Frazer Chesterman and Marcus Timson ahead of EcoPrintEurope Live 2012 this autumn, an event they believe will bring sustainability to the forefront of the print sector’s consciousness.
Image Reports is the exclusive wide-format media partner for EcoPrint, the new show from FM Brooks and brainchild of former Fespa directors Frazer Chesterman and Marcus Timson. The aim of this event, the first of which will take place in Berlin this September, is to provide a focused forum to discuss and champion sustainable print production. So how do Chesterman and Timson hope Ecoprint Europe Live 2012 will impact the industry?
IR: Ecoprint is the first exhibition and event to totally focus on sustainable print business. How are you defining ‘sustainability’ in this context?
Frazer: We view sustainability as sustainable business practice – we’re not so focused on the tree hugging side of the eco story. We’re much more concerned about how companies run their print business. Margins are always so tight in print it’s clear that if you run your business more efficiently you can reduce your waste, amount of resource you use, improve the workflow – and that can deliver you increased profits.
Marcus: I’d describe it as building a business model that endures, so one that has a robust financial footing and is focused around value. Of course the environmental aspects of that are important but our view is that first and foremost it’s about profit, and a key ingredient is innovation and creating a business that can flourish in a modern media environment.
IR: Why run Ecoprint now and why Berlin?
Frazer: The brands are driving the corporate responsibility agenda. They are demanding a certain approach to how they themselves operate - and if they are using print then those print suppliers have got to have the same approach to corporate responsibility. Why Berlin? It’s and agenda setting city and this subject is clearly an agenda setting issue. We also feel Germany, the largest printing centre in Europe, has strong eco views. And going back to my time at Fespa, the show we ran in Berlin was most successful event. It’s inexpensive, easy to get to and has a lot of appeal.
Marcus: The issue of sustainability has been confused and clearly there’s a need to engage and communicate and learn. Plus, the issue is reaching a tipping point, largely due to the fact that the leading brands are making public statements about reducing carbon in their manufacturing processes and their supply lines need to align with those goals. Print is a significant part of the supply chain of any major consumer brand and now is about the right time to address these issues head on. The show’s in Berlin because it’s one of Europe’s greenest capitals, affordable, accessible and a very dynamic city noted for change.
IR: For a number of years now, in every issue, Image Reports has carried editorial covering issues relating to print business development and it seems, from an economic as well as ethical and legal standpoint, that it’s a no-brainer that print companies should adopt a greener, more sustainable strategy. But won’t EcoPrint just be preaching to those already converted?
Frazer: Undoubtedly the visitor profile will be the innovators, the people already thinking about this. But for a lot of printers, the second tier down, who are just beginning to be asked for green product etc. there’s a lot of confusion out there. No-one doubts the greenwash issue and it’s really difficult to know what to be doing. This event won’t necessarily provide the complete solution but it should provide a place to ask the questions – and I think that’s key.
Marcus: We are targeting this as a leadership event because we think maybe its not a mainstream issue so I guess preaching to the converted in somewhat inevitable. But actually, what we’re really aiming for is for the converted to do the preaching and provide lessons to that next generation of businesses who recognise that they need to do something but perhaps don’t know where to go to get advice, to network with people who might be a bit further in front and work out how to be innovative in terms of business sustainability.
IR: Many printers are turned off attending ‘green’ events because they think the content will be too ‘woolly’. How will Ecoprint deliver what’s been described as a “defined and practical guide” to enhancing profitability through a sustainable approach to print business?
Frazer: Yes, it’s not all about compliance, standards and science, it’s about the language of profit, of business and that’s important. Printers who are good at getting value from sustainability are happy to share the knowledge which is interesting – it’s very much an open source approach with this.
Marcus: This will be a hybrid event of conference and exhibition and there are three main tracks of content: ‘Think’ which is about vision, where CSR is going in the future, trends in sustainability and where business models are moving etc; ‘Talk’ is an opportunity for discussion; and ‘Take Action’ which is about the path to change, the ‘how to’ part of the event.
IR: EcoPrint will comprise an exhibition and talks. Seminar programmes are always hit and miss affairs within a trade show. How are you approaching that?
Frazer: I think we see this more as a conference with some showcasing of products – a sort of hybrid summit. I’ve run exhibitions for a long time and having conferences running at the same time but the problem is people won’t come off the floor of the show. So we are working along the lines that this is a conference with the content free to all and to make the main theatres central to the event.
Marcus: This show has content at its core. The stage is in the middle of the event and exhibitors will interface with speakers as much as visitors. Its more about networking than buying and with exhibitors we’ve said you need to think about how you exhibit – maybe less focus on technology and more on business, applications and creativity and what that means in terms of value not just for the printer, but brand or agency etc.
IR: Many printers will only become more ‘sustainable’ when their customers push them to be so. What level of input will ‘brands’ have at EcoPrint?
Frazer: People like the sustainability director of Coca Cola, someone from Ikea, Nike etc – we really have some high level speakers from big brands, partly because we see the retail environment being where the sustainability argument is perhaps pushing through. There a big chunk of printers waiting for customers to direct them how they should move forward and what we’re doing here with the brands is showing them how that is likely to flow through.
Marcus: We felt we needed to involve as many brands as possible that we know are making big plays on sustainability. We also have the agencies speaking, the intention being to unite the supply chain a bit more.
IR: The print sector can be quite myopic - and when it comes to sustainability in business there must be a lot it can learn about effective strategies from other industries. Will EcoPrint incorporate lessons from beyond print’s ken?
Frazer: I think it’s an interesting question. I do think there are other industries certainly ahead of the curve than we are in print. The lady from Toyota for instance will be talking about the way it runs its business along sustainable lines. That doesn’t just mean recycling, lower use of energy etc. it means things like managing your resources – human resources as much as your other resources. For instance, rather than go outside your business to recruit, constantly training and developing on existing internal resources – that kind of thing. That’s sustainable business and I think print can learn something from that.
Marcus: It’s important that we do look at other industries that are successful in terms of sustainability. So we’ll have somebody who has worked in various industries talking about the cradle-to-cradle approach for instance, as well as other speakers that have worked outside print.
IR: What about the exhibitors at EcoPrint? Everyone wants to be seen as green so its not surprising that there’s been plenty of interest from manufacturers wanting to be part of EcoPrint. So given this is a money making event, and that it’s notoriously difficult to define what is meant by ‘eco-friendly’ when it comes to print kit and consumables, what have been the ground rules in allowing companies to show offerings?
Frazer: We have a development group of about 40 manufacturers and they’ve very much defined where we go with this show. As you say, we’re a money making organisation, we need exhibitors but we can’t have just anyone showing anything so we have an exhibitor approval system, fairly simple and independently audited, which checks that every exhibitor tells us what they are going to show and deemed acceptable.
Marcus: There is no unified eco label and there is greenwashing in most industries so we’ve got guideline insofar as we can have any, and we’re going to be verified ourselves in terms of the show, so we’ll be aligned to BS8901 [a management system standard designed to help organisations in the events industry improve the sustainability of their event related activities].
IR: What do you hope the first EcoPrint event will achieve?
Frazer: I hope it delivers vision, direction and leadership as a collaborative event. And I hope that by the second Ecoprint in October 2013 that we’ve seen a movement upwards.
Marcus: I hope it appeals to not just the biggest companies in the market but people with vision who want to make a difference – not just for themselves but for the industry.