For many businesses, particularly publishers or direct mail firms, printing is their primary service offering, rather than solely used to facilitate office-based communications.
While smaller offices might utilise document management solutions to improve the efficiency of their printing function, printing firms need to identify environmental solutions which produce much larger carbon efficiency gains.
If your company requires large volumes of paper to operate effectively, carbon offsetting is a very good way of reducing the carbon impact of your activities.
What is carbon offsetting?
Offsetting allows companies to invest in projects which balance out the environmental impact of a particular business activity. A large print company that uses tonnes of paper pulp can take steps to ensure that they improve the environment in other ways; this might involve regenerating timber use through planting new trees.
Another way of reducing your footprint is by offsetting the impact of specific activities via one-off payments. While this is frequently used for business activities such as flights, with firms paying a supplementary fee to offset their emissions, as a printer firm, you can buy carbon credits, which work in much the same way. Companies can also choose to offset by investing in clean-energy projects all over the world.
Offset schemes vary widely in terms of their cost, though a typical fee might be around £8 for each ton of CO2 offset. To put this in context, it would cost a typical family around £45 to neutralise a year's worth of gas and electricity use. Offsets can be bought from a number of providers, such as Carbon Neutral or Carbon Credit Trust, who will direct your investment towards suitable projects or facilitate the purchase of carbon credits.
A paper case in point
Print firm MCR calculated that the carbon impact of their Brighton office was 10 tonnes of carbon a year. They decided to offset these emissions, achieving carbon neutrality, through their Kikonda reforestation project in Uganda. More than one million trees have now been planted, storing more than 200,000 tonnes of CO². MCR also offers customers the opportunity to offset their print jobs on a project-by-project basis.
Claims that some offset projects do not deliver on carbon reduction targets are now being countered; for example, several schemes now achieve their emissions targets ahead of tendering for investment. While some environmentalists claim that offsetting is counterintuitive, acting to reduce damage which should really be avoided at source, in reality it is better to act than to do nothing at all.
When looking for appropriate offsetting projects, look out for accreditation from the Voluntary Gold Standard (VGS) or Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS). These ensure that projects either work in accordance to rules stipulated within the Kyoto protocol, or demonstrate particular benefits to local communities.