24 Sep 2021

Google's 'Go Paperless' campaign is 'nothing more than clumsy advertising'

Knud Google

Knud Wassermann, Editor in Chief of Austrian magazine Graphische Revue, has joined Verdigris and others in opposing Google's Go Paperless 2013 campaign, describing the initiative to urge business to go paper-free as 'nothing more than a clumsy attempt to market its services' which 'conveniently ignores the environmental impact of its own activities'.

He says:

"The “Two Sides Initiative” has compiled a list of facts designed to infuse the discussion with greater objectivity and demonstrate that internet communication is not necessarily the great boon to the environment it is often made out to be. Basically, it is no simple matter to compare the environmental impact of paper-based communication with the internet. A closer look at figures from the USA shows that the country’s over 2000 computer centres were already consuming more electricity than the entire paper industry back in 2010 and three per cent of the 76 billion kilowatt-hours required to run these centres were attributable to Google. The constantly growing volume of data is, in turn, causing the amount of energy consumed by the IT industry to increase and there is no end in sight. Furthermore, millions of energy-hungry laptops, PCs and tablets are all connected to the internet, most of which are produced in China under highly questionable social and ecological conditions.

Obviously enough, energy is needed to manufacture paper too, but much of it is generated from renewable sources and hence 65 per cent of the energy used to produce paper and cellulose in the USA and 54 per cent of that consumed in Europe originates from renewable sources. According to its own statistics, Google cites a figure of only 30 per cent. Of course, paper also needs to be printed and transported to its recipient. However, despite this fact, it is hard to imagine that more energy is used for this purpose than that expended to manufacture and operate the many millions of digital gadgets with which we meanwhile find ourselves surrounded – particularly in view of the rule of thumb that 80 per cent of the carbon footprint made in printing is caused by paper manufacture.

Paper and printing industry under pressure to justify itself

However, this is not an attempt to convey the impression that all is well in the global paper industry. There are still black sheep among paper manufacturers in the emerging economies of Asia and South America that use raw materials from non-certified sources. For instance, just before Christmas the WWF released a study proving that fibres originating from tropical timber had been found in the children’s books of German publishers. In order to present a complete picture, it should be mentioned that the production of children’s books has been largely relocated to Asia in recent years. Examples of this nature are frequently used to give the impression that tropical rain forests are being ruthlessly felled to produce newspapers, magazines and books, putting the entire value-added chain of paper-based communication under pressure to justify itself and causing its long-term environmental protection endeavours to disappear in a cloud of smoke.

Up to 50 million tonnes of electronic waste

One fact currently being ignored in the ongoing discussion on the environmental compatibility of digital communication is the amount of waste it causes. According to Greenpeace, electronic waste is currently the fastest-growing category of municipal waste. In Europe, the volume of e-waste is rising by 3 to 5 per cent per year – almost three times faster than the amount of waste overall. The number of electronic products being thrown away has significantly increased in recent years and meanwhile accounts for up to 50 million tonnes per year. Although in the EU, at least, there are regulations in place obliging manufacturers to take back their used electronic devices, the IT industry can only dream of the 70 per cent recycling rate that the paper and printing industry has been achieving for many years. No more than an estimated one third of electronic waste is currently being recycled. To make matters worse, some of this waste is being exported as hazardous waste that ends up on the landfill sites of developing countries. By contrast, paper is subjected to a number of recycling procedures and decomposes at the end of its life cycle.

In the meantime Google and similar companies have begun to compensate for their CO2 emissions by purchasing carbon certificates. Google even claims to have become carbon-neutral since 2007, due to the mixture of greater efficiency in its computer centres and the use of renewable sources of energy combined with carbon emission compensation. However, in this regard the paper and printing industry goes one step further, meanwhile offering carbon-neutral types of paper as well as printing machines and an increasing number of printing companies are offering their customers the option of compensating for the CO2 emissions generated during production by means of a small donation. As far as I know, there is still no such thing as a carbon-neutrally manufactured iPad.

Solidarity throughout the entire value-added chain

However we look at it, both electronic and paper-based communication have an impact on the environment and it is simply untenable for Google to claim that paperless communication is fundamentally better, no matter how green they try to picture themselves. It is therefore even more difficult to comprehend that the paper and printing industry has been unable to rid itself of the image that continues to stick from the past as environmental bad guys. One would think that Europe’s 100-billion-euro paper and printing industry is capable of representing its interests both at national and EU levels. Hence solidarity is urgently called for throughout the entire value-added chain for printed communication – to set the record straight once and for all on the subject of environmental compatibility."

About the author: Knud Wassermann has been Editor in Chief of Graphische Revue since 1998, during which time he has transformed the journal into a leading title for media design and production.  A graduate of the Vienna College of Graphic Design (HGBLVA), he has been a close observer of the industry from a variety of perspectives for more than 20 years.  Knud Wassermann is constantly in touch with the latest developments from his intensive daily contacts with producers and users. He assesses, presents and analytically documents current trends, facts and backgrounds covering all aspects of the printing industry.

