A trio of associations in the printing industry is embarking on an effort to not only green their joint conference, but their entire industry, through a program that recognizes environmental sustainable printers. In time, just about every piece of printed material—from books, to cereal boxes, to convention tote bags—will contain their seal. It’s an effort that will likely change the printing industry.
The ambitious initiative came about last summer, July 2007, while three association executives met to plan the National Environmental Health and Safety Conference. The 14-year-old conference is jointly sponsored by three printing associations—Flexographic Technical Association, Printing Industries of America, and the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association. While each has its own annual convention to serve their respective niches, this particular conference is on environmental issues that cut across the niches, so the associations decided to produce it together.
Last July, officials from the three associations, including Doreen Monteleone, PhD, director of special projects and EHS services at FTA, got together to begin planning the upcoming conference—just as they do every year. It was there that the typical discussion of logistics and content for the conference spun off into much broader territory.
The executives were all discussing how their members were under pressure from retail giants like Wal-Mart and Nike to prove that they were sustainable. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be able to do business with these companies. You can imagine the ripple effect this has throughout the supply chain when the world’s largest retailer says vendors must meet sustainability standards.
The members came to their respective associations looking for guidance—and guidance they got. At that conference planning meeting, an initiative was born. The trio of executives, in discussing how to meet the needs of members, created a separate organization, the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership. The SGP Partnership, which is in the process of seeking 501C3 status with the Internal Revenue Service, will be charged with auditing printers to see if its facilities and operations meet the established criteria for sustainable printing. If they do, then it will be awarded the SGP seal. Already, some 600 printers have contacted the SGP Partnership interested in applying for the recognition program. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has said it wants all of its printers to have this seal by 2009, while companies like Sears have also expressed interest. Wal-Mart has not yet, but Monteleone feels it is only a matter of time before the SGP seal is everywhere.
It’s indeed a game changer for the printing industry, born from a group of association executives/meeting planners. Now, as they look ahead to the 2009 conference in Indianapolis, they plan to walk the walk by planning a green meeting and they are working with the hotel to see what they can do.