Interview: Paul Willems talks sustainability and EcoPrint with Output
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By Kimberley Swift
11 July 2012
Paul Willems is one of the EcoPrint 2012 ambassadors
In the first of Output's forward-looking interview series focusing on events later this year, Kimberley Swift talks to Paul Willems, chief executive of Ilford and an ambassador for the EcoPrint show, which takes place in Berlin on September 26th – 27th.
How much is the debate over sustainability affected by people's perceptions? What drives the debate?
Sustainability has been around for about the last ten years, but I think it's never been pushed very hard. Today the issue is becoming a critical component that people have to pursue. So I think there is a change in the way people look at sustainability and the arguments around it, first of all. I think that is an important change because it's the difference between marketing and reality, and that's where today's industry has to step up to the plate and make changes.
It's really driven by, one, the regulators, and secondly by the major print buyers. Take the Forestry Stewardship Council [FSC] as an element of sustainability. Today, most print buyers require that any printing company only use FSC-certified media, and that by itself automatically drives behaviour in the industry. We have a number of products which are FSC-certified. That gives the consumer the assurance that when they use this media it is not from a company contributing to deforestation in Brazil, but it comes from a controlled environment. You'll see the FSC certificate appearing more and more.
That must be having an effect on companies who aren't using FSC-certified media?
Exactly. There are still some people that come in and try to sell relatively cheap products that are not FSC-certified, but they obviously are much cheaper. But price isn't everything and people will follow a more responsible approach to printing rather than being driven purely by cost.
What role do products like BioMedia play?
On the wide-format side, I think this is a much newer element that is really starting to come to the forefront. Print buyers are demanding more sustainable services throughout the chain. So the debate of sustainability is becoming not just an environmental issue – it also becomes an economic reality today.
What other similar issues is the industry facing?
Well, there are a lot of other issues besides paper. The whole supply chain in the graphic arts industry is a big question. The usage of chemistry is a big topic. It's very difficult for a print service provider to figure out how they need to tackle these issues. Every manufacturer tries to contribute, but some do it with printing equipment, some with the ink that they use. Everybody's got a component to the solution of total sustainability, and I think that is still something that's lacking – a real framework where this entire aspect of sustainability is tied together.
How can events like EcoPrint help to provide better guidance?
This EcoPrint show is the first of its kind, as far as I'm aware, because it is dedicated only to sustainability. Very often this has been a component of a larger show, but here the difference is that it is really centre-stage. I think that's an important step forward. The second thing is the audience and the type of programme. It's not a trade show. It's more of a seminar convention. But I think we'll see the impact of this event depending on who really turns out. If it's only the industry people attending, that will have a certain impact, but one of the things that we've been working with the organisers on is how we can get the print buyers to attend. I think that's going to make this event stand out from most, purely industry, events.
To develop a full understanding of what it takes to be sustainable, I think a lot of education has to be done. I think today, a lot of people want to be 'green' in their printing behaviour but are not willing to pay the price for it. Being sustainable in the way you operate has to be part of the way you work and your economic reality, and that means you have to do it in a cost-effective manner.
An additional challenge is to change behaviour by using sustainable products as well as sustainable processes, and doing that in a cost-effective manner. And you need to properly communicate about it. I think those are the three cornerstones for breaking through and getting that message out to the overall market – and making sure our customers can compete properly.
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