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Hemlock Printers’ sustainability commitment is a competitive advantage

Hemlock Printers’ sustainability commitment is a competitive advantage

Hemlock Printers talks about the interplay between decision-making, sustainability and competitiveness, and the benefits of dumpster diving.

For the 15th of our “Conversations with Green Champions,” Rolland President Philip Rundle speaks about environmental responsibility with sustainability-minded Hemlock Printers. 

Richard Kouwenhoven, President and COO, talks about the interplay between decision-making, sustainability and competitiveness, and the benefits of dumpster diving.

Amanda Chor, Sustainability Coordinator, covers the fine points of carbon neutral operations and printing, and previews Hemlock’s innovative reusable packaging. 

Hemlock is a quality and sustainability leader in commercial printing

  • Offset, digital and display printing and fulfillment operations in Burnaby and Richmond BC, near Vancouver, and sales offices in Seattle and the San Francisco Bay area.
  • Winner of 13 Canadian Printing Awards in 2018 including Gold, Most Environmentally Progressive Printing Project and Silver, Most Environmentally Progressive Printing Company.
  • FSC Recycled or FSC Mix papers account for some 90 per cent of Hemlocks’ printing – publications, marketing materials, displays, packaging, books, catalogs, stationery.

As COO you lead the business and its sustainability initiatives. How do you strike a balance?

RK: It’s not a balancing act, but more a reflection of the way we do business, because making operations sustainable touches all parts of Hemlock.  This also stems from my involvement with FSC certification 15 years ago, and heading our sustainability committee for years. The paper and other materials we buy, the equipment we invest in, and the ways we manage waste all have a sustainability perspective, so it’s part of our decision-making process.  

Hemlock’s value proposition, mission and environmental policy are on a single sheet of paper. What made you see them as interrelated?

RK: They were originally separate. To communicate our longer-term positioning and vision to staff at a town hall meeting, we combined all three into a one-pager to show the interplay. Reaction was positive so we put it on our website. We surveyed staff in terms of their identification with Hemlock, to mark our 50th year in 2018, and sustainability was one of the top points of pride.

What makes your manufacturing facilities carbon neutral?

RK: A combination of improving operations and purchasing carbon offsets. For example, installing LED lighting throughout our facility reduced our overall carbon footprint – and cut our electricity consumption by over 35 per cent. 

AC: We are proud to offset our carbon emissions (Scope 1, Scope 2 and part of Scope 3) by purchasing credits through partners Climate Smart and Offsetters, in line with an annual greenhouse gas assessment of operations.  Credits contribute to funding environmental projects like the conservation of the Great Bear Rainforest in Haida Gwaii here in BC.  

Hemlock recycles more than 90% of its waste. How did you get there? 

RK: Continuous improvement. After forming a sustainability committee in 2005, we started holding an annual dumpster dive.  We’d pull three days of plant waste from bins, spread it on the shipping dock then categorize it. Most could be recycled or composted. We’ve made great strides by encouraging good habits. One example was getting rid of individual garbage cans in the office so everyone had to walk to recycling bins instead.

We haven’t done a dumpster dive for a while. We hired Amanda to refresh the recycling, composting and waste management side of our business. 

RK: First, if a customer prefers a particular paper we try to source it, but we often play a role in their decision. Every year we publish a short list of preferred papers, then refine it to keep current. Preferred papers must perform on our presses, provide consistent quality, and meet our environmental priorities:

Paper is the largest part of any print project. How do you select paper suppliers?   

  •  High post-consumer content; 
  • Location, because we prefer North American manufacturers to support a shorter supply chain; and
  • FSC certification and additional environmental certifications.

How do Rolland’s 100 per cent PCW papers measure up, for ease of use, quality and eco-friendliness? 

RK:  Really well, across the board. We push high post-consumer content and FSC certification so that makes Rolland a good fit. It has been on our preferred list for years.  Another strength is 100 per cent post-consumer Rolland Enviro Satin, a surface treated grade that provides super high-quality color reproduction. 

AC:  Our office uses Rolland Enviro Copy, so we can speak firsthand to its ease of use and quality.  It’s 100 per cent, too.

Hemlock has a history of innovations that benefit customers and the environment. Examples?

RK: We introduced our Zero Carbon Neutral Print Program in 2009 to help mitigate the impact of carbon dioxide emissions in the paper supply chain. 

Over the last three years Zero has offered one carbon neutral paper grade, with carbon offsets essentially built into the price. It’s automatic, a default choice. Offsets cover the paper’s lifecycle carbon emissions including transportation, and fund renewable energy and clean tech projects. Since Hemlock is carbon neutral, Zero print products are truly neutral. 

AC: Customers can use Zero branding on their printed materials, demonstrating their environmental commitment.  This adds value to the paper selection.

We’re working on a reusable packaging program and expect to implement later in 2019. It will replace single-use corrugated cartons for shipments to regular customers. Lots of testing and planning ahead. 

How is Rolland fitting into your plans to expand the Zero program?

RK: We plan to make selected Rolland products default carbon neutral, with carbon offsets automatically built into prices. 

About 20 per cent of our printing is carbon neutral. By adding Rolland to the Zero program, along with other grades, and making some products from our digital plant default carbon neutral, we think can quickly ramp up to 50 per cent. 

Do you see Hemlock as a green champion?

RK: We strive to be – and recognize there’s room for improvement. Our environmental work makes Hemlock more competitive, and has become a core part of our identity with customers, suppliers and staff. Any time I’m invited to make a presentation I start with a straightforward fact: We are doing well as a business in a challenging industry in large part because of the work we’ve done around sustainability.

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