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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Partnering with Competitors to Double Down on Sustainable Printing

Two years ago a story was penned here on Sustainable Brands about a partnership between my company, PrintEco - a small startup with an app to enable more efficient printing - and Domtar, one of the largest paper & pulp manufacturers in North America. It was certainly a unique combination: a paper company promoting a paper-saving software.

While paper is often vilified in the popular culture, it continues to hold significant value in our digital age, from helping people learn better (there are studies to back it up) to making them feel good (like when you receive a card in the mail versus an e-card). Domtar has taken a unique and balanced approach by promoting responsible printing. The company has taken leadership in the industry by creating a campaign around that message, as well. In light of this direction, my company’s product fit nicely into Domtar’s strategy. Not only that, but it has taken the entire idea of sustainable printing and has weaved it throughout the entire company; it even created a separate paper brand called EarthChoice that is 100 percent sustainably sourced.

We had a fruitful partnership over the last couple of years and we were able to reach tens of thousands of PrintEco users across the US & Canada - every time a user used our app, they saw the EarthChoice brand and message.

Just as Domtar had to adapt to changes in consumer behavior, my company is going through such a transformation at the moment. Companies of all size must adjust to the realities and changes of the marketplace. For instance, with the rapid increase in mobile and Web usage over the past five years, users increasingly need a way to print efficiently on those platforms. PrintEco’s product is focused on helping the desktop user print more efficiently and we do that well; our software product works with applications such as Word & Excel.

Then along came a competitor in the space named PrintFriendly, which had built something perfect for the Web. Its app was able to integrate directly with content-rich websites such as blogs or news sites. The user could then select PrintFriendly for the article and instantly get a clean layout without all the extraneous ad images and text. PrintFriendly successfully amassed millions of users in the process. After many conversations with its CEO, Taylor Norrish, I was able to strike a deal. We decided it would be better to work under one roof and provide users with a complete solution to printing responsibly. As a result, PrintEco will be rebranding under the PrintFriendly name later this year.

When I spoke with the Sustainability Communications Manager at Domtar, Dan Persica, about the upcoming rebrand, he was very excited about the news. His colleague Paige Goff, VP of Sustainability and Communications, also wholeheartedly approved. The prospect of reaching millions of people across US and Canada solidified our partnership even further. Oftentimes, larger companies stall when presented with new changes. However, in our case Domtar saw the bigger picture and doubled down on it.

As part of the Sustainable Brands community for a few years now, I have seen firsthand how important it is for companies big and small to collaborate in order to create meaningful progress in their sustainability initiatives. I hope we can set an example of how a successful partnership can not only begin but also grow and flourish.


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