Industrial firms have moved beyond thinking about sustainability as a pleasant, heartwarming side project.
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Sustainability initiatives improve company performance either by reducing resource use and waste emission (lowering costs) or by providing value to customers who are increasingly selecting companies based on credible social and environmental performance.
In today’s connected world, with information at our fingertips and a megaphone as close as the send button on our mobile device, it is much easier for customers, communities, and activists to keep tabs on industrial environmental performance and to broadcast their perceptions. By the same token, companies that are transparent about their sustainability initiatives and accomplishments can benefit from these same forces. Companies that embrace sustainable production or green manufacturing are reducing costs and promoting positive brand recognition among conscientious consumers.
Innovation can come from bold strategic initiatives, such as some aluminum fabricators driving to use more recycled material in their operations, or from technology such as Boeing’s ecoDemonstator designed to test new advances in aviation performance. Academic centers such as the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Center for Sustainable Production and Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Excellence in Sustainable Manufacturing continue to enable new limits for industrial environmental responsibility. Kodak is no different in the goals we’re trying to attain today.
Kodak’s key businesses include digital inkjet printing solutions, micro 3D printing for applications such as touch screens, printing for the packaging industry and a full range of offset plates and equipment for the lithographic printing industry. As one of the oldest industrial sectors, the print industry has not always enjoyed a reputation for environmental responsibility. Volatile and odorous materials, waste paper, and more recently, chemically intensive processes were some of the challenges facing the industry. However, cutting edge developments in recent years have brought the industry into a much better position and are a testament to how the right technology and strategic direction enables operations across all industries to reduce their environmental footprint while promoting their own profitability, marketability and long term success.
Extending Sustainability to Customer Solutions
Kodak has long sought to improve the efficiency and sustainability of both its own and customer operations. Recycling programs began as early as the 1920s by repurposing the silver used to make film, and evolved through our single use cameras in the 1990s to our refurbishment of key components for digital printing presses today. We began public environmental commitments in the 1990s and have gone through several generations of environmental and sustainability goals, including the reduction of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by 58 percent from 2002 to 2013. This progress was enabled by strategic commitments, transparency in reporting, and technology like our energy management system at our Eastman Business Park facility that gives real time energy use data for buildings to quickly determine the effects of experimental improvements.
Like many companies, Kodak has extended its operational focus to its base of suppliers, joining with industry partners in the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition to establish standards of health, safety, environmental and social performance among its supply base. This work with suppliers mitigates risk from both supply chain disruption and brand damage and is an important component in our sustainability commitment.
This commitment only continues to grow as we focus on current key objectives: continuing to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions; cutting our already impressive occupational injury rate in half; engaging with our employees on sustainability issues; and most importantly, working with our customers and partners to act as stewards of sustainability in the $800 billion print industry. We do this by providing products that reduce the environmental footprint of our customers’ operations and by partnering with other companies up and down the print value chain to educate the public on how print communications are part of a sustainable future.
The evolution of sustainability in the Print industry
The printing industry began the movement towards sustainability with soy-based inks and recycled paper. As more and more end users asked for these products, they became an industry trend and the responsible use of paper has continued to progress with the advent of forest certification schemes. These certifications document best practices in sustainable forestry, and allow printers to be confident that the paper they are using was produced responsibly.
On the technology front, recent advances in software and printing plate technology have reduced the environmental impact for printers. Workflow software, such as Kodak PRINERGY Workflow, automates the preparation and execution of print jobs. In busy print shops with high tech digital or conventional printers, multiple jobs must be run quickly with uncompromised quality. Workflow software eliminates errors and waste by reducing manual interventions, resulting in efficiency improvements on complex jobs of up to 50 percent.
The availability of process free plates such as Kodak SONORA Process Free Plates has enabled dramatic resource reductions at lithographic print shops. Conventional plates are imaged and then developed in a chemical development step, much as photographic film used to be. Process free plates are imaged and then put directly on press, not requiring a development step. The elimination of this step results in cascading benefits to the printer. The elimination of the processing step results in savings from not running the processor (electricity, water, chemistry), efficiency from faster start up of print jobs, and improved quality due to lack of variability in the chemistry based processing step. There has been rapid uptake of process free technology in the market, exemplified by Kodak’s recent addition of its 1000th Sonora customer. The industry appetite for solutions that help the environment, and therefore help their business is growing at an unprecedented pace, and is continuing to grow.
Li Yanqiu, General Manager of Beijing Shengtong Printing recently commented on this trend in China, saying “For us, green printing is a fundamental social responsibility. Sustainable practices secure the future of our business as well as the environment,” she said. “We are proud to be among the earliest adopters of Kodak SONORA Plates in China, proving that process-free plates – as part of a holistic green approach to commercial printing – can deliver both high quality and serious environmental benefits. We know that many other printers in the region are now making plans to follow our lead.”
Across industry segments, customers and other stakeholders are doubling down on their demands for quality products produced with minimal environmental impacts. Companies that address these demands are positioning themselves to possess a sustainable competitive advantage. Kodak has focused on improving the efficiency of operations, expanding that goal to supplier assessments, and most importantly, to providing solutions that improve customer performance. In our industry and beyond, others who have followed similar strategies have improved their social, environmental and economic performance throughout the supply chain. Although much remains to be done, this alignment of strategy bodes well for a profitable and sustainable future.
Chuck Ruffing is the vice president of Health, Safety, Environment and Sustainability at Eastman Kodak Company, where he has worked for 23 years. He is a chemist by trade, with B.S. from St Joseph’s University and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. He has been leading Kodak’s sustainability efforts for the last 5 years, focusing on operational footprint reduction, workforce safety, and product development to help customers advance their sustainability programs. Chuck is a member of the Board of Directors for Two Sides NA and the Central and Western New York Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.