Book manufacturers and paper suppliers, still recovering from a difficult 2009, are sticking with sustainability, accelerating the use of proven conservation measures while devising newer practices. But the newer efforts are different; they're less about saving than gaining, more about developing distinctive messages for different constituents than a blanket statement, and, most clearly, they're about documenting and unifying—often branding—the various parts of sustainability into a formal companywide program. Gone is the usual checklist approach to compliance, and, interestingly, more companies are funding public-service campaigns and advocacy messages about their green initiatives.

Companies are also changing the game, adopting digital presses or expanding sustainability to include employee wellness. In virtually all company literature today, there are precise comparability measurements, publicized in reports to employees, shareholders, the news media, and the local and industry community. Firms commonly announce achievements in standardizing green procurement, minimizing waste and environmental impact, and pursuing resource efficiency in raw materials, energy, and water.

Most companies also are continuing the early emphasis on corporate social responsibility and environmental stewardship, which now extends to developing best practices and sharing them with clients and others. Following are examples of current sustainability efforts by manufacturers and paper suppliers.

Courier Corporation, North Chelmsford, Mass., is one book producer exemplifying progress across multiple fronts. "Sustainability is as hot a topic now as before the economy softened in late 2008," says v-p Peter Tobin. "Environmental issues have not faded in this difficult economy, but really have become an integral part of all our business and manufacturing discussions." Courier has achieved triple certification from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative), and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification) programs, which allows them to label publishers' books to reflect responsible environmental management, from the forests through manufacturing, Tobin notes.

Tobin says Courier also created its now popular Green Edition program, which requires that books be made from recycled paper and be manufactured in the U.S., where, he notes, environmental, health, and safety regulations are among the strictest in the world. "The Green Edition mark," he explains, "enables our customers to showcase their commitment to higher environmental standards in which emissions are reduced, energy is conserved, and comprehensive recycling programs are in place."

Courier has also adopted digital book production. "Six months ago, we started up a T300 color inkjet web press from Hewlett-Packard that's a great environmental asset," Tobin says. "It's smaller, requires much less energy than an offset press, uses low-emission water-based inks, and is efficient at much smaller runs." Courier installed the HP line to produce short-run books, then found it ideal for out-of-print titles. Courier is now adding a second press.

"Most agree that 2009 was the worst year in book publishing in maybe 50 years," says John J. Edwards, the fourth-generation of Edwardses to be president of Edwards Brothers, Ann Arbor, Mich., "but things are improving." While the importance of sustainability continues unabated, Edwards says, last year's slump clearly had an effect on the value of recycled material while pushing up expenses for common recycling practices or disposal.

"Some recycled products have little or no value in a down market so waste can go from a quality recycle material to a landfill liability since no one wants the materials," explains Edwards. "That's a business cost since we have to pay to remove the materials, as much as $500 per Dumpster load." Still, Edwards adds, the company is committed to recycling, "because we have a zero-landfill goal and recycling is built into all of our manufacturing. We work on efficiency in all aspects—materials, energy, supply chain, waste—and are now trying to print closer to the user to minimize our carbon footprint."

"Yes, the book business is having some difficult years," acknowledges Bill Upton, president of Malloy Incorporated, a family-owned company in Ann Arbor, Mich., that bills about $40 million annually. "After the bank panic, everyone conserved cash and publishers held back titles," he says. "Later, school districts canceled or postponed their elementary/high school textbook purchases, which led to a plunge of one-quarter to one-third in that segment alone."

Staying dedicated to sustainable practices, contends Upton, is a real challenge in a period of multiple yearly price increases for paper, upcharges for recycled-content grades, the costs of resizing the business, the expense of chain-of-custody programs, and so on. But against these odds, Upton believes Malloy became the first major U.S. book manufacturer to reach zero-landfill status a year ago by finding ways to reuse or recycle 99.5% of all the material it discards in production. What drove this effort? Says Upton, "I had learned a couple of years ago that uncoated freesheet degrades into methane in a landfill faster than does newsprint or coated paper. I realized we simply had to wean ourselves from burying paper."

Malloy also involves customers in sustainable practices. In one program, throughout 2009, whenever Malloy printed a book title that displayed an FSC or SFI Chain of Custody logo for the first time, Malloy split a $10 donation between the "Plant a Billion Trees" program, operated by the Nature Conservancy, and the Legacy Land Conservancy in southeast Michigan. Reports Upton, "Each conservancy received nearly a thousand dollars last year." Despite another difficult year in 2010, Malloy continues with its green projects. "We just can't write off sustainability—it's crucial to our long-term prospects as an industry," Upton says.

"I believe book publishers want to use eco-friendly papers today, but their higher cost is a problem," says Craig Mead, business development v-p of Thomson-Shore, an employee-owned company in Dexter, Mich. To help publishers meet their environmental goals, Thomson-Shore worked with Glatfelter to develop a sheet containing 50% postconsumer waste, which meets Green Press Initiative's treatise standard. "To make the sheet affordable," Mead explains, "we focused on cost savings in production by developing a paper that ran very efficiently on our presses. When we got it right, we subsidized the cost of the recycled paper for customers. Doing so didn't hurt us, but this type of leadership has brought in new customers."

