Niche Networking

Robin Donovan on the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership's earnest networking.

The Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP) held its annual Community Day on Nov. 14 at The Duniway, a hotel in Portland, OR. More than 50 organizations – possibly over 60 by the event’s close – are certified by the organization. Certified printers at the event said they are marketing their certification via RFPs with a growing number of sustainability-minded clients, including big name brands such as Google, Starbucks and Ann Inc.

And while a savvy employee of any print or sign company can sell an energy-savings proposal internally, the movement’s momentum would be boosted by materials producers. SGP is hoping to attract more industry suppliers, including paper manufacturers and distributors (plastics companies like Laird Plastics and Piedmont Plastics were in attendance). Their presence is important.

But more important than their participation are the collaborative efforts I witnessed among SGP members. I always see lots of networking at tradeshows, particularly around mealtimes and after educational sessions (OK, sure, and when alcohol is present). But in this relatively small group, members were making a concerted effort to reach and understand one another.

Call it the survival instinct of a budding group. However, I think the shared value of sustainability – shared so strongly that businesses were taking the time to go through a year-long certification process – was the common thread uniting people. Presence at the event was an instant “in.”

Because these sustainability-certified print providers are so few in number, it’s also the case that many can’t accommodate all the requests they receive. So networking becomes not only a good way to drum up new business, but also an outsourcing database to help keep existing customers satisfied.

You may or may not have heard of SGP before today. But this idea of networking in your niche stuck with me. I don’t know about you, but I often come home from tradeshows with more business cards than I can process. I’ll reach out to a few, and dig through them when a need arises later, but rare is the return day when I swimmingly sift through them all. That said, I actually did reach out to the people I met at SGP. There weren’t many people at the event, so the connections I made were memorable. And the people in attendance were so passionate about this particular cause that they were whipping out cell phones to show off their work. I was impressed enough to ask if we could share some of it with you – and we have (see “HH Global Goes Green”).

February 2018 cover

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