How newspapers can lead the sustainability fight

Print media is a carbon-intensive industry but newspapers can do a lot to go green

(From right) BS Shesh, vice-president of Supply Chain at HT Media, Dinesh Sharma, associate vice-president, DB Corp and Amit Khurana, deputy CEO of Digital and offset Print solutions of TechNova

As the world battles climate change, sustainability has become the focus of every industry. The newspapers industry is not to be left behind in this long battle.

At the recent Wan-Ifra Indian Printers Summit Kochi, a considerable part of the discussions focused on sustainability in print operations, renewable sources of energy, and responsible printing to reduce the carbon footprint. Managers from different news media publications spoke about the urgent need to be more environmentally conscious and highlighted the green initiatives of their companies.

If Kerala daily Mathrubhumi’s senior general manager of Production and Maintenance PT Bhasi spoke on shared responsibilities of publishers in sustainable development and the best practices and initiatives for sustainable production, Sharad Patil, senior general manager of Production and Engineering, DB Corp, and Neeraj Aggarwal, head of production at HT Media, focused on solar energy to save energy cost and the challenges and opportunities in reducing the carbon footprint of the industry.

Bhasi listed a few areas where news publishers can contribute to achieve sustainable goals – solar harnessing to save coal-fired power; rainwater harvesting to meet water needs in a water-intensive industry; energy-efficient buildings, where one doesn’t need to use lights in the day; calibrated equipment; effective safety and security systems; LED panels to save power. He spoke on using lower GSM in paper, which can save newsprint. To be sure, two-thirds of a newspaper’s expenses goes into newsprint. And then reuse and recycle and find ways to cut newsprint waste.

Other points include automation of machines, soft proofing to save paper and ink, use of devices such as afterburners to neutralize emissions and soilscape filters to filter out wastewater, waterless plates, etc. Bhasi also spoke on SEED (Student Empowerment for Environmental Development), a green initiative at the school level to educate students on how to protect and preserve nature. 

Aggarwal outlined HT Media’s solar energy journey with a 500 KWp plant in 2016 at its Greater Noida plant and then in Mumbai, Patna, Mohali and Ranchi – which led to the production of 6.5 MW power. Seven lakh solar units were consumed in 2017-18, which rose to 66 lakh in 2023-24. He highlighted the company’s water-saving initiatives, which include the use of vio-green plates in CTP to reduce water consumption, recycling, rainwater harvesting, etc. All these measures led to a reduction in water consumption to the tune of 3 million liters a year and a power cost reduction of Rs 1.25 crore per year.

Patil said DB Corp’s overall energy need is 21.5 million units per year across India of which 7.54 million units are generated in-house from solar installations in 20 sites, 17 presses and three offices, with a total capacity of 2.4 MW. All green initiatives led to a savings of Rs 5.60 crore, he said.

In a session on sustainable consumables and manufacturing of newspapers, heads of technology and production of leading media houses made an emotional presentation on the responsible sourcing of raw materials, eco-friendly transportation and logistics in the supply chain. In the discussion moderated by Snehasis Roy, Technical director at Bennett Coleman, BS Shesh, vice-president of Supply Chain at HT Media, Dinesh Sharma, associate vice-president, DB Corp and Amit Khurana, deputy CEO of Digital and offset Print solutions of TechNova, stressed how media houses need to collaborate to implement cleaner processes in newspaper printing, which can be a highly polluting and carbon-intensive industry.

The panelists agreed on a few key drivers – reduce, replace, recycle, reinvent. Reduce consumption wherever possible, replace with more efficient options, go for water-less plates, find ways and technology to reuse plates, use mineral oil-free inks, green transportation, etc.

In a presentation on sustainable publishing practices in newspaper manufacturing and print production best practices, Ganesh Kumar Vijayakumar, a sustainability manager, said green practices in newspapers go beyond emotional talk or just planting a few trees or investing in solar energy. Vijayakumar explained that sustainable practices of newspaper publishers will not bear fruit unless the allied sectors such as raw material suppliers, transporters, and others go green.

Vijayakumar began by painting a grim picture and stressed that there is one plain reason why we should all care about climate and sustainability – “There is no Planet B.” He drew out the life cycle assessment of a newspaper to buttress his point. Printing is just one part of a newspaper, whose life cycle begins from the forest and ends in the landfill or incinerator. The cycle includes the production of wood fiber, paper production, printing, distribution, use, waste and dumping. A part of the cycle is reuse and recycle. The printing part involves inks, chemicals, photopolymer plates, inks, water, heat, energy and a host of other raw materials and processes.

Sharing some stats, Vijayakumar said the average emission of the printing press in a year is 0.35 KgCo2e per printed newspaper. This takes into account paper, waste, energy, printing plates, coating, ink, cleaning agents, alcohol, water and dampening solutions. Assuming 1 lakh newspapers are printed per day, the emission will be 35 mtCO2e per day, which is equal to 2,333 trees. A visible difference, he said, can be made only if the entire process goes green.

A holistic approach to all business activities includes a reduction in overall environmental impact, toxic material and waste, incorporating more renewable resources, reducing fossil fuel energy consumption and addressing social issues, he said and stressed integrating responsible practices in the core strategy of the company, which helps create a shared value for all stakeholders.

Sustainability, Vijayakumar said, should cover two broad areas – within and outside newspaper operations. Best practices include water and energy efficiency based on a proper audit, GHG (carbon footprint) calculation based on GHG protocol and measures to be carbon neutral, adoption of options such as process-less plates, waste reduction initiatives, transport alternatives for distribution, sourcing of sustainable materials, etc. All these can lead to a real change and save the planet. 

In 2024, we are looking at full recovery and growth-led investment in Indian printing

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. It created the category of privately owned B2B print magazines in the country. And by its diversification in packaging, (Packaging South Asia), food processing and packaging (IndiFoodBev) and health and medical supply chain and packaging (HealthTekPak), and its community activities in training, research, and conferences (Ipp Services, Training and Research) the organization continues to create platforms that demonstrate the need for quality information, data, technology insights and events.

India is a large and tough terrain and while its book publishing and commercial printing industry have recovered and are increasingly embracing digital print, the Indian newspaper industry continues to recover its credibility and circulation. The signage industry is also recovering and new technologies and audiences such as digital 3D additive printing, digital textiles, and industrial printing are coming onto our pages. Diversification is a fact of life for our readers and like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

India is one of the fastest growing economies in nominal and real terms – in a region poised for the highest change in year to year expenditure in printing equipment and consumables. Our 2024 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock – to emphasize your visibility and relevance to your customers and turn potential markets into conversations.

– Naresh Khanna

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