To gain FSC certification for a sheet increasingly requested by specific customers, Thomson-Shore asked Glatfelter to add FSC-certified recycled fibers to the product. The result is T-S's Nature's Natural FSC paper, available with 30% postconsumer fiber in 50 lb. and 60 lb. weights, which has become the company's most-used paper product. Thomson-Shore has since partnered with xpedx and Mohawk to offer the first 30% postconsumer-content matte-finish product to the consumer market, and with Domtar to offer a 30% postconsumer-content white paper that is FSC certified. In addition to being a member of both GPI and BIEC, T-S is asked by mills to run their papers for evaluation, Mead says.

Over the summer, Quad/Graphics Inc.—for decades a leading print specialist in magazines and catalogues—became a major player in book manufacturing when it acquired WorldColor Press Inc., then the nation's second-largest printer. "From our founding in 1971, we've looked at sustainability in a holistic way that encompasses all efforts and measures that improve the business," notes Joe Muehlbach, executive director of facilities and environmental policy. "Environmental issues become a center of focus—by continuously minimizing waste and costs to constantly maximize our production efficiency and use of resources, we're driven to be as green as possible."

This view, Muehlbach says, looks beyond the usual measurements of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint. Instead, Quad/Graphics puts its focus on minimizing use of resources: paper and ink, of course, but also air and water, solid waste, and energy. "Historically, our recovery rate for solid waste is 98.7%," says Muehlbach, "which means only 1.3% is going to landfill. So then we ask, how can we reach 100%?" In water usage, he adds, Quad/Graphics wants to measure pages produced per gallon so it can better this consumption rate. Why all the effort to measure and minimize use of resources? "It's a competitive advantage, but that's not our sole reason," Muehlbach explains. "We really want to carry the entire industry forward."

Recognizing the importance of transporting publications and print matter, in 2006 Quad/Graphics joined the SmartWay Transport Partnership, created two years earlier by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a way for shippers to reduce fuel use, greenhouse gas emissions, and air pollutants. Although 2,700 businesses are SmartWay members today, Quad/Graphics is still the only printing company member to have won the SmartWay Excellence Award, and one of a select few companies in any industry to have won it four years in a row. "I think these EPA awards are really special since they recognize resource efficiencies, showing that manufacturing and sustainability are not just compatible but achievable and desirable."

Last month, Webcom Inc., Toronto, Canada, began installation of a $12 million inline inkjet book manufacturing system capable of fully customizable, high-capacity output of as many as 70 million pages per month, for print runs from a few hundred up to 5,000 copies. "By giving publishers complete versatility in content, production, and run length, they can efficiently manage the manufacture and distribution of books, directories, and catalogues," says Mike Collinge, president. "This wipes away production and product limitations that have plagued the book industry for generations."

Webcom, whose environmental efforts include energy and water conservation, plus minimization of air and water pollution, recently earned two prizes from the Environmental Print Awards. Nearly a decade ago, it created a unique Legacy brand of recycled paper; this year, its total usage of recycled paper is on track to achieve more than twice the industry average.

Webcom, a manufacturer producing about 40 million books a year and employing more than 200 people, incorporated its investment in inkjet printing into its companywide BookFWD cost-savings production program. The program, recent analysis shows, enabled one trade publisher to save 17% in costs, plus 10% more by modifying its inventory ordering model. The expansion, like Courier's, centers on a T300 inkjet web press from Hewlett-Packard, capable of quality four-color printing equivalent to conventional offset presses, on a variety of papers and weights, including uncoated offset stock, coated, and groundwood. The T300 feeds to a FlexBook postpress system from Magnum Manufacturing that then links into two new bindery lines.

International View

About a year ago, Leo Paper Group completed the first full-scale carbon audit of its head office in Hong Kong, followed early this year by a comparable audit of its factory in Heshan, China, about 350 miles away. "The audits helped us gain ISO 14064-1 certification of greenhouse gas accounting and reporting," reports CM Yeung, director of environment and facilities. "By achieving this scientific study in 2009, we reduced our carbon emission at 21% compared to 2007, so now we can aim for carbon-neutral and zero-waste targets."

Leo Paper is striving to be a "zero-waste factory" as part of its Green Harmony program. "Our slurry ice air-conditioning system helps save substantial electricity, and a central vacuum pump helps reduce 60% of energy use," says Yeung. "In 2009, we fully adopted the QC 080000 hazardous substances process management system, implemented and improved the existing green procurement system, and formulated our Green Procurement Technology Standard."

The company, he adds, hopes to include clients and suppliers along the supply and logistics chain.

