European initiatives and a push for greener manufacturing by multinational corporations are factors that are beginning to have an impact on specialty printing companies in the US. Learn what the pressure to standardize health and safety regulations and adopt sustainable business-operation methods means for your company.
The REACH regulation gives greater responsibility to the industry to manage the risks from chemicals and to provide safety information on the substances. Manufacturers and importers will be required to gather information on the properties of their chemical substances, which will allow their safe handling, and to register the information in a central database run by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki, Finland. The Agency will act as the central point in the REACH system: It will manage the databases necessary to operate the system, coordinate the in-depth evaluation of suspicious chemicals, and run a public database in which consumers and professionals can find hazard information.
What is alarming with the new regulation is that it not only impacts chemical manufacturers, but also printers who are manufacturing articles that are exported to the EU. The supply chain issue is an area of ongoing debate; however, many multinational companies are beginning to request certification from their suppliers regarding the raw materials they use to manufacturer their completed products. No longer can a printing facility safely assume that a chemical regulation does not impact them.
Next step: corporate sustainability
With the advent of these overarching regulatory programs, it is no wonder that the topic of corporate sustainability is everywhere in the news these days. The multinational companies feel the pressure to exhibit good corporate citizenship. It is a crucial issue for major corporations such Nike, Wal-Mart, and Procter & Gamble, as well as other major customers for the specialty imaging industry.
But it’s tricky to find a standard definition for corporate sustainability in the typical specialty imaging operation. Perhaps the best definition can be found in Ecology of Commerce, widely perceived as the definitive book on sustainability. In his book, Paul Hawken offers the following: “Sustainability is an economic state where the demands placed upon the environment by people and commerce can be met without reducing the capacity of the environment to provide for future generations. It can also be expressed in the simple terms of an economic golden rule for the restorative economy: leave the world better than you found it, take no more than you need, try not to harm life of the environment, make amends if you do.”
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