Ricoh awards sustainability prize

The weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner


It’s surprising that there are so few sustainability prizes that award cash, but Ricoh is leading the way, especially in the USA. Cash prizes for sustainability are a brilliant tool for encouragement and for getting sustainability up the agenda, especially amongst the young. The Ricoh Sustainable Development Award (RSDA) has been awarded annually for the last fifteen years, and totals over $430,000 in scholarships for young people. As yet Ricoh makes no such investment into sustainability innovation in the graphics industry, but perhaps they might consider it for young people and for clever environmental impact mitigations in printing and publishing.

Submissions for the RSDA are evaluated on how well they align with Ricoh’s environmental policies, as well as their business practicalities and environmental sustainability. Ricoh has several principles underpinning its international sustainability efforts: energy conservation, prevention of global warming, prevention of pollution, resource conservation, recycling, and biodiversity conservation. This year’s RSDA of $10,000 goes to Michael Chen for his project A Novel Way to Alleviate the Water Crisis in Uganda. The award winner is a solar still that extracts drinkable water from plants.

Chen’s invention is simple and affordable. Elephant grass, which is widely available in Uganda, is placed in a container that subsequently heats up in the sun, so that water condenses out of it. The water can then be distilled and when extracted is safe to drink. The leftover plant material is suitable as cattle fodder or fuel, and it could probably be made into paper too. According to the project notes, one acre of elephant grass can be harvested three times per year. Processed in Chen’s solar still the elephant grass crops can provide sufficient drinking water for 122 people. This saves time and energy in water sourcing and collection, helping villagers to be more independent and able to put their energies into other activities.

This doesn’t have much to do with the graphics business, but it is an illustration of how major suppliers to our sector are helping to drive global sustainability. Ricoh is one of a handful of printing and publishing system developers to have made public commitments to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It has also pledged to cut its Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 30% compared to 2015 by 2030. Scope 1 emissions are those coming directly from the company’s manufacturing plants and offices. Scope 2 emissions are those associated with purchased electricity and heat. Ricoh aims for zero Greenhouse Gas emissions across its entire value chain by 2050.

Commercial printing only contributes a small fraction of Ricoh’s revenues, however, sales volumes are rising and the company is taking the lead in driving digital print output quality. Ricoh is one of the founders of the Verdigris project and along with HP, Kodak and Canon/Océ, Ricoh is also a founder of the Digital Printing Deinking Alliance (DPDA). The DPDA works to encourage the use of digital printing and recycling and to improve print’s environmental footprint. We would love to see more sustainability prizes on this side of the pond, especially those that reward sustainable innovation and business development, and relate to printing and publishing.

This article is part of the Verdigris series of stories about understanding the environmental impact of print. The Verdigris Project is supported by Agfa Graphics, Digital Dots, drupa, EFI, Fespa, Kodak, Mondi, Pragati Offset, Ricoh, Shimizu Printing, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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