Sustainability is a key priority for companies big and small, with many organisations now under pressure to demonstrate their commitment to environmentally responsible process, product and service delivery, raising questions about what exactly ‘sustainability’ means.
What is sustainability?
Sustainability refers to meeting today’s resource needs without depleting them for future generations.
It has three main pillars: environmental, economic and social.
This occurs when processes, systems and activities reduce the environmental impact of an organisation’s facilities, products and operations.
This is achieved when businesses use resources efficiently and responsibly and can support a defined level of productivity indefinitely.
A socially sustainable business requires the support and approval of its employees, stakeholders and the community in which it operates. It comes down to being a good neighbour, both locally and globally.
What does sustainability mean for print?
With the public’s growing environmental concerns, in addition to greater regulation, media pressure and production streamlining, the label and packaging industries are now embracing more green practices.
Leading the way in eco-friendly innovation, DataLase presents its top 7 sustainability initiatives utilised in its award-winning case-coding technology
1 – No solvents or inks in the fulfilment/production hall
Traditional printing techniques often use solvent-based inks, which evaporate and release harmful, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere. Producing and using heat, these vapours are often accompanied by unpleasant odours and can damage ecosystems.
However, DataLase’s inkless photonic printing technology avoids the risk of VOCs by using CO2 lasers. With a preprinted patch on each product, there’s no need for marking consumables such as inks in the actual coding process, meaning better air quality in the fulfilment hall and a cleaner overall operation. This is particularly advantageous in food and beverage production, as it helps to eliminate the likelihood of ink-related product contamination.
It also streamlines inventory by removing the need for inks and ribbons, delivering less downtime with decreased transportation needs and associated carbon output.
2 – The laser is low power, relative to ablation
While there is much debate surrounding the environmental impact of lasers in printing, with concerns including excessive wastage and heat levels, the reality is that laser coding is actually one of the most cost-effective technologies available.
A remarkably accurate, non-contact printing method, laser marking runs a low-powered beam quickly across a pre-printed coating on the substrate, which interacts with the surface to slightly alter its properties or appearance. With advanced solutions such as a low power CO2 laser, this uses less energy than traditional techniques while still delivering high quality coding and marking at increased line speeds.
Offering cost-effective operation, low maintenance and no consumable requirements, laser printing is a clean and green coding and marking solution.
3 – Supply chain efficiency
As today’s multi-channel sourcing consumers continue to demand greater value, choice and personalisation from packaging, the task of stock keeping becomes ever more difficult.
To deliver this, alongside the drive towards improved sustainability, brands and retailers need more streamlined stock keeping unit (SKU) solutions. Bringing additional product variants to market can be effective for combating growing retail competition by driving impulse purchases and one-off sales. However, they can also congest the supply chain and present administrative and operational inefficiencies.
The good news is that DataLase’s photonic printing technology offers the ability to move from multiple SKUs to a single SKU management situation by enabling fully customisable, high-quality digital variable printing.
By minimising the number of product SKUs and using existing supply chain equipment, this pares down production costs, complexity and waste while increasing operational efficiency.
4 – Fewer trucks, fewer emissions
Transport is currently responsible for around a quarter of total greenhouse gas emissions, with road vehicles representing 17.8% of total emissions.
The industry has made major investments in reducing CO2 and other pollutant emissions, succeeding in cutting fuel consumption by around 8% over the last five years.
However, more can be done and DataLase’s patented technology is an ideal next step -brands, printers and converters can lower their carbon footprint by diminishing SKUs, resulting in fewer trucks on the road and decreased emissions.
5 – Less material wastage
A key benefit of laser marking is coding quality.
Whereas traditional coding is often associated with issues such as rubbing off and smudging (for example when containers come into contact on a production line or in transit), laser-created codes become an integral part of the package and demonstrate excellent resistance to the rigours of the supply chain. Because the package surface itself is altered, laser-created codes provide unequalled wear durability and can be as permanent as the packaging material itself.
By incorporating DataLase laser printing technology, companies can enjoy less downtime in addition to lower rejection rates and related reprinting and resupply requirements, thanks to zero risk of rubbing off or smudging.
This is complemented by a reduction in material usage delivered by streamlining SKUs, further cutting transportation costs by requiring fewer resources.
6 – The greater the consumer engagement, the lower the carbon footprint
Personalisation is transforming the way brands and consumers communicate, with individualised products and packaging solutions from adverts, tailored messages, competitions and variable data codes delivering a unique and engaging customer experience.
By maintaining a highly personalised dialogue with customers, brands can strengthen relationships creating greater loyalty and overall value. At the same time, strategic targeted marketing that is specific to a consumer helps curtail product rejection and return rates, meaning lower transport-related carbon emissions.
DataLase technology’s real-time marketing capability equips brand owners to develop their traditional large-scale marketing campaigns to a more personalised, one to one level, keeping the consumer engaged while encouraging repeat business and impulse buying behaviour.
7 – Corrugate Boxes: A Sustainable Solution with DataLase Case Coding
Many consumers consider packaging to be wasteful and harmful to the environment and are increasingly calling for manufacturers and retailers to reduce their use of plastics and non-recyclable materials and utilise natural, eco-friendly packaging materials instead.
Packaging options, such as corrugated board, are today increasingly viewed by the public as the obvious environmental choice. Thanks to its organic content, paper and starch glue, corrugated board is a promoted as a natural packaging solution today.
Corrugate packaging is typically made up of 88% recycled content with additional fresh fibres coming from sustainably managed forests. One of the most sustainable packaging options available, corrugate is 100% recyclable and its fibres can be reused up to 25 times.
Paper based packaging such as corrugate is one of the most recycled packaging materials in the EU with a recycling rate of 81.9% in 2016, based on a report carried out by the European Recovered Paper Council (ERPC).
The DataLase Case Coding solution is an innovative way to apply shipping information to corrugate boxes. As an alternative solution to other printing technologies, DataLase Case Coding brings many sustainable advantages to production environments complementing the sustainable nature of corrugate packaging.
Sustainability is a rapidly developing and vitally important issue for the print, label and packaging industry. No longer a brand-differentiating USP, environmental responsibility is now considered a necessity, as consumers and the wider market all demand more from processes, practices and products.
Balancing cost and efficiency objectives, eco-friendly practices are now an integral component of the product design and development process, rather than an afterthought. DataLase, as a leader in coding and marking printing solutions, recognises this careful balance and promotes a range of sustainable advantages to meet 21st century consumer needs.