Sustainability is a hot topic at hubergroup, at the top of the list in the company’s strategic discussions and in its actions throughout its global operations. “As a printing ink manufacturer,” says Heiner Klokkers, hubergroup’s chairman of the Management Board, “We bear a massive responsibility for both mankind and nature – and we intend to fulfill it through our products.” In Klokkers’ mind, this not only includes sustainable products that help reduce the environmental footprint of its customers, such as the Gecko Green line of inks recently awarded the EPEA Cradle to Cradle certification. It also includes a close examination of its internal operations to keep its own environmental footprint at a minimum.
Defining Cradle to Cradle
In the Cradle to Cradle model, as opposed to the more commonly known Cradle to Grave model, waste materials in an old product become the ‘food’ for a new product, by either composting or reprocessing them. It creates a circular economy that goes beyond conventional sustainability efforts. It is a design concept inspired by nature, in which products are created according to the principles of an ideal circular economy. This differentiates Cradle to Cradle from conventional recycling (Cradle to Grave) and the concept of eco-efficiency. It is about eco-effectiveness and goes beyond conventional sustainability tools and approaches, which primarily show the negative influence of humans on the environment.
Recapturing waste water at hubergroup India
An example of this circular model in action is hubergroup India, one of the largest pigment producers, which has an ultimate target of zero waste water discharge. “Pigment production requires large quantities of water and generates equally large volumes of waste water,” said Aniruddha Joshi, director Manufacturing at hubergroup India. “Especially in light of the United Nations report that says that by 2025, two-thirds of the world population will be living in water stressed conditions, as well as other research on water consumption, management tasked us with getting to zero waste water discharge.
“The result is a newly built facility for water treatment that allows us to recover 60% of the water out of our effluent stream. After successful operation for about six months, our team will review the results and then embark on a 100% zero discharge journey. There’s much yet to do, but we are proud of our progress to date and our contribution to hubergroup’s Cradle to Cradle strategy.”
In addition to water recovery, hubergroup has implemented several other solutions to treat or reduce current levels of liquid and solid waste streams, as part of its commitment to environmental improvement.
The customer perspective
In addition to its internal efforts, hubergroup works closely with customers to aid their own environmental strategies. It’s partnership with packaging printer Töpfer Kulmbach and beer brewer Carlsberg is a good example. As Carlsberg points out on its website, “Printing inks have a major impact on the recyclability of packaging because often they are recycled along with paper fibers.” To address this challenge and to improve the recyclability of Carlsberg labels in selected markets, the company has turned to hubergroup Cradle to Cradle certified inks. hubergroup is the primary ink supplier for its beer labels in selected markets to improve recyclability of its labels using the hubergroup Eco-Offset Ink Premium Plus, which is Cradle to Cradle Certified at the Silver level.
“We have a two-pronged approach,” Klokkers commented. “We are concerned, of course, about product safety in compliance with governmental regulations. But we want to take an even more holistic approach that includes the entire lifecycle of the products we manufacture and the materials we use, such as the example of water purification in our factory in India. Protecting the environment and acting with environmental responsibility goes beyond normal business and production activity. It requires research, investment and action, all of which we are undertaking to be as environmentally cognizant as possible.”
To that end, the company designs its production process to ensure that the pure raw materials it uses are completely under its control and that it has in-depth knowledge about the composition and impact of those materials.
Klokkers cites the many benefits of moving sustainability efforts from a niche area to industrial scale:
- By continuously reducing the carbon footprint of an organization, there is less energy demand.
- Improving water treatment day by day results in less waste spend.
- Using waste as a valuable raw material means less waste and reduced raw material costs.
- By fulfilling social responsibility, companies can offer a great place to work and better recruit new talent.
- With a GMP-compliant value chain, there is more flexibility in production.
- And finally, eco-friendly standard products translate to higher sales volumes, better prices for the end customer, and the ability to produce at industrial scale.
“We look to our fellow manufacturers supporting the print, packaging and other industries to wholeheartedly embrace the most aggressive sustainability practices possible,” Klokkers concludes. “The future of our planet depends on it.”