Sun Chemical releases 2012 Sustainability Report

Sun Chemical 2012 Report

Sun Chemical has released its 2012 Sustainability Report which it says 'showcases the company’s leadership in eco-efficiency through established data-driven metrics', as well as detailing examples of how raw material suppliers are contributing to the company’s environmental footprint.

The report describes a balanced scorecard approach that Sun Chemical uses to assess suppliers’ environmental performance and provides details about questionnaires that were sent to suppliers asking about their sustainability policies, carbon footprint emissions, the potential impact on deforestation, etc.

The report cites two case study examples of raw material suppliers who published sustainability reports and described their contributions and practices to eco-efficiency.

“We’re going beyond providing meaningful data that will help meet customer goals,” said Gary Andrzejewski, Sun Chemical’s Corporate Vice President of Environmental Affairs. “We are showing concrete examples of things our raw material suppliers are doing to help Sun Chemical meet and improve upon its eco-efficiency goals. It is our goal to manufacture products that help our customers better meet their environmental goals and we can only do that by ensuring our suppliers are also doing their part to contribute to sustainable practices.”

The report shows data collected every year since 2005 from approximately 170 Sun Chemical sites in over 25 countries. The key sustainability metrics measured in the data include: energy consumption/conservation at production and non-production sites, the energy carbon footprint at the production sites, process waste reduction, water consumption, materials safety, and employee safety.

Providing a report that shows the ongoing management and monitoring of key sustainability metrics is an important part of Sun Chemical’s sustainability policy.

“Our sustainability policy pushes us as a company to improve the eco-efficiency of our processes and products,” Andrzejewski said. “Our R&D efforts are a pivotal part of this process as we provide our customers with solutions that will be both eco-friendly and save them money. These data-driven sustainability reports have played a key role in helping our customers achieve many of their eco-efficiency goals.”

All of Sun Chemical’s sustainability reports, along with the “Carbon Footprint Report 2010,” which outlines the results from nine independent environmental analyses focused on quantifying the carbon footprint of its product lines, are available to customers and can be requested online at www.sunchemical.com/sustainability.

Customers in the U.S. can also calculate the initial carbon footprint for their facility operations by visiting www.sunchemical.com/suncare.

Verdigris asks print & paper industries to 'Go Google-less'

Verdigris Logo

Verdigris, the environmental awareness initiative, is asking the printing and paper industries and their customers to ‘Go Google-less’ in response to Google’s Paperless 2013 campaign which urges people to stop using paper. Verdigris wants the industry to stop using the Google search engine and related products such as Google+, Chrome or Android in the hope that Google will reconsider.

The Paperless 2013 campaign (www.paperless2013.org) claims that relying exclusively on digital communications instead of using paper benefits the environment. However, Paperless 2013 is more about getting people to use cloud storage, online bill management, accounting and e-signatures.

Verdigris claims that Google and its campaign partners are using an environmental message to encourage use of their own technologies, not to aid environmental sustainability. “Their arguments are ill-founded and potentially damaging to the environment,” says Laurel Brunner, Verdigris founder.

Electronic devices cannot be recycled; paper can. Unlike paper, electronic devices are not based on a sustainable resource, but depend on oil-based plastics and rare earths neither of which can be replenished. Electronic devices require huge amounts of energy to support and maintain the content they deliver, whereas paper based content has a one-time carbon footprint. Electronic devices create an environmentally damaging waste stream that cannot easily be managed. Paper can be reused, recycled and disposed of responsibly when it reaches its end of life.

Verdigris wants enough people Go Google-less to encourage Google to reconsider its campaign. “At the very least, they might try to better understand the environmental impact of media and about what industry can to do help reduce environmental impacts,” says Laurel. “The higher the number of users, the higher Google can charge advertisers. Reduce the number and we undermine the source of Google’s income. The threat of harm to its revenue model might encourage Google to become better informed and be more responsible in its environmental positioning, particularly as relates to print and paper.”

For more information on Verdigris, please visit www.verdigrisproject.com

Heidelberg confirmed as associate member of Verdigris research initiative

Verdigris Logo

Heidelberg Druckmaschinen AG has become an associate member of Verdigris, the not-for-profit research initiative which works with the global graphic arts community - printers, manufacturers, print buyers and publishers - to evaluate the carbon footprints of different media.  Heidelberg joins a number of other leading manufacturers which are backing Verdigris, including Agfa, EFI, HP, Ricoh and Xeikon, as well as the drupa , FESPA and EcoPrint Europe exhibitions.

Explaining Heidelberg’s decision, Harald Woerner, the company’s Product Manager, Environment and Sustainability, praises Verdigris’s “precise and efficient communication” of the respective environmental impacts of different communications media.  “At Heidelberg we regard sustainability as a long-term balance between environmental protection, business goals and social responsibility.  We invest heavily to eliminate or minimise negative impacts throughout the life cycle of our products, from manufacture through use by customers to final recycling or disposal, and we look forward to sharing our expertise with Verdigris and our fellow project supporters.  Verdigris deserves credit for its efforts so far to create and maintain a valuable cooperative effort by the graphic arts industry to discover and present the facts about print’s sustainability.”

