3rd July 2020

How is the print industry impacting the environment amid COVID-19?

The challenges presented by COVID

Manager Director Adrian Harrison

Like other UK businesses, the past three months has presented some great challenges to our operations. It has demanded that we change and flex to the current situation quickly and look at new commercial opportunities. As an innovative company, this is not unfamiliar to us, we can adapt and flex in order to come out on top and we have been carefully evaluating commercial opportunities presented to us. Our Managing Director Adrian Harrison explains this struggle and the dilemma posed between maximising commercial opportunities and its potential impact on the environment.

“I’ve been struggling with the commercial opportunities COVID-19 offers the world of temporary signage; 1m rule, 2m rule, wash our hands and such like. It continues to be so changeable week by week and with so many companies trying to capitalise on the opportunity it seems pointless trying to gain traction in this marketplace.

The environmental impact of COVID

However, what has really struck me is the “environmental impact” and arguable damage we are self-inflicting on the environment with our diligent efforts to keep ourselves out of harm’s way. We all have a part to play in managing this virus but how many disposable plastic gloves and face masks will be littering our beaches in the months to come and now endless floor vinyls, stickers, banners, flimsy plastic or Perspex screens and such like, that are being produced, used and then binned every time there is a change of the government recommendations.

Sadly, this is all in direct contrast to the environmental benefits we were seeing only a few weeks ago during lock down. If COVID and a period of “hibernation” has taught us anything it is how much our lives impact the environment around us.

Of course, life must return to normal and we must come out of this challenging time stronger than ever, but I think as an industry we need to find the best solution for communicating the COVID message and doing our bit for the environment. I thought it was a sad reflection when one of the printers started offering heavy discounts on floor vinyls to induce their customers to buy replacements of ones supplied only a few weeks prior with a different message. With it more than likely to end up in landfill, this pure commercial opportunism comes at an environmental price.

Where does the responsibility lie?

So, should we blame companies for seizing opportunities in a time of economic uncertainty or is there a bigger conversation needed around what can be learnt from the environmental impact of our COVID “hibernation”? Will that debate lead to legislation and a social movement that will move businesses towards greener buying habits and reduce the purchase of single use non-recyclable products? Ultimately, our customers only deliver what the end users demand and in the immediate case these customers are only trying to protect themselves, their people and their customers.

As a supplier, I argue that we hold a responsibility to educate our customers in order to influence their buying habits. There are environmentally friendly substrates available and we should promote these even harder now than before. If stocking a range of COVID related signage is a commercially sensible decision, we have to offer and be committed to selling something that has an environmental benefit. As an industry we must be mindful of what we are promoting to our customers.

Therefore, we are focusing even more attention upon our eco range, Envirofamily, which now encompasses more of our popular products. We are beginning to talk about the benefits of our Envirofamily range to let our customers know that going eco doesn’t mean higher costs. Many of our customers still don’t realise that in most instances the lifetime cost of an Envirofamily product is lower, as many of these products are either superior in terms of their strength and durability or they can be reused repeatedly. The overriding message is eco friendly doesn’t mean higher cost.

The power of consumer choice

We should not underestimate the strength of the consumer’s voice. Greener purchasing choices are no longer confined to a niche market, there are signs that more businesses are placing a greater focus on their greener policies. Indeed, in some sectors there are retailers who exist merely to satisfy the demand for greener consumables for the eco-conscious buyer. From biodegradable products to fully recycled plastics, the growing choice of eco brands suggests a growing demand from the masses. Surely this is ultimately going to begin filtering through to other industries as consumers look at the eco credentials of all businesses they choose to hand their money over to.

And as the number of businesses that give attention to their environmental impact increases, this will result in a greater demand for ethically conscious suppliers. It will be a natural knock on effect, yet we can see that this growth has been haltered by the impact of COVID.

Therefore, we feel it’s important to provide an alternative solution now and we will continue to talk about our eco products, as we don’t want to feed into this rise in plastic pollution as it simply goes against our principles.”

Harrisons were the first UK supplier to offer a range of environmentally friendly flag material and display products. We are committed to reducing our impact on the environment and encourage staff and our customers to reduce, reuse, repair, repurpose and recycle wherever possible. We make it our mission to source or develop eco-friendly alternatives.

For more information our Envirofamily range click here: https://www.harrisoneds.co.uk/our-eco-products/

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