The Broccoli Diaries

We live in an exciting time in the green and healthy sustainability movement. At no other time in history has the built environment gained such prominence. It is widely accepted that we have a moral imperative to reduce the human-induced ecological impacts on a planet now inhabited by 6.6 billion people and growing by 80 million every year.

For the recent Signage & Graphics Summit, I prepared a segment to support ISA's seminar, "Key Environmental Issues for Signage and Graphics Producers." My portion followed the very comprehensive overview by Sapna Budev, Director of Industrial Programs at ISA , and the very knowledgeable insights provided by Kerry Moore, General Manager, CAO Group.
In 2006 and 2007, environmental sustainability emerged as a “trend” visible in the sign industry. ISA began work in the form of an Environmental Subcommittee – now the Sustainability committee – which I have been pleased to chair since its inception, through 2011, a fourth year in a row. In my own capacity as President of Sign Biz, Inc., I established the website late in 2007, and launched the first version in February of 2008 – three years ago.

My topic for the Summit was drawn from that work, as well as from my role for the past 22 years as President/ CEO of the Sign Biz organization, founder of some 200 digital sign companies worldwide.  This chain forms a microcosm for study of eco-adoption. We spearhead awareness of sustainability within this network of brick-and-mortar sign companies with many seminars and intranetwork broadcasts of news and topics that embrace environmentalism. Perhaps this group is ahead of the curve when it comes to digital sign companies - I don't know.
Nevertheless, my presentation, titled "Digital Shops Turning Green- How We Got Here & Where We’re Going" reveals an optimistic picture of digital shops and their shades of green, and by contrast, points out the roadblocks presented when sourcing information or products. As I chart the progress of Sustainability within the predominantly digital sign arena – typical shops with 5 to 6 employees, revenues of a half-million on up per annum – we have come a long way. Farther than some realize….
First, a little background: The ‘eco-cops’ of the ’90’s are now the backbone of the environmental movement in the US...

These headlines were from March of 2008. We're three years into the Broccoli Diaries...
More and more companies are getting on the greenwagon and the conversations go beyond corporate responsibility and box checking. No longer is “going green” just the right thing to do—it has become the smart thing to do, too. Thomas Friedman argues in a recent New York Times article that going green should be the centerpiece of U.S. foreign and economic policy, and GE says their efforts are “as economically advantageous as they are ecologically sound.”
Increasing environmental costs along with growing regulatory and consumer pressures for environmentally friendly products have persuaded many sign businesses to consider how to become more eco-conscious.
Interest in and attention paid to sustainability challenges abated in 2009 when organizations were preoccupied with the need to ensure business health amid the downturn. With effects of the downturn subsiding, we saw a renewed interest in sustainability initiatives in 2010.
Though it’s not always a bed of lettuce…

It still translates into a small amount of tangible work relative to the hype surrounding this type of project. A recent survey of 300 supply chain managers by Capgemini puts the disconnect between interest and projects into perspective: From 2009 to 2010, the percentage of respondents who felt sustainability was an important business driver almost doubled.

The percentage of projects respondents planned to undertake in 2010, on the other hand, increased by only 4%. InfoTrends reports that 40% of printer clients in the UK are requesting sustainable products, vs. only 20% in the US. The numbers are growing, however.

I made a point at the SGS conference: I described what I call a "Participation" This is the measure of the amount (%) of participation - and over time the rate of "enrollment" - of the members of a group in a cause, program, activity or initiative. A curve implies a tapering off. I contrasted this with the movement to sustainability, which I termed a "migration." Ultimately, this eco-consciousness will not be a point of differentiation. It will be the water we swim in.

Think of this overall climate for sustainability as The Responsibility Era. We’re finally “owning it” – our green initiatives, our need to adapt, become nimble, sustainability-focused entities. Not so good news: This focus is still blurry, for many.
You are busy. Projects and clients demand your attention. You want to move in this direction, but the task seems overwhelming. Here is your natural green footpath:  

Select a “champion” of green – your “eco-cop”

Surprise! Many follow! Operations Improve!

Turn a product “green”

Walk the talk, tell your clients

Clients now seek your green expertise

You are now offering MANY green products!

This new sustainable mindset from within the company fosters an environment where employees now challenge everyday operations and actually look for alternative ways to build and design projects. The carbon-reduced systems and products grow!

These are then, naturally, the “organic” steps – seems appropriate ;) - for digital sign shops, in their most simple form.
Translation: Don’t segregate sustainability from design.
When Turning Green,
the #1 Challenge for the Digital Sign Shop is…

Finding the stuff. Here’s some interesting news about the Current Reality: Sign companies are looking outside the usual sign company relationships to find green products. They are buying direct from manufacturers, sourcing oversees, finding on-line, and buying from construction trade resources.
This creates a misleading impression among sign industry suppliers and distributors that demand is marginal.
One of our shop owners had to research for the appropriate product, found something new, and is using it -- a new “green” product from DAP – from the construction trade suppliers. This is, in his mind, a large beta test - he'll report results back, every few years. 

We conducted a recent poll – in preparation for the presentation. We asked, of their needs for environmentally friendly products, what percent were purchased from their regular supplier – 25%. What percentage (total) was purchased from a sign industry supplier – only about half! The other 50% were from on-line resources, Home Depot type facilities, and direct from manufacturers!

And that is how it goes, right now, in the industry. The search is on, the need is prevalent, but the purchases are going outside the industry in many cases. But shift happens!
In the last few days, a supplier jumped on board the green wagon with both feet. Check out the "Broccoli Files" at Interstate Electric!  
Denco Sales added a "Green page" on their site with an interesting selection, and attempts to catalog products and information- (though you can’t order products there)…

ISA is building a database of products and case studies…

SGIA offers a wealth of information and certification …

SEDG is a leader in sustainability initiatives …

And leading sign manufacturers are building the knowledge bank and share all of this, but we need the missing link…

We need the supplier-distributor link as well. That’s the missing piece for digital sign businesses.

Resources easily accessible, for purchase today and delivery tomorrow.

Information, for sign business owner and their clients.

Together… with our clients. With Fortune 500 companies. With the local green grocer. With national chains, with WalMart, with GE, and with our sign industry partners. Partners like all of you.

Category: 1 comments


William Hayes said...

My sign shop is in Boulder Co. We constantly source new material vendors locally to meet the demand of our customer. It's a challenge!!

Bill Hayes

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