[Guest Article] The UmweltDruckerei: On Sustainability and Specialisation in the Printing Business

What roles do sustainability and recycled paper play in the printing business and how important is it to find your own niche? We talked about this and other topics with Dr. Kevin Riemer-Schadendorf of the UmweltDruckerei, a sustainable online-printer from Hannover, Germany.

drupa: Dr. Riemer-Schadendorf, thank you for this interview. Maybe you’ll want to introduce yourself first?

I’ve been the director of sustainability and communication at the UmweltDruckerei for four years now.

My responsibilities, next to the whole spectrum of on- and offline marketing, is the field of sustainability. Marketing and sustainability are tightly interwoven, as sustainability is a complex topic and needs to be explained accordingly to our target audiences.

The area of sustainability at the UmweltDruckerei comprises environmental and social issues, both within and outside the value chain.

drupa: Within that context, how does the UmweltDruckerei differ from a common print shop?

Within the value chain, our main focus is on three areas: raw materials, energy and CO2.

That means we produce, due to our top-eco balance, on 100% recycled paper exclusively. In addition, we print with mineral oil-free colours. Our complete value chain is powered by 100% green energy. In addition, we compensate our CO2 emissions via exo-social gold-standard climate protection projects. Outside the value chain, for example, we are involved in species conservation and award prizes for socio-cultural and sustainable projects.

drupa: Which processes had to be adapted or changed in order to implement your sustainability concept?

The question is not that easy to answer, as our sustainability processes cannot be handled in a standardised way using a to-do list.

Basically, our cooperation partners have to convert their entire production to 100% green electricity. We provide the ecological recycled papers via our shop. Mineral oil-free colour selection in offset printing and CO2 compensation are also obligatory. That’s a lot of work, programming and coordination.

In addition, we cooperate individually with various partners from the fields of environmental, animal and climate protection in order to promote sustainable projects. Examples include tree plantations, sea turtle conservation and drinking water projects.

drupa: Are there specific certifications that you had to get?

A certification with the BLAUER ENGEL is certainly beneficial within the value chain in order to guarantee ecological pressure. However, we have initiated all sustainability projects beyond this individually.

drupa: What role does recycled paper play in your sustainability concept?

Recycled paper is one of the cornerstones of our sustainability standards. To my knowledge, we are the only printing company that offers its customers 100% recycled paper. Its production saves up to 70% water and 60% energy compared to virgin fibre paper. We use almost 950 tons of paper per year. About 670kg of paper can be extracted from a tree, such as an average-sized spruce. By using 100% recycled paper, we protect around 1,400 trees a year from deforestation. This corresponds to the area of a forest with about five football pitches.

drupa: How has the customer’s image changed with regard to recycled paper, especially when it comes to its quality?

Recycled paper has made a huge qualitative step. The 30+ generation often associates recycled paper with a greyish-yellowish paper, which was really not the epitome of aesthetics.

But nowadays I would say that the common customer can’t even tell the difference between fresh fibre paper and recycled paper.

Rarely, but constantly, when we sent them paper samples, our customers even ask, if we didn’t have a paper, which is „somehow greyer and more fibrous, since it doesn’t look like recycling at all“. We understand this as a compliment for the high quality of our recycled paper.

drupa: Which applications do you think NAUTILUS® recycled paper is particularly suitable for, or when do you like to use it?

NAUTILUS® offers recycled paper in three qualities and in ten grammages from 70 to 350 g/m2 so that it covers a wide range of customer requirements: from flyers to posters to brochures. This portfolio offers our customers a wide selection of ecological recycled papers, depending on their haptic and visual preferences.

drupa: Do you see a development towards recycled paper or CO2-neutral papers, especially during the last 12 months?

Since the beginning of 2019, the recycled paper market has been strained. Demand is still high, but recycled paper is simply not available. We are the only online printing company that exclusively uses 100% recycled paper and have taken appropriate precautions by filling our stocks well. We have also made strategic changes and are cooperating closely with Mondi, among others. They reacted to this market gap by expanding their range of recycled paper accordingly. The wholesaler IGEPA is now supplying us with high-quality NAUTILUS® recycled paper reliably and over the long term.

The issue of CO2 neutrality is also becoming more and more important as a result of climate change. As part of EntrepreneursForFuture we support the FridaysForFuture movements, that plays a decisive role in this.

drupa: How do you generally see the development of the printing market in terms of specialisation or shifting to premium offers?

Competition in the printing industry is becoming increasingly fierce. Partly due to the rapid development of online services, which compete indirectly with offline media. The rapid innovation cycles and the associated investment costs mean that many print shops can only survive through size and rationalisation.

We are not immune to these developments, but through our targeted specialisation in high-quality eco online printing, we are able to achieve a constant organic growth.

drupa: Do you think that it will be necessary for printing companies to make a name for themselves in niche markets in order to remain profitable in the future?

As I said, unless other printers want to ensure their survival through growth and rationalisation, I think it’s almost all about specialisation. This cannot only be in the ecological field, but can also lead to hybrid printing forms that combine online and offline or 3D printing – the possibilities are endless. From an ecological perspective I think that the potential to print solar cells in the future is exciting. The future will show to what extent such developments will be suitable for the mass market.

drupa: Thank you for the inspiring interview!

What do you guys think of recycled paper?

What is the BLAUER ENGEL?

The BLAUE ENGEL is a certificate issued by the Federal Republic of Germany which guarantees that recycled paper actually consists of 100% recycled paper. In addition, no chlorine bleach may be used in the processing of recycled paper and artificial brighteners (OBAs) are not permitted.