COMPANIES are all about reducing their carbon footprints these days and one local company is going further by developing more environmentally friendly ways of going about its business.

Colourscan, which provides digital imaging and printing services, took the first step three years ago when it decided to get certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

The FSC is an independent, non-profit agency promoting responsible management of the world's forests.

Colourscan's move allows it to offer environmentally friendly materials and processes.

Chief operating officer Eric Boo explained: "Purchased paper has to come from a controlled forest where, if one tree is cut, another has to be planted. There is a chain of custody, right from the paper mill all the way to paper merchants, printers... and it all has to be accounted for."

Mr Boo, 41, said many companies are more conscious about sustainability and eco-friendliness these days, and "without this effort, we will not be able to obtain (jobs from such companies)".

Products made using FSC-certified materials may look the same as ordinary products to the naked eye but are more environment-friendly - and more expensive.

FSC-certified paper, for example, can cost as much as 500 per cent more.

The company had reservations about getting certified as the costs could put customers off but its worries were unfounded.

It discovered that clients are willing to go the greener route, and Colourscan has seen a 3 per cent growth in new clients every year and a 10 per cent increase in revenue.

One new client is Marina Bay Sands (MBS), which makes up at least 5 per cent of Colourscan's revenue.

"We are glad that we have an anchor client that regularly requires FSC products, such as brochures and collateral," said Mr Boo.

Having big clients and regular print jobs makes it easier to convince paper merchants to supply the FSC materials the firm needs - even at concession rates.

Said Mr Boo: "When paper merchants know that we have regular print jobs from big companies such as MBS, they are keen to lock in the paper orders for us. With bigger volumes, we benefit... and are able to move the cost of materials slightly lower."

As costs become more affordable, more companies will be encouraged to use FSC-certified materials or printers.

If smaller customers baulk at the cost, Colourscan offers the choice of recycled or environmentally friendly paper from other sources as well.

The company also decided to use soya-based ink in 2003, a move that also benefits staff as there is less of a chemical smell compared with solvent ink. Soya-based ink is now a common resource, said Mr Boo, but when the company first made the switch, it cost more than solvent ink.

Colourscan still went head with the investment, said Mr Boo. "The ink-makers were the first to spot the trend and recommended it, so we took the initiative to try."

The company faces major challenges, with the volume of print jobs declining, along with competition and technological changes. One response was to form a joint venture, called Colourscan Print, with KHL Printing Group this year. It will provide marketing support services to clients.

Mr Boo said: "We mainly print marketing materials and our strength lies with our network of advertisers, ad agencies and marketing personnel.

"We can access KHL's resources, and the same goes for them, to provide a one-stop shop for services."

Together with KHL, the company is also developing its digital press service, and a Web-to-print e-commerce platform which removes some of the hassle of printing regular items such as name-cards and stationery.

The e-commerce platform, Mr Boo said, will allow administrative staff to make changes online instead of having to send a hard copy that has to go through rounds of approval.

"If we continue to persist and not move with the changes, we will eventually lose out... to printers that are able to provide a full range of digital services."