“I honestly believe if we hadn’t done what we did we wouldn’t be here today”
Please give a warm welcome to CCO Kasper Larsen and board member Gitte Haar from KLS PurePrint. No doubt that the environment is on the agenda in these years. Greenhouse gasses, global warming and growing concerns from both consumers, NGO’s, politicians of course also require the printing industry to think. KLS PurePrint is not just thinking – they are actually doing and together with a few other printers across Europe PurePrint has been defined as a new brand for not just environmental friendly production but also cradle to cradle responsibility.
KLS PurePrint has been one of the world’s leading printing companies in relation to figure out how to actually be responsible for future generations and is our opinion a lightning tower in the printing industry.
Of course, any print company owner can and must speculate about the feasibility and the financial consequences going all-in but according to CCO Kasper Larsen, it seems that going responsible is also a financial advantage.
Please see this important INKISH film and learn from some of the very first first-movers within the PurePrint concept.
KLS is amongst the greenest companies in the world
The vision is to be the greenest printing house in the world, but I think that’s more of a vision, and I’ll leave it up to the customers to find out what they believe is who is the greenest. But, for us, it’s the ambition, and that’s what we are aiming for.
What does ‘green’ mean and how green are you?
I think I have to take you a little back in history to 2007. We were at a strategy weekend looking into how we wanted to make our strategy with a new professional ball, and we wanted to have a strategy where we had our own profile in the market, and believe that the environmental profile was nothing. So, back then, it was, you know, pure strategy, more than actually saving the world. The issue at that time ñ I think the vision was that we wanted to be the greenest printing company in Scandinavia, and when we came back Monday morning, you know, we looked at ourselves and each other and said, ìWell, wow. Great. How are we going to do that?’ Fourteen days after the strategy weekend, we visited our design agent, and told him that we would be the greenest printing company in Scandinavia. And, he said he didn’t think that it came from the heart, but it was a little bit too commercialized in his perspective, and he found a book of 40 pages explaining the UN greenhouse gas protocol, and he threw that book over the table and told me to do my homework, read about it, and then we could come back when we knew what we were actually talking about. So, we were delayed for three months while a reckless book, and we then found out that this is actually a tough business and it’s very serious, and we have to do something. So, I think that actually pull us into the strategy very early, that we want to do something until what we’re doing, and not just make some fluffy, you know, statements and smart payoff.
From 2007 to 2012, we declare much into our own carbon emission, we had the way the strategy of driving electric cars, we invested in our own window, put the white roof on the building, and looked into a lot of consumption of electricity. We reduced our electricity in that period with twenty eight percent. We reduced our water consumption with fifty-nine percent, and the heating by sixty-four percent. So, yes, we got quite far. But, in 2012, we also looked at ourselves again and said, ìWhat is the goal for the next three years?’ And well, chasing the last car was not ambitious enough for us, so Kida Whole, our new board member, told us to look into the product, and make a 100% biological product that could be composted. And, that was a new ambitious strategy that we look into in 2013 to now.
Is it as easy as it sounds?
It isn’t, because we talked about a lot of different types of materials. We talk about the paper and the substrates in the paper, we talk about the ink, we talk about the varnish. So, there’s so many components in the product that we need to change, and we need to introduce a totally different thinking on how our materials live after they leave the factory. So, that’s not just plug and play.
You have a 100% biodegradable product. Does that mean you have a cradle to cradle certificate?
Coming back from the strategy weekend Monday morning, we looked at ourselves again, and then we said, ìHow we’re going to do this?’ And then, we found out that the Cradle to Cradle certification would be the right way to go for us. The goal is not the certificate. The goal is to make the print biodegradable. But, the certificate is actually more evidence showing the customers that we are, and we do what we say we are doing.
Does having an environment friendly strategy go hand in hand with making money?
In 2007, we had an analysis, and actually we were one of the first performing printing houses in Top 10. So, we needed to make a new strategy, and make a strategy that was different from all the rest in the industry in Denmark. So, I think that was ñ We had this burning platform, because we actually didn’t perform that well to be honest. I honestly believe that we wouldn’t be here today if we hadn’t made that decision back in 2007, and again in 2012/13.
If we talk about especially this industry and KLS, it was a matter about that the old business model is simply not feasible anymore. We’re not competitive anymore, especially not in this part of the world. So, if we wanted to survive, we need to find another business model, and the other business model is actually to make sure that we contain our resources within the cycles, and that would be of profit for us, and for our customers.
What is circular economy?
If the essentials of the circular economy is our materials, we have a problem that especially in the European Union, we lack resources. We simply doesn’t have any resources that we can use for our production because we have harvested our resources outside Europe. So, if we want to keep the economy that we know, we need to reuse the resources that we have within our borders, and they are mainly bound in our waste. So, what we’re doing is remobilizing all the resources that we have in our waste, and reusing them. So, this is a whole methodology of actually reusing our resources, and the circular economy is about building the business models that actually make sure that we do this, because it says itself. So, if you have a whole bunch of waste, it’s actually values that you’ve thrown out. So, if you can remobilize these values, economical values into the company again, you can make a profit out of that.
Was it last year that you changed the name to actually include pure print in your company name?
Yes, because the Cradle to Cradle certification is also a product certification, so we needed to have a product, and, you know, I think it might be easier to find a name if you produce a specific ñ a chair or whatever. But, we needed to find out a name for print, and meanwhile we actually ended up having a close dialogue and cooperation with Gugler in Austria, and we talked a lot about how to brand this community. Then, it would be a lot easier if we actually called our green production the same, and we agreed on pure print. So, the product was pure print, and we went to market with pure print in May 2015, and found out that when we came to January 2016 that when we were talking the media, when was it pure print and when was this KLS graphic house that we actually were talking about, and it just made more sense to call it the new name, KLS pure print. We believe that pure print is the future for us, and we want to state that very clearly.