"In addition to eco-sourcing, we offer FSC- and PEFC-certified green products as well as environmentally friendly waterless printing," says Alvin Lai, Leo Paper operations manager. "In logistics, we cooperate with specific suppliers to have them build their accessories and parts [factories] nearby to save energy, carbon emissions, and time." He adds, "Our sustainability efforts do not give in to business pressures. Since logistics adds carbon emissions and production costs to a product unit, our green solution streamlines the supply chain while saving energy and costs."

Its vendor-managed inventory program enables Leo Paper to help clients optimize the supply and logistics chain, which improves the sustainability efforts and business competitiveness of both parties. Doing so also improves management of the domestic network (for clients' vendors in China) and regional and global distribution.

Yeung notes, "In a corporate social responsibility evaluation by the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency last year, we scored 4.8 points out of a total of 5.0, well above the 4.53 average. This motivates our employees and urges our management team to strive not just to be a good corporate citizen, but an excellent one, showing what can be achieved."

Leo Paper was formed in 1982 as a paper bag manufacturer, and 10 years later founded Leo Paper Products, specializing in books and paper items. Today, with sales offices in North America, Europe, and China, Leo is exploring business opportunities in the rapidly growing interactive media technologies.

Paper Suppliers

Cascades Inc., Kingsey Falls, Quebec, which produces, converts, and markets packaging, publishing, and tissue products composed mainly of recycled fibers, says it has incorporated sustainability efforts since its founding in 1964. For last year, it calculated that it used an average of just 10 cubic meters of water per metric ton of paper produced, one-sixth the level used by the Canadian pulp and paper industry. It also integrated into its products more than 2.1 million short tons of recycled fibers, which now account for 72% of the company's consumption of fiber and pulp.

In its 2009 216-page "Report on Sustainable Development," Cascades laid out for stakeholders the company's
sustainability goals and how it plans to achieve them. "Cascades distinguishes itself by aiming higher than the current standards," says Julie Loyer, communications manager. "It was in this spirit that we produced our sustainability report." The company reports that its best ecological choice for books and manuals is Rolland Enviro100 book paper, which, unlike its virgin-fiber equivalent, uses no trees and less water and produces less air emissions or solid waste.

In September, Domtar Corporation, in Montreal, and the Nature Conservancy launched a Working Woodlands pilot program in Pennsylvania that enables private landowners to maintain and sustainably manage their forested land as certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. In generating FSC-certified forest products, the certified lands are managed to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure that more carbon is stored in the forest.

The Conservancy then works with Blue Source, one of the world's leading greenhouse gas offset developers, to market and sell the landowners' forest carbon credits. In return, landowners agree to manage the forest sustainably for at least 60 years. Under the pilot program, Domtar will donate $30,000 over the next two years to help enroll 20,000 acres in Working Woodlands.

Glatfelter, York, Pa., argues that for longer-lasting products, book publishers should use only the best papers, "freesheet" grades containing no lignin tree fiber such as found in lower-grade groundwood papers. "For books we only make our highest-quality Permanent Paper grades," says Melissa Klug, "and through our Permanence Matters initiative, we educate the book community on fighting sheet degradation—specifically the use of groundwood papers in first-edition hardcover printings—by using freesheet papers."

Klug, director of marketing for the company's printing and carbonless papers division, says Glatfelter provided research and support for the "Pennsylvania Study," a multiyear state examination of book and document degradation. Next spring it will co-sponsor a conference with the Johns Hopkins University Center for Book Preservation to spotlight the brewing crisis in preservation resulting from more use of low-quality papers.

"We're triple certified and offer environmentally preferable grades," she says, "including Natures Book, which has 30% postconsumer waste and is FSC certified."

The rising use of e-books presents another advocacy issue for Glatfelter. "There's a misperception that e-books are environmentally friendly," says Klug, "but consumers need to understand the vast energy usage of the electronics industry, the energy demands of server farms, plus the impending landfill crisis of e-waste that results from quick obsolescence." By comparison, she adds, paper is a renewable resource that features familiar, convenient use and a long shelf life, which can come to a recyclable end.

In its manufacture of paper, reports Klug, Glatfelter has long practiced sustainability. "Our integrated facilities in the U.S. use steam twice, first to manufacture electricity, then to make pulp and paper," she says. "In our large integrated mills, most alternative energy comes from the same trees harvested to make paper. We use half of the biomass in a tree—cellulose fiber—to make paper, then we burn the other half, the glue-like lignin that holds the fibers together, in a special boiler to recover the cooking chemicals used in pulping as well as the biomass energy contained in the lignin."

Mills in Spring Grove, Pa., and Chillicothe, Ohio, can burn sludge, wood knots, sawdust, and other wood wastes
in conventional power boilers. On a typical day, over 1,900 megawatt-hours of electricity are made at both mills, about half from renewable energy sources, primarily biomass, the remainder from coal. Since Spring Grove makes more electricity than it can use, Glatfelter sells the remainder to the local utility.