Soar: taking printing to new heights

By Natasha Fromont

Soar Print is one of Auckland’s oldest family enterprises. Its focus on longevity and staying ahead of the game has helped it secure a number of sustainability ‘firsts’.  As our booklet of Award stories goes to print, we take a look at how Soar has incorporated sustainability into the company – and into the booklet.

Soar Print was founded in 1920 by Lt Colonel Fred Soar. It’s now run by the third generation of the family, siblings Fred Soar, Vicky Soar and Jenny Carter. While printing today is a far cry from the printing presses of the 1920s, the company has maintained its focus on longevity, adaptation to meet changing customer requirements, and social responsibility.

Soar and sustainability

Fred Soar is Managing Director. He says: “Our founders always had a long-term view of the business to make sure it would keep going. They had a strong sense of social responsibility and were always giving something back to the community. It’s just what they did. It wasn’t done to say ‘look at us’. That philosophy has continued today.

“There’s also always been a focus on providing better solutions to the customer. That has meant changes in technology. My father bought one of the first offset presses in Germany in1972, and then we bought one of the first digital presses in 2004 to make the transition to digital.

“Then this year we were the first printing company in New Zealand to buy one of the next generation of digital printers, the Océ VarioPrint i300. It’s a game-changer in sustainable printing as it massively cuts out waste. The machine can print, trim, staple and finish all in one go. Previously those processes had to be done separately. With the i300, paper goes in, and a booklet comes out. There’s a lot less waste and it’s quicker.

“It makes small run sizes possible so you can print just what you need. This enables you to update your content along the way. It’s best in class for reducing obsolescence.”

Ten years ago Soar Print decided to be leaders in sustainability in the printing industry.

Fred says: “Community and sustainability had long been a core part of the company’s DNA, and we decided to formalise it. The initial driver was getting a competitive advantage, as well as financial sustainability. It’s a very competitive industry. If you manage resources well and consume less it’s good for the financial bottom line. It’s just good business practice.”

Soar Print has followed ‘Lean’ manufacturing principles since 2010 to reduce waste of all types – waste of time, energy, materials, resources and space. Fred says the company has calculated how much money it has saved by following these principles and this far outweighs the cost of compliance. “It’s good for the bottom line and it’s good for the planet. If your business is profitable you’re in a position to invest in new technology,” he says.

Soar wants to make sure it tells its sustainability story authentically to avoid any inadvertent ‘greenwash’. To do this it works with fellow SBN member GoodSense. Fred says: “We got Kath Dewar involved from GoodSense as we knew she’d be able to make sure our marketing is authentic and we wouldn’t put our foot in it and say anything that’s not completely correct”.

The NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards booklet

Each year the Sustainable Business Network compiles a booklet, printed by Soar, to share the stories of the Award finalists. Every attendee at the Awards night is given a copy, and they are widely distributed throughout the rest of the year.

CEO of the Sustainable Business Network Rachel Brown says: “Our Awards booklet is a really important way in which we share the stories behind each of the finalists. We get great feedback about it and the stories provide inspiration to a new generation of businesses.

“We rarely print materials and when we do it’s important to us to ensure the production process and materials are as sustainable as possible. Soar are very thorough at ensuring every step of the printing process is carried out responsibly.”

What makes the booklet sustainable?

It’s printed on the new generation i300 printer, which is best in class internationally at reducing unnecessary waste. [Watch the video above to see the printer in action].

The booklet is carbon neutral. This means that Soar measures all emissions involved in production of the booklet, including raw materials, energy consumed, transport and distribution. The carbon footprint of the booklet is audited by Enviro-Mark Solutions. Emissions are measured and offset by investing in New Zealand forests.

Jenny Carter is Financial Director at Soar Print. She says: “The benefit of being able to measure emissions is that it gives you a perspective on what’s involved. We get an understanding of what’s the most efficient way to print. Our goal is to be able to offer a carbon neutral service to any customers who want to print on the i300.”

The paper is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as being sourced from sustainable farmed trees. This is Soar’s default paper for all printing jobs.

Soar Print’s sustainability ‘firsts’

  • First carboNZero printing company in New Zealand
  • First NZ printing company to achieve Enviro-Mark Solution’s platinum certification (highest level)
  • First NZ printing company to adopt Forest Stewardship Council certification
  • First NZ printing company to purchase the new generation of printers, the Océ VarioPrint i300
  • First supreme winner of the Sustainable 60 awards in 2011 (no longer running)