Sustainability in print has to be about the money, money, money…!
However there does, to me, seem to be some confusion over what sustainability is. Is it about being nice about the environment? Yes, but it has to be about profit first and what’s in it for me!
Money is important. Because without money, we simply won’t be able to make a social or environmental contribution. It’s obvious isn’t it? Well no, not when you get such a clouded issue as sustainability.
Let’s go back in time. When I joined the print sector back in 2006, there was a lot of talk about ‘overcapacity’ and the challenge of competition and price. If you think about it, it is a little crazy to think that when the market was so strong and growth was so normal, we were complaining about there being too much capacity and that price was an issue, especially when times were so good.
But it was clear back then, that many print companies really just print. The focus was on technology and print production in line with consistent customer demand and economic growth. The general interface between customer and printer was relatively transactional.
Most print companies said ‘I can do whatever you want’ and they let the technology and their ability to print do the talking. I could see this wasn’t the future. I could see there were some very switched on businesses out there pushing, being proactive and innovative.
These were the businesses that were profitable, growing and that were commercially sustainable.
The rest were simply printing to demand, they were reactive and transactional.
And then 2008 came, the great downturn, and demand contracted. Waiting for the phone to ring wasn’t any more acceptable, as price competition became even fiercer and a lot of the medium size print businesses suffered, downsized, got acquired, or went out of business. The smaller were small enough to either withdraw their spending or survive in a subsistent way or they niched their offering and survived by being unique. The top just survived because size protects! This to me is strong evidence of how a price focused business model isn’t sustainable. There will always be someone who does it cheaper. I was hearing crazy stories about print businesses out there that were printing and knowing they were losing money, but they felt justified in doing so, as at least they were working.
That isn’t sustainable. The commodity print model isn’t sustainable. So it is heartening to see leaders in technology creating products and education that provide the printing company with the ability to create value through innovation.
This is a more sustainable path, and one that will lead to profit. It’s good business. And if we have a good business that is profitable, we can think about doing the right thing for the society and the environment.
EcoPrint is raising the issue of sustainability to the print community. We believe our print community has to change focus and become more oriented towards value creation. The first step for any sustainable business has to be about generating profit.
So to those who don’t think sustainability is about profit. You are really missing the point.
Without money, value and profit we are nothing, we are non-entities and totally powerless to make a positive environmental contribution through business.
And business, I believe is the biggest opportunity for widespread change.
So discover how to make money through sustainability at EcoPrint 2012.