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FLEXO Magazine : End of Year 2008
8 Sustainable FLEXO YEAR END 2008 www.flexomag.com How Inks Fit Into Your Sustainability Program By Michael Impastato When this question was first asked in a BP TV commer- cial a couple of years ago, no one really knew what was meant by "carbon footprint." Since then, we have seen many more references to carbon emissions and other related en- vironmental issues. Environmental issues have been around for 40 years---they aren't new. So why does it now seem to be gaining trac- tion as a key industry issue? We have seen the "Perfect Storm" of incidents, which have come together to create what may be a tipping point. We have had the Wal-Mart initiative, the notoriety of global warming, the escalation of oil prices, and the acceptance that petroleum-based raw materi- als, in general, are going to be more expensive and less available in the future. Of course, there are other examples of why people are generally becoming more concerned. But, we can't dispute the fact that the level of attention is higher, and governments are talking about packaging taxes, carbon taxes, and out-right prohibition of some types of materials. This is a sensitive issue for anyone who makes products that end up in the waste stream. These concerns may likely impact buy- ing decisions in the future. When buying decisions are influenced by environmental concerns, when material costs escalate, and profits go down, it becomes a significant business issue. And this is what we are facing today. Retailers, and other buyers, will begin to make decisions based upon environmental impact. Governments will get involved by taxing materials which in their view may be detrimental to the "public good." Raw material costs will continue to rise steadily. DEFINING SUSTAINABILITY Is it the same as being green? Sustainability is the buzz word heard around the country and around our industry. Sustainability has been defined many ways; but, in its simplest form, sustainabil- ity is the ability of this generation to meet its needs while not diminish- ing the ability of future generations to meet theirs. Sustainability goes beyond "green." The concept of being green is heavily focused on environmental impact; sometimes to the exclusion of all other consideration. The idea of sustainability has been championed as an approach that balances, sometimes competing, needs and requirements. We call it "managing to a triple bottom line." We want to bal- ance profits, environmental needs and social needs. Many com- panies are finding they can run a growing and profitable busi- ness, while also reducing the negative effects their operations, or products, may have on the environment and society. Most large companies have begun looking at this concept as they manage their businesses. This is becoming an integral part of how they do business and how they expect their suppliers to do business. Flexo print buyers are beginning to ask us what we are doing in the area of sustainability, and what programs we have in place. We believe many of our customers will place an emphasis on doing busi- ness with suppliers who have strong sustainability programs. And the conservation of materials is in the long term interest of us all. There are a variety of different definitions for sustainability, but the bottom line is to make and distribute products that minimize use of the earth's natural resources; and dispose of these products in a way that it is not harmful to human life or the earth's eco- systems. A popular way to approach packaging sustainability has been called the 4Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Reclaim, and Recycle). While these concepts have been around for decades, they have been in and out of popular favor, depending on the popular culture, and the degree to which the popular culture is promoting an environ- mental agenda. THE WAL-MART PUSH In late 2006, Wal-Mart announced its own sustainability pro- gram. Its goals are very aggressive and have specific targets. The agenda is very comprehensive and covers both the products it sells and its own operations. Wal-Mart has established ambitious