Do all customers want a green profile?
I think it’s very difficult to be against a green profile. But, for some, a lot of customers, it’s maybe not the main priority, and you know, that’s fine. We want to work together with those customers where it’s very important for them.
Does being a high end environmental printing house give you customers by itself or do you need to chase them?
I think actually both. But, I think one thing is very important to stress in this dialogue at the end, it is that the quality, price, good service, delivery on time, all those issues, they have to be there. You don’t get any professional customers if you can’t live up to those, and on top of that we have pure print. But, pure print cannot substitute in some of the other places instead, so that’s very important to say that the price has to be right on market price and quality. It should be equal to traditional print. When that’s it, of course, you know, opinion of pure print is a strong message, and it opens a lot of doors for us.
Does being cradle to cradle require a lot research?
Yes. We’re not allowed to take anything into production, pure print wise without a complete analysis of the product, of the raw material. For instance, we had a cardboard certified April last year, and a very modern environmental friendly production side, and that took approximately half a year, then they had to go back three levels to find out actually what the entire range of cast numbers was in that product. And, I don’t think they had ever been so far back in a stream of actually where they got the raw materials from.
The common conception about recycled paper is that it’s good for the environment, but you think it’s the opposite?
It’s a little more complex than that because recycled paper usually consists of inks from previous production, and varnish or glue or whatever is still in the paper fibers, and I have to say that that’s a big concern, at least also health-wise. So, I think that’s the core of our agenda. It’s actually more and more health and a lot of diseases that we actually think we see today. In our opinion, we can trace them back to chemicals, and you know, it’s not print that’s that saves the world, and it’s not print that’s going to kill you. But again, all those small influences of chemicals, the cocktail of all that is not good for us humans.
How difficult has it been to identify all the materials and chemicals and then substituting them with cradle to cradle?
It’s been quite an effort, and then that’s why we really need to believe that this is the right way. We were very lucky to get into a program under the Ministry of Commerce that was about converting existing companies into a green strategy, and both we got a lot of help and a tight schedule to follow, and also some financial help in the process available for us. Because, I think we wouldn’t have had the muscles to do this on our own. So, that first one and a half year, it was extremely important for us to be in that program.
Since print is moving towards digital, is it a concern to you that the digital market isn’t transparent about the used consumables?
The digital future is two things: that we have much more marketing digital online, meaning that printing is declining. So, that’s of course one thing after digital future. The other thing that is that you have new methods coming up where quality somehow can meet the offset when you print digital. The problem with the digital is it’s a closed environment, and the suppliers deliver closed systems. So, you don’t have the same possibility as an offset where you can choose and add and remove and exchange your materials. But, that’s just the challenge that I think we, as a first mover within the offset industry can put towards the digital industry. Because, if as we see it now, big customers move towards us because they want the high-quality, they want the positive environmental footprint where we are biodegradable. That puts a pressure on the digital market because where their quality goes up, they don’t have very much transparency in their environmental footprint
Do you see any changes from the machine manufacturers?
The machine industry has taken the journey with the energy-saving. They are very aware that there’s a requirement from their customers that they need to measure their energy consumption on new machines that they purchase, because energy is in the increasing costs. And, I believe that the journey will be the same when we talk about how we produce our products. And, I think that the LED is one step towards a more environmental friendly and transparent way of producing our stuff. So, I believe we are first movers, but I also believe that those who are open for this can make the same steps, not that we see a full package solution on offset machines that can meet the requirements of biodegradability. We don’t see that now. But, it’s not because it’s not possible.
It seems that you have passion for what you do and that it’s also a financially viable way to go.
It absolutely is. And, I think, personally for me it was reading this book about the greenhouse gas issues, and what happens if we are not coping with that in time. And, I speak for all at KLS that it might be so that we cannot change the global warming, but at least we want to be able to say that we do eat it everything that we could when we are going to talk to our children and grandchildren, and we want to do it, you know, not suffering, but doing it in a great way.
I think it would be great if your customers should not make excuses for making prints, and that’s why we need to make them without chemicals. This is what we can do, and at the end of the day if we could be one of the companies actually removing all bad chemicals from the printing industry, I think that would be a great legacy for us if we could be a little part of that.
We believe that this is the future. We believe that we need to separate our resources so that we can get the full use of the biodegradability, meaning that the more we can produce biodegradable, the more sense it makes for us, for the environment and for our customers. So, we have established a pure print community where we invite other printing companies and suppliers to the printing industry to join this pure print community, so that we can develop together the future of printing. We introduced our pure print products, the first pure print products, one and a half year ago, and we have changed our customer base dramatically since the start. So, now we meet totally different customers. We have access to very large global industrial companies that we could never get access to before, because we have this positive thinking about our environment. So, that means that if the offset industry wants to survive, they need to think this way because those who do, they will win. And, it might not be within the next three years, but within the next five or ten years, we will also be pushed by the legislation because there is a strong movement within the EU politics that requires that we will have to remove a lot of this and that we will implement the circular thinking in all our resources. So, this is the strategy that will survive. And, all those who want to join and will survive, wants to survive more than three or five years, need to do this thinking, and we invite them to join us because we have done the first drawings on how to go that way. So, we would like to invite others to join the community.