows us to obtain critical information and support to conduct business more efficiently and effectively, while also providing the critical mass to advocate for public policies that allow our business to be more sustainable.
Do your research to figure out which organizations and suppliers will help you achieve your goals and grown your printer sustainability program. Reach out to those organizations to figure out how you can collaborate and learn from each other.
Make time to talk to your customers
Hemlock has built a solid reputation for being a great printer – but they realize that further improvement doesn’t come from staying in their bubble. Customers regularly ask Hemlock how they can make their projects more sustainable. Rather than treat these inquires as one-offs, they choose to take those learnings to help improve their sustainable print options.
Are you finding that customers are becoming more and more interested in how to be sustainable? Take time to ask yourself how you can adapt your services to meet those desires. Engaging with customers may also lead to the discovery of trends you may not be aware of, which could potentially allow you to offer things your customers don’t.
Are you interested in learning more about sustainability within the paper and print industries? Be sure to check out our Partners in Environmental Sustainability podcast series.