Earlier this year, Toshiba Corporation announced the first annual National No Print Day to be held on Oct. 23, 2012. The company said it was “a nationwide campaign to encourage, educate and challenge individuals and companies to commit to one day of no printing to raise awareness of the impact printing has on our planet.”
Well, apparently lots of awareness was raised. On June 13 the Printing Industries of America released a statement by President and CEO Michael Makin calling on “the U.S. printing industry to reject a call by Toshiba America Business Solutions for a National No-Print Day (NNPD)”.
That caused the executives at Toshiba to rethink things. One week later, Makin announced to the PIA membership that Toshiba had cancelled its No Print Day. According to Editor and Publisher magazine, the cancellation announcement came after “negotiation” with Printing Industries of America. Since cancelling the campaign, all traces have been removed from social media as well as the website the company had set up. My guess is some of the heads at Toshiba that inspired this debacle are rolling: if not, they should be.
I say three hearty cheers for Michael Makin and the Printing Industries of America. They stood up for the printing, envelope and paper industries and deserve our applause and appreciation. But the absurdity of a company that makes and sells printers holding a No Print Day as if it were a badge of honor deserves further scrutiny.
Printers and envelope companies have been touting their environmental bona fides for some time now. Whether it’s through legitimate programs like FSC or SFI or the dubious claims of products made using “certified wind power”, we’ve been playing the Green PR game. The problem with that approach is it amounts to appeasement which, as history proves time and again, doesn’t work. Throwing a bone to your opponents or patting them on the head in the hope that they will leave you alone is not a winning strategy. It simply emboldens the opposition because you are essentially agreeing with their arguments.
We need to wake up and acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that the environmental movement does not have our best interests in mind. No matter how much we try to prove that we are all fine fellows just trying to make a living, they will continue to oppose us because we cut down trees, produce stuff that ends up in landfills and supposedly have a yeti-size carbon footprint.
Never mind that paper production requires planting more trees than those that are harvested or that as an industry we recycle most of the paper we waste or that the digital world, that great green hope, uses a heck of a lot more power than we do most of which is still supplied through coal-fired power plants (and don’t get me started on the whole “carbon footprint” thing – a topic for another day). Those are just facts which shouldn’t get in the way of a good argument I guess.
Despite our best intentions, all of this kowtowing eventually leads to “No-Print Day” – a declaration of unilateral surrender and the preamble to our obituary.
It’s long past time to stand up for what we do without the implicit apologies; maybe even questioning some of the premises of the arguments used against us. This is tough for businesspeople as we tend to be risk-averse when it comes to our markets. There are many buyers who, more or less, accept the environmental critique of our industry. However, I believe if we do this in a factual, balanced yet firm and professional manner, we won’t just win the debate but more importantly, secure the future for our livelihood. That's a goal worth ruffling a few feathers - not that I have anything against birds.