How can we obtain sustainable resources?

One of our most important resources is paper. People often think that magazine printing is not sustainable in itself as trees are cut down for it. That is not the case!

Wood is a CO₂-neutral raw material. For the production of our rotogravure papers, manufacturers only use wood from sustainably-managed European forests. No forests are cleared for paper production; only thinning wood, dead wood, and sawmill waste are used. The wood from mature trees is far too valuable to be used in the paper industry, so most of it goes to the construction and furniture industries. We also source more than 90 per cent of our paper from mills that use electricity from renewable sources, and take additional steps to minimize the pollution of water by chemicals.

Print is also a sustainable communication medium primarily because the paper cycle in Germany is highly efficient. 100 per cent of our production-related paper waste is returned to the paper mill, where it re-enters the paper cycle. Overall, the recycling rate for graphic papers in Germany is well over 80 per cent. This ideal recycled paper is a much sought-after raw material for the paper industry. Since paper fibres can only be recycled 5-7 times, fresh fibres must be continuously fed in. Given the nature of the process, our rotogravure papers have a high proportion of fresh fibres and therefore represent an important source of raw materials. This is essential for a properly-functioning paper cycle. According to the World Economic Forum, there would be no paper left after about six months if we switched completely to recycled paper.

With regard to other resources, we seek to act as sustainably as possible. For example, we offer sustainable office supplies at our internal Burda office supply shop Coupa. These include materials such as recycled paper from Steinbeis for our office printers. All of these products bear the "Burda Green" label.

What about BurdaDruck?

BurdaDruck is a core division at Hubert Burda Media and, as a manufacturing business, also responsible for a large proportion of its CO₂e emissions. For this reason, BurdaDruck has been systematically analysing its production processes for environmental impacts since the 1990s, and defining procedures for printing in the most environmentally friendly way that allows the requisite high quality standards to be maintained.

The primary goal is to preserve natural resources. To achieve this, processes are being adapted in ways that produce a real CO₂e reduction over and above the legal requirements. BurdaDruck CEO Heiko Engelhardt answers the most important questions.

What specific measures is BurdaDruck enacting?

A first step was the voluntary membership of EMAS (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme) from 1996, a legally binding environmental audit that reviews ongoing improvements in the corporation's environmental performance annually. For 25 years, BurdaDruck has participated very successfully in EMAS, not least because the entire printing process– from energy generation through to waste management – is conducted in highly efficient cycles. Paper is by far the most important resource in the printing process. We source all paper exclusively from sustainably managed European forests. Since 2020, 100 per cent of the paper purchased by BurdaDruck has been PEFC or FSC certified.

Calculations by the "getting better" team have shown that the papers purchased by Burda have a 70 per cent lower CO₂ footprint than the average graphic paper – and an even lower footprint than some recycled papers.

BurdaDruck is constantly optimizing its processes, energy use and logistics. What does this mean specifically?

Sustainability is not just about paper; ink consumption and packaging are also big factors. Relative to the print volume, optimizing processes has enabled BurdaDruck to reduce the amount of waste paper produced by about one fifth over the past 10 years. Recycled paper and plastic packaging are also separated by type and fully recycled. In 2020, we also discovered a more environmentally friendly alternative for the plastic film required in pallet packaging. This only generates half of its predecessor's CO₂e emissions. In the same vein, we have been working for years to optimise printing methods; this has enabled us to steadily reduce ink consumption per printed square metre. The current decrease is over 20 per cent. More than 98 per cent of toluene, the solvent contained in the ink, is recovered during the printing process and re-used to produce new ink. The printing cylinders are redeployed in a continuous cycle through the print shop's production facilities, as they too can be reprocessed and re-used after printing. Finally, the raw materials copper and chrome can also be recycled.

Are there other ways of reducing CO₂ emissions apart from through the sustainable use of materials?

A sustainable strategy on energy is a major lever for impacting the greenhouse gas emissions audits. For this reason, Burda itself quickly took the initiative: Since the early 1990s, BurdaDruck has been operating highly efficient combined heat and power (CHP) plants for the simultaneous generation of electrical energy and heat. The print shops use the resulting heat to generate the steam required for the printing process. As a result, the plants have an overall efficiency of up to 90 per cent. That is twice as high as conventional generation in steam power plants where the efficiency is about 40 percent. Furthermore, the other Burda buildings are also heated in this way, as are the local kindergarten and the district council's administrative centre in Offenburg. Finally, the CO₂ emission factor used to calculate CO₂ emissions at the CHP plants is approximately 50 per cent lower than that of the German electricity mix.

In the area of logistics, BurdaDruck also works with an external partner that continuously invests in modern vehicles of the most advanced pollutant class and makes a key contribution to ensuring the responsible use of finite resources.

Image © Shutterstock