How does climate-neutral printing work? CO2-Reduction at dieUmweltDruckerei
Dr. Kevin Riemer-Schadendorf is Head of Sustainability and Communications at dieUmweltDruckerei. Together with THE CLIMATE CHOICE, the company has conducted the Climate Performance Assessment and is now part of the Climate Intelligence Platform, which enables companies to collect supplier data for successful decarbonization along the supply chain.
In an interview with THE CLIMATE CHOICE, Kevin Riemer-Schadendorf shares insights about climate-neutral printing and explains how the company manages to work sustainably.
We’d love to! dieUmweltDruckerei is an ecological online printing platform. We print climate-neutral and only use 100% recycled paper. The organic inks we use are vegan. Also, we replaced all the ingredients containing mineral oil with ingredients based on renewable raw materials. Our cooperation network works exclusively with green electricity. DieUmweltDruckerei offsets all unavoidable CO2 emissions generated throughout the printing process and shipping by investing in climate protection projects. We also aim to keep the use of additives to a minimum and reduce waste. Furthermore, as a family-friendly print shop, we have committed to socio-cultural projects. Our climate performance is transparently accessible online.
That’s a complex question. Climate protection is getting more and more attention these days, especially through the Fridays For Future movements. In recent decades, nothing significant had changed in business thinking despite the knowledge of climate change. There is a systemic contradiction in the corporate´s pursuit of quantitative growth and mono-thematic profit maximization on the one hand, and ecological constraints in the form of finite resources and necessary CO2 minimization on the other.
“There is a systemic contradiction in the corporate´s pursuit of quantitative growth on the one hand and ecological constraints in on the other“.
This contradiction was known since the Club of Rome in 1968. In a nutshell: endless economic growth, as we have practiced since the industrial age, is simply not possible. This could be exemplified by the overexploitation of nature and the worldwide extinction of species. But let’s stay with climate change. At the UN Conference in Rio in 1992, they adopted the concept of sustainable development as an international guiding principle. This ultimately led to the Kyoto Protocol, setting binding targets for emissions under international law for the first time. Although many considered this a great success from an environmental point of view, global emissions have almost doubled since Rio. And the trend is upward! The Paris Climate Conference in 2015 was the first comprehensive and legally binding global climate protection agreement to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C and thus at least minimize the devastating consequences of climate change.
“EVERY COMPANY IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ENERGY CONSUMPTION IN ITS VALUE CHAIN.”
It´s now more important than ever, for every company to solve the supposed contradiction of economic growth versus climate. For achieving a climate-neutral economy, the energy sector plays a decisive role. Up to 90% of global emissions stem from this sector. Every company is responsible for the consumption of energy in its value chain. This means: from resource extraction through production, transport and use to disposal or, better, recycling. This means that all companies have a responsibility to significantly reduce their energy consumption on the one hand and to rely exclusively on renewable energies on the other.
Politicians like to assume that consumers are responsible and informed. Although this would be desirable, it is neither the status quo nor realistic for the future – sustainability is far too complex a topic for that. For example, expecting consumers to look at the sustainability labels in the global fishing industry in the supermarket or to understand whether the the product complies with minimum social standards on Central American banana plantations or how high the virtual water balance of the avocados on the shelves is before they buy their food is probably a bit much to expect.
“WE TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR CLIMATE PERFORMANCE.”
The same goes for printed products. Honestly, who knows about eco-balances of paper products? The answer: we do. Not the customers. The responsibility therefore lies increasingly with the companies to produce sustainably in order to ultimately be able to offer sustainable products. The scientific community calls this: libertarian paternalism. If a supermarket only offers climate-neutral options, then consumers simply cannot choose products that are not sustainable.
This is the principle, that our online printing platform is built on. We have set up the value chain sustainably in the background. And no matter which print product the customer selects on our site, it always has a top eco-balance. We always print climate-neutrally with organic inks and green electricity on 100% recycled paper.
dieUmweltDruckerei has pursued a holistic approach to sustainability since its founding in 2009. This means that we strive to implement all areas of economic, social and environmental sustainability as an integrated strategy. We do not see this approach as a goal, but rather as a constant process. And we are pleased to continue developing this ambition in all areas of the company with great commitment.
This process never ends and we are always looking forward to new inspiration to improve further. Fortunately, in our Climate Performance Assessment, we were voted “strongly above average for a climate solution” – which makes us very happy! This means that we were able to convince in all four areas from transparency to climate impact and ecological action to industry change. In addition to tips for climate optimization, such as an IoT control for our heaters, the Climate Performance Assessment pointed out to us that there is still potential in our climate reporting by formulating quantitatively measurable reduction targets. This is not an easy homework, but we hope to be able to implement this challenge in the long run as well.
When making business decisions, the climate protection principle should always be the guiding principle for individual strategies, processes and products: avoidance before reduction before compensation!
“AVOIDANCE BEFORE REDUCTION BEFORE COMPENSATION”.
Let’s take a look at the transport routes of a conventional print shop as inspiration. The respective virgin fiber paper is produced in the paper mill, packaged and first transported to the wholesaler and stored. When it is sold to a print shop, it is taken out of storage. The ordered paper then is transported by truck to the print shop. Here, we unpack the delivery and print each order individually. Now, we transport the printed product to the customer by mail, by truck, or even picked up by the customer in person by car.
“AVOID TRANSPORT ROUTES”
At dieUmweltDruckerei, we have reformed this process on the premise of climate protection. Our reduced recycled paper selection is produced in the paper mill and transported unpacked directly to the print shop by bulk order. We offset the travel emissions by investing in climate protection projects. Using multi-printing forms, we print resource-efficiently in a single pass with green electricity for several customers, thus requiring significantly fewer preliminary sheets per order. We cut/fold the recycled paper on site and send it directly to the customers by mail, also climate-neutral. DieUmweltDruckerei’s carbon footprint is limited to just two routes: from paper production to the print shop and ultimately to our customers by post. We can avoid unnecessary transport routes (CO2 avoidance). And we can use necessary transport routes more efficiently (CO2 reduction) and offset via eco-social climate protection projects (CO2 compensation).
Of course, not every companies can adopt this industry-specific Best Practice exactly. But it shows in exemplary fashion how one’s own value chain can be qualitatively optimized in terms of the climate protection principle.
Do you also want to understand your company’s climate-related opportunities and risks? Then sign up with us and request information on the Climate Performance Assessment.
Image source: Unsplash