IMAGINE if instead of trying to cut its own carbon emissions constantly, a business could reduce the amount of carbon in the world and still be commercially viable.

That is the dream of Oxford printers Seacourt.

In fact, it's more than just a dream: the Cowley company says that from this Thursday, it is going to become one of the city's first carbon-positive businesses, if not the first.

The family firm, which has already massively cut its carbon footprint with years of industry-leading innovation, is now entering a partnership to protect the rainforest and plant trees in Brazil.

It is managing to do this, it says, because clients are so passionate about cutting their own emissions that they will chose a carbon-positive printer over a traditional one.

Managing director Gareth Dinnage said: "In absolute terms, the world and society are better off because Seacourt is in existence."

But he doesn't need to blow his own trumpet. This month Seacourt won 'the most prestigious award in sustainability' – the European Commission's EMAS.

The Oxford industry leader was one of just three firms selected by from more than 4,000 across 11 countries.

For Mr Dinnage and his 20 colleagues, it is the icing on the cake after decades of risky gambles that massive investment to become a more sustainable organisation would help them grow, rather than put them out of business.

For years Seacourt, like most printers, used offset lithography: a printing method which requires huge amounts of water to separate the inks.

The process also requires a host of chemicals – volatile compounds which are not necessarily environmentally-friendly, and also mix with nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere to create damaging ozone.

In the 1990s, Seacourt decided to find another way.

The team discovered an alternative called 'waterless offset' printing which involves no water.

Investing in the new system without being able to test it first was a huge leap into the unknown.

Mr Dinnage recalls: "There was no road map and we are a small business: if it hadn't worked out we would have been finished."

Luckily, it did: in their first 10 years with the new system the company saved more than eight million litres of water and cut its volatile chemical emissions 98 per cent.

In 2015, the company made another gamble: Seacourt replaced its waterless offset press with a new, even more environmentally-friendly printer which it helped to design.

The LightTouch printer scraps chemicals used to seal ink onto pages and replaces them with inks that can be dried with a simple LED blue light.

It was this technology that EMAS judges recognised when they crowned the company this month.

Now, boosted by their accolade, the team are zooming forwards into the carbon-positive future.

Mr Dinnage enthuses: "The value for us is that we are leaders in our industry: we are showing that printing can be and should be a totally sustainable industry."