The big question surrounding environmentally friendly printing is whether there is any profit to be made. Opinions are mixed.
On the one hand, there is the tremendous pull of large print customers such as Wal-Mart, Nike, and a variety of Hollywood studios who have made eco-friendliness a cornerstone of their marketing. That, in turn, has lured a subset of printers to embrace "green" printing to capture that business. "You’re seeing a big focus from these brands on the sustainability of their practices, and having a sustainable product to pitch customers is a way to generate additional sales," says Rudy Herrera, business development manager, graphics solutions business, Hewlett-Packard (HP).
"Customers are becoming more specific in the prints that they buy," adds Terry Amerine, segment manager, wide format graphics, Fujifilm Sericol U.S.A., Inc.
On the other hand, there is the perception that environmentally friendly products entail a trade off. One issue plaguing green marketing is the perception that eco-friendly products come with a price premium, particularly eco-solvents, observes Steve Igoe, North American sales manager, Bordeaux Digital Printink Ltd. During boom times, some print customers might be willing to dig deeper for the self-satisfaction of helping Earth. That is rarely seen in an economic downturn.
"When you say green people immediately think it will be lower quality or cost more," says Reed Hecht, product manager, professional imaging, Epson. As the company formulated its GS UltraChrome eco-solvent inks, it aimed for 24 cents per milliliter to make it cost-competitive with eco-solvents, he adds.
There are other green opportunities for print service providers (PSPs) that may not be obvious at first, suggests Herrera. "Many companies have internal environmental initiatives. They may not know that they can meet some of these benchmarks with eco-friendly prints," he adds. A PSP can educate their customers that green prints help a company meet its internal environmental or sustainability commitments without necessarily making a huge marketing splash about its eco-credentials.
As with any new technology, investment is key. If you stick with it, you are bound to profit in the long run. When PSPs decide to offer eco-friendly printing it may not register with their customers right away, but if proper marketing follows, their customers will catch on.
Click here to read Part 1 of this exclusive online series, Running the Green Gamut.