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Craft, pride and a heart for the arts

Fred with the team at the 2019 Enviro-Mark Solutions Awards
For Kate Sylvester’s collection Love Letters at NZ Fashion Week Soar printed gossamer-thin paper love letters using custom vegetable inks, so they could float on the catwalk as models strode by. Image: @Joseph_griffen
Fred Soar at his Auckland presses and Fred the drummer in 1984 with the Pleasure Boys (bottom row, 2nd from right)
Soar worked with Basement Theatre to create a limited-edition compendium marking the theatre’s first decade.
Fred Soar and the team at their Auckland presses
Here is a Kiwi arts lover who’s leading the way in his sector and helping save the planet while he does it.


Craft and art

When Fred Soar took over Soar Print from his dad Harry in 1990 his love of music as a former drummer, and his love of theatre came through.

Both the music and theatre world have benefited from Fred’s ongoing support, both personally and through his company. A specialised division of the company, Soar Arts, supports the not-for-profit creative sector with sponsorship, publications, programmes and marketing materials - many of which would have caught your eye if you’ve attended shows at The Basement or Q Theatre. Soar Arts aims to deliver on the firm’s strong family values - craft and pride and that people matter.

“I used to play a lot of live music in my younger days in the early 80s and we like the performing arts and you know in some ways I’ve kept in touch with a lot of people from that sector," says Fred. "It’s just nice being able to support Q Theatre or Basement or Indian Ink. The whole idea that you can have something that’s reflecting our society and putting issues in front of people, I like the whole idea.”

Fred Soar at his Auckland presses and Fred the drummer in 1984 with the Pleasure Boys (bottom row, 2nd from right)

There’s a double benefit because it’s also good for business: “I always look at it as a form of advertising. You are getting your logo associated with some cool acts.” 

He believes music and theatre particularly need all the support they can get, describing the funding situation for New Zealand arts as “pretty abysmal”.  

“I’m chair of Play it Strange which promotes song writing in schools. To get money to do something like this is nigh-impossible from the Government.  We’ve also been able to open up song writing to get NCEA credits from it, so it’s providing the opportunity to use it to get academic results.   

But that’s only one part of it. I think from what I’ve seen of the arts funding, there’s still lots of money out there for things like ballet and symphony orchestras but it’s not really filtering down particularly to the music and theatre scene.” 

Soar worked with 
Basement Theatre to create a limited-edition compendium marking the theatre’s first decade.  

Environmental footprint

Fred Soar has spent the past twelve years, with his two sisters, learning a whole other language.

It’s one he thinks every Kiwi company should be fluent in – the language of environmental sustainability. “It’s not a tough thing to do and I wish businesses would actually understand that more.  It dovetails quite nicely into efficiency and lean manufacturing and all those things,” he says. 

“I still see a lot of big corporates have a big sustainability programme but when it gets down to procurement level, they’re not really giving it the weight they say they are.  There’s a lot of ‘green wash’ out there. A lot of people make claims but in reality, they’re not doing anything.” 

When you talk to someone passionate about ‘going green’ the lingo flows - ISO standards, biomimicry, carbon neutrality and CSR, or corporate social responsibility.    

It’s the new cool way to talk in business these days but Fred and Soar Print were the early cool kids on their block. They’ve picked up a slew of awards and are now proudly New Zealand’s only carbon neutral offset print firm. That means all the greenhouse gas emissions from any carbon zero print job are calculated and compensated for through offset projects. 

“Twelve years ago, we made a conscious decision to really push the sustainability side of our business,” Fred says. “We are a 3rd generation family business and whatever we do it has to be enough for the next generation.” 

Soar Print will celebrate 100 years in 2020 and past generations have always had a focus on the community and social responsibility.    

Soar started the sustainability journey by meeting Enviro-mark standards which run from bronze through silver, gold, platinum and then diamond. That took six years and next they adopted an environment management standard, ISO1401.  

The last key step was deciding to go completely carbon neutral. So, was that a tough decision? “Well, there’s a bit of money involved in it,” says Fred.  

“There’s a lot of compliance you’ve got to do. You’ve also got to buy the carbon credits to offset your footprint. It’s not just a case of saying, well I’m going to buy my carbon credits and now I’ve got a clean conscience. You’ve actually got to show how you are reducing your carbon footprint.” 

There have been conscience and cost savings.  As early as 2009 in the media Fred revealed the company had saved $100,000 by recycling, and investing in a new offset press meant it would use 65 percent less ink and save about 30 tonnes of paper a year. 

All the good work has not gone unnoticed.  

Fred with the team at the 2019 Enviro-Mark Solutions Awards

Soar winners 

Soar and the team have been selected as a finalist in the Efficiency Champion category for the NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards which will be announced in November.  

Last month they won an Excellence in Climate Action award from Enviro-Mark Solutions for driving their carbon emissions down by an impressive 32%.  

Fred says their green approach is also driving interest from a new generation. 

It’s interesting some of the younger staff who are employed now seek us out because of our sustainability policies. It’s something that attracts them to the organisation which is nice when you’ve got an industry like print, which is a pretty old, declining industry with lots of things changing. It’s nice to be able to use it as a way to attract new, young talent.” 

Early on, educating the Soar teams was one of the challenges.  

“First off trying to get everyone to put the recycling in the right bin was a hell of a job. But everyone gets into it.  We’ve got something like 14 or 15 recycling streams here now. Every time you dispose a bit of waste you’ve got to think about where it goes, and why it goes there.”

Ink in his blood

On the Soar Print website Fred is quoted talking about ink being in his blood.  So, is the next generation of the Soar family lining up to take over? “Not if I can help it,” he laughs. “I’ve got three daughters and one of my sisters has three sons and so far, they’ve all chosen other careers outside the industry and that’s okay.” 

That’s okay because Fred Soar is still enjoying what he does – improving the world one carbon neutral publication after another. 

“Yes, I’m liking it.  I mean it is a challenge running a manufacturing business in New Zealand, particularly in a market that is declining and changing rapidly. But I believe that manufacturing still has a place here, and we’ve just got to adapt to the changes and go with it.” 

He says even for those who might be climate change sceptics it’s not a stupid thing to reduce waste or reduce pollution. “One day there will be a carbon tax so you are better off to make sure your carbon footprint is as small as it can be, before that comes in.”

Written by Keri Malthus.

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

3 Sep 2019

The Big Idea Editor