Sustainability and Ethics in Design
I believe all designers should have a sense of responsibility to the environment, after all they are part of the population, and everyone should be doing their part. In the case of sustainability, I think when they can, designers should ensure the materials they intend to print on are of good quality and as environmentally friendly as possible. This may not always be manageable due to designs being submitted digitally, but a recommendation of a printer who used water-based dyes for example, would go a long way to helping other businesses get on the same track.
It may be a bit harder for designers to stick to their morals if they work for a large company who take on designing a campaign for a company that may be deemed unsustainable or ethically questionable (tobacco companies, palm oil companies etc). While the designer may have to work on the project for fear of losing their job if they refuse, they should always try to stick to their morals and ethics at the same time. This could be done by what I have said above, suggest a sustainable printer, or offer some ideas for helping them lower their impact on the environment. Chances are if a designer is concerned about ethics and sustainability, they probably wouldn’t work for a company that offers their services to questionable companies anyway.
I don’t think it is solely the designer’s responsibility to argue with a company that doesn’t think of the environment, but it can never hurt to offer ideas or suggestions that can work for both the company, and the environment.
In my current position we work with Textiles Alive. They designed and created some static frames for our advertising, and they also print the fabric that fills them. They are a great company to deal with, and very excitedly announced to us that their fabric prints are moving to a new fabric which is made from recycled plastic bottles. They already use water-based dyes, avoid excess water and paper waste, donate any reusable by-product to schools, early childhood learning centers and other interest groups (Girl Guides), and use local businesses for anything they can’t do themselves. Of course, if someone local cannot do it, it will be sourced from overseas. But this is only done after research into the other business to ensure their ethics align. Textiles Alive are the type of business designers should work with and recommend to others. As they are always proactively looking for further ways to improve their sustainability and impact on the environment.