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Sustainability – lets break it down into small steps

Sustainability feels like such a buzz word at the moment. A word that I am very interested in, as I understand the effects we are having on the World we all live in. As a dealer of multiple manufacturers, I have been playing a waiting game for products to be dripped through to us, from those manufacturers, which we will then sell.

I was happy with this as felt that was the way our industry worked and the role that I played within it.

However back in September last year I started the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Course. On the second residential, we had a talk all about Sustainability and it has changed everything for me.

Small Steps

The talk focused on the small steps we can all make in driving us to the sustainability goals being targeted. Ultimately sitting and waiting for those changes to drip down from the manufacturers, simply isn’t  good enough.

We need to do more in challenging those manufacturers to do more. And as our customers, for you to challenge us more.

On the course was an actual printing company, sadly he wasn’t a customer of ours. He has a successful vehicle wrapping business. Both of us sat during the sustainability talk and ultimately felt partly embarrassed. There is no sugar coating it – the printing industry isn’t very sustainable!

The perfect example was that he explained how he was trying to source biodegradable material but when I spoke to him afterwards and asked how that would be biodegradable once it was printed on, with eco solvent inks, we were both left puzzled!

This highlights exactly where we are all at, the confusion over what we can and can’t recycle – media manufacturers might create a material but they have no consideration for the ink and the chemicals that are within it and so what happens after that is sold, how does it maintain its biodegradable qualities?

I find it difficult to navigate, but the talk made me stop seeing this as a huge project. It is all about taking small steps in the right direction. We can’t all change the world overnight, but can we challenge ourselves with how we operate and whether we can make improvements somewhere? I spoke to Roland about it (and will speak to other manufacturers throughout the year), they were open with the alterations they are making, these are the main ones:

Packaging – the machines packaging is designed in such a way that it holds the machines securely, using the least amount of cardboard as possible. The cardboard is fully recyclable
• Roland machines are themselves 95% recyclable. They are also building a new ‘net zero’ building out in Japan that will be completed 2024
• Inks – where possible are going to be housed in bags and not cartridges to cut down on plastic waste. There is a new range of water-based inks coming out
• They are looking to implement a new ‘VR’ headset that can be sent to customers to increase the amount of Tech issues that the customer can solve themselves with a Roland engineer being able to log on through the headset to talk them through the fix. This is to cut down on how much travel engineers have to do

This felt really encouraging and I’ve tasked my technical team with breaking down one of the machine boxes and challenging whether their 95% recyclable claim is valid!

We are looking at what improvements we can make. I have tasked our Operations Manager this exact project for 2023. Some alterations have already been made,  like purchasing a cardboard shedder so that we can massively reduce the volume of wasted cardboard. The next step is looking at quotations for getting solar panels on our building. Fitted movement sensor lighting in all the communal areas, to reduce the likelihood of lights being left on. All our warehouse lights are energy savings ones.

Signmaster’s new cardboard shredder

This is just the start, we have a responsibility to keep moving this forward. To continue challenging what we are doing and asking whether it could be done more sustainable. The lady who completed the talk said, she got the train, as it was better than the car. She also walked the line of taxis to find the electric one for the ride to the venue.

Small steps. Positive steps in the right direction.

Written By: Lucy Kehoe


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