“Making the case for Verdigris to the global leader in press technology is a major achievement for us,” says Verdigris founder Laurel Brunner.  “Anyone who visited Heidelberg’s exhibit at drupa earlier this year witnessed how seriously the company takes sustainability.  As well as the entire stand being carbon-neutral, Heidelberg showed a number of innovations such as in-press energy efficiency monitoring and heat recovery during drying.  We were also impressed by the launch of consultancy services to help Heidelberg customers improve and reduce their energy consumption.  Heidelberg’s participation is great news for Verdigris.”

Since its launch at drupa in 2008 Verdigris has mobilised the resources of its supporters to educate producers and consumers of print about its environmental impact, helping to raise print’s profile as a competitive communications medium that is also sustainable and has a low carbon impact.  Verdigris achieves this by providing a global network of graphic arts industry publishers with free research and content — independently managed by specialists in print technology — that explores and analyses the issues facing publishers and printers and helps them manage their carbon footprints while continuing to run profitable businesses.  Verdigris is also a major contributor to the development of ISO 16759, the standard for measuring the carbon footprint of print media products.

For more information on Verdigris, please visit www.verdigrisproject.com.

SGP launches 'Take Action' campaign to promote sustainability


Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP) has launched a new outreach campaign -"Take Action" - to encourage members of the graphic communications industry to take action by getting involved with SGP and reaping the benefits of Certification and sustainability.

The "Take Action" campaign is represented by a graphic element designed by Refractor Group, a division of SGP Certified printer Image Options. Thomas Mattingly, Creative Director for Refractor Group comments, "I was very interested and excited to provide our creative team's efforts in the develop of branding design for the 'Take Action' campaign. Sustainability and eco-friendly manufacturing is the future of our planet, and we are passionate about design and sustainability. We are very excited that our design was selected by SGP for this campaign."

The "Take Action" campaign has several goals to achieve by early Q1 2013. These include: 1) raising the number of SGP Certified applicants; 2) increasing the number of print buyers that preference SGP Certified printers; 3) increasing the number of suppliers that sponsor SGP; and 4) significantly raising the number of organisations and individuals on SGP's mailing list. The "Take Action" campaign will involve outreach via email, social networking, print, and traditional one-to-one phone calls with its target audience. 

"SGP Certification does more than just help companies become good stewards for the environment; it significantly improves a business's value and its bottom line," comments Heidi Thompson, SGP's "Take Action" campaign leader. "Our goal is to put SGP in the forefront of everyday business, making it easy for everyone to benefit from all that it has to offer."

How to Take Action

Print Facilities can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability by becoming SGP Certified. SGP's publicly vetted set of criteria and third-party certification provides a strong return on investment by identifying operational improvements and waste reductions. SGP Certification also helps print facilities to meet the ever-growing supply chain requirements.

Suppliers can show their support for environmental responsibility by becoming a Platinum, Gold, or Silver Patron of SGP. By becoming an SGP Patron, suppliers support SGP's mission of encouraging and promoting participation in the movement to increase the social responsibility of the graphic communications supply network through sustainable green practices.

Print buyers can recommend and develop a formal procurement policy that preferences SGP Certified print facilities. SGP Certified print facilities make sustainability claims for printed products credible and transparent. Preferencing SGP Certified facilities publicly demonstrates company's ongoing commitment to sustainability, which will resonate with customers, clients, employees, and stakeholders.

For more information about the Take Action campaign, please contact Heidi Thompson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ricoh recognised for its sustainable business activities

Ricoh Eco Billboard

Ricoh has been recognised as a pioneer of sustainable business in Deloitte’s Towards Zero Impact Growth: Strategies of leading companies in 10 industries report.

The world-leading consultancy firm’s report on the outcomes of its first-ever Zero Impact Growth Monitor (ZIG-M) identified Ricoh as being among an elite group of six top global brands to have already reached the “ecosystem” level of sustainable business. Puma, Nike, Nestlé, Unilever and Natura make up the remainder of this group, which was praised for embedding policies into a long-term strategic vision, in an effort to minimise their negative environmental and societal impacts. “Ecosystem” sits one level below the ZIG-M’s top assessment level, “Economy”; 65 companies were assessed in total.

Stephen Palmer, Production Print Director, Ricoh UK said, “It is very pleasing to see Ricoh recognised for its hard work in building towards a sustainable future for its business. Sustainability is a deeply ingrained part of Ricoh’s corporate culture, evidenced by the setting of ambitious long-term targets stretching all the way to 2050 - a world-first in business.

“Sustainability is the responsibility of us all. At the core of our own manufacturing and business activities, initiatives have been taken in the three core areas of energy conservation and prevention of global warming, resource conservation and recycling and pollution. And, for the benefit of production print customers, Ricoh’s Carbon Balanced Printing Programme allows clients to promote an even more sustainable printing service by becoming carbon neutral for every single job completed on a Ricoh production printing machine.”

By 2050, Ricoh Group has committed itself to reducing the total CO2 emissions from its products and services throughout their lifecycles; input of new resources and the use of chemical substances to one-eighth of the levels at 2000 through sustainable environmental management.