Major changes start with small contributions: the Sustainable Printer

I want to introduce you to a Belgian company, named ‘the Sustainable Printer’, that could be an inspiring example for many other companies. Before 2004, the printing company struggled with lots of energy use. The CEO, Ignace Wills, started to think how he could reduce their environmental impact. The result? Sustainability is now really part of their DNA.


How did the company realize such a huge reversal in their business operations? How was this raise in ecological economic efficiency created?

–        The service efficiency was raised thanks to the use of nature friendly resources which also increased the quality of the printed sheets. They started to work with alcohol-free ink for example, which was good for both the air quality and the delivered ink quality;

–        They also increased throughput efficiency by reducing their energy use. For example reusing the heath of the printers, installing qualitative isolation, turning off everything during the night,…

–        Subsequently the growth efficiency advanced thanks to controlled water waste management and more efficient installations;

–        Finally their eco-system efficiency raised because of the use of 100% green power.


The net outcome of their operations is a zero sum of carbon emissions. They invested in waste management in Dar es Salaam, a city in Zanzibar, to compensate their emissions. Furthermore some social actions were taken, resulting in social acceptable conditions for every worker affected by the ‘Sustainable Printer’, going from their own workforce to the workers producing the coffee the employees are drinking.

Companies such as ‘the Sustainable Printer’ can make the difference from my point of view. They set an example of being profitable without harming the environment, nor other people. I would not say that the government should not take their responsibilities. I think the government should focus on giving incentives, supporting and sensitizing companies. Companies focusing on sustainability on the other hand, perform consistently more efficient than the government does. The ‘Sustainable Printer’ for example convinced one of his suppliers to make changes in their supply chain, which were also sustainable. Regarding the fact that a small company with only 7 FTE was perceived as an inspiring example in Belgium and already managed to convince other companies to operate sustainable, I wonder, what could then be the impact of large multinational companies?



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3 comments on “Major changes start with small contributions: the Sustainable Printer
  1. jeremy says:

    Nice post. It is, indeed, an inspiring story in an industry sector that is not really known for its sustainability. The reference to what the company is doing in Dar es Salaam is interesting. Is this in connection with the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) initiative?

  2. laurencevandermeer says:

    Yes, there is indeed a link between the investment in the Dar es Salaam project en the United Nations CDM projects. The project is actually better known as the ‘Mtoni Waste Collection and Treatment Project’. The project realizes a CO2 reduction, social-economic benefits and they control the CO2 quality. You can find more information about the project in the video below:

    The ‘Sustainable Printer’ mentions on his website that the Dar es Salaam project offers children a new and safe enviroment to play in, reduces pests,…

  3. tonhublog says:

    Indeed, this is inspiring. I agree that large multinationals could demonstrate leadership and impose their views on their suppliers. Wal-Mart in North America is notorious for ‘making’ its suppliers search for efficiency and lower costs. However, I believe that you’re never ‘too small’ to make an impact, and your example demonstrates this so well. If every ‘inspiring’ company could influence all companies within their supply chain, this could really multiply by itself. Thanks for sharing!

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