Sustainability auditing

Laurel Brunner's picture
Laurel Brunner

Doing something to improve the environmental sustainability of your business should be easy, but it can often seem scary.

We have found that business owners in the graphics industry generally start with the obvious quick fixes, such as simplifying onsite recycling or switching to LED lighting before often losing heart. The benefit of easy steps, is that they don’t have to require much time or cost to put into place. However if you are considering more ambitious ideas, such as investing in low energy kit, the process gets a little more complicated and usually involves money.

There are also likely to be different priorities for investment in the business, particularly one active across applications. This means that some sort of quantification of your options is needed, which can be pretty complex and stressy. It might be easier to take a step back and to start with a sustainability audit of your business before you make any investment decisions.

To conduct such an audit make a list of everything you do now that relates, however tangentially, to sustainability. This would include processes that avoid remakes and waste, such as colour management, or policies, such as any environmental statements you have for the company. You can use this list to compare with what other companies in your sector do, and with overall best practises if you can find suitable benchmarks.

Your list is the starting point for deciding how you might improve environmental performance, based on consistent metrics. Your list might show you some gaping holes in your environmental strategy, stuff that you assumed was happening, such as composting in the company canteen, but that hasn’t been put in place.

A sustainability audit is not the same as a carbon footprinting exercise. It is about understanding where you are now, so that you can plan for a more sustainable future. It shouldn’t go into too much detail for any specific aspect of the business, but rather should give you a clear view for what should be prioritised for subsequent in depth review. That could be failings in the printing systems used, the IT infrastructure, the company’s transport policy, or energy supplier. The idea is to help improve compliance with local rules and best practises, to give the business a competitive edge as well as making sure that it runs efficiently and of course to encourage new ideas within the business. The biggest contributors to environmental sustainability are the individuals in the company, so get them engaged and get them to help with new ideas. In the end it will be well worth the effort because the business will be saving money and operating with higher margins.

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The Verdigris Project investigates the environmental impact of print media and provides information about sustainability initiatives for the international printing community. Keep up to date with the weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner.