by Guy Broadhurst

In some recent articles I've given our environment a few plugs because Océ believes our future is closely related to the heath of our planet. Many companies, Océ among them, plug quietly away making sure we can recycle where possible while reviewing the environmental aspects of emerging technologies. This isn't a new fad or initiative. It's a sustained goal to make sure we are among the responsible parents of our planet.

As in just about everything else in life, it's how one does things that is important. And today that "how" implies sustainability.

Meanwhile, some other manufacturers continue to send used machines to landfills. Why? Because their first focus is on selling equipment today rather than ensuring they will still be able to sell it tomorrow. Of course, all equipment vendors need to sell machines and supplies, just as print providers need those products to serve the needs of their customers. But as in just about everything else in life, it's how one does things that is important. And today that "how" implies sustainability.

Keeping on Keeping On

Recycling is becoming more and more important in our daily lives and in business as well. Many households and companies routinely recycle waste paper, aluminum cans and glass and plastic bottles. This is a key part of a wider strategy of sustainability--being able to maintain the standards of living and working we are accustomed to while reducing the environmental impact.

Sustainability, though, goes well beyond basic recycling. Modern automobiles, for example, are designed to be almost completely recycled, as are many major appliances and home electronics. More and more, sustainability is becoming part of how a company does business. Océ's 2006 Sustainability Report, for example, details the company's use and re-use of components, energy and water consumption, waste handling and emissions, as well as human and environmental safety. The report also contains interviews with stakeholders about sustainability. Copies are available at

Sustainability goes well beyond basic recycling. It is becoming part of how a company does business.

Second Life

Such a sustainability strategy starts with designing components with an eye to reuse and anticipating the logistics required for the various re-manufacturing processes. At Océ, for instance, the design and quality of materials and engineering allow many components to be reused in new systems, limiting the environmental impact compared to machines made from all-new components. This approach includes how machines are  handled at the end of their economic lifespan; reclaiming, recycling and remanufacturing components whenever possible. In this way, many components get a "second life," and stay in play instead of being discarded as waste.

New and emerging regulations also play a role and are part of many technology companies' strategies. Most notable of these is the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS), which became effective in Europe in July of 2006 and in California in January of this year. RoHS is part of a legislative initiative to solve the problem of large amounts of toxic electronics-related waste. RoHS places limits on the use of six hazardous materials (lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ether [PBDE] flame retardants) in new electrical and electronic equipment. As a Europe-based company, Océ was one of the first printing equipment companies to be RoHS compliant, implementing the investment across its cut-sheet and continuous form systems.

Increased Awareness

I'm also seeing a rise in environmental awareness as I talk to customers and prospects. I'm increasingly asked how Océ is meeting the needs of a new, more environmentally conscious marketplace. And I smile, because as the green-friendly regime grows across America, I can say we are prepared for the questions that will enviably come our way.

But print engines and their consumables are just one part of the printing business. How much effort does your company put into environmental issues? Do you proclaim it on your website? Do you talk to your customers about your efforts? Some print providers and print buyers, for example, are encouraging use of recycled papers, or suggesting shorter print runs to minimize waste due to obsolescence.

On a perhaps more personal note, have any of you (as I have) bought a more fuel efficient car in the past few months? I read in "USA Today" last month that crossover SUV's accounted for an 18% surge in car sales due to lower gas consumption. Meanwhile, some major airports are moving to buses that use natural gas instead of diesel fuel and taxis that use hybrid technology. If this saves money on fuel, that's fine, but it also helps improve the environment. How about changing light bulbs in your home or business to low voltage halogen or compact fluorescent? No one thing will make a difference, but lots of us, each doing several relatively small  things, can make a huge difference. It all helps.

This surge is not a fad. it's simply a movement that's reaching a household --or business-- near you today. We are not pushing our "green-thumb" on you but we are serious and know that as U.S. legislation catches up we'll be ready for those inevitable questions with a proven track record.

On a larger scale, when the preference in business relationships and government procurement shifts to companies that are green--much as is happening in the UK-- a lot more businesses will see the advantages of being a responsible parent.


Guy Broadhurst is Vice President of Product Marketing in Océ North America's Commercial Printing Division. He can be reached at [email protected].