By: Sarah Scudder
Sustainability has become a strategic priority for many enterprises over the past several years, and the growing interest of business leaders is easy to understand. Increasingly stringent governmental regulations and changing customer expectations are both driving the heightened focus on sustainability.
Today’s consumers have become more aware that the production of the products they buy and use has repercussions on the environment, and they are demanding that the companies providing those products minimize environmental impacts.
Business leaders are also recognizing that their company’s reputation for sustainability is strongly affected by the practices of their suppliers. Recent research by McKinsey & Company found that the typical CPG company’s supply chain accounts for more than 80% of total greenhouse emissions, and more than 90% of the total environmental impact on air, land, water, biodiversity, and geological resources.
These circumstances have caused a growing number of companies – particularly large enterprises – to implement sustainable procurement programs. In the research for the Sustainable Procurement Barometer 2019 report by EcoVadis and NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, 42% of survey respondents said they have a specific clause in their supplier contracts relating to sustainability and 38% said they have a sustainable procurement policy. In addition, 39% of the respondents said their organization’s commitment to sustainable procurement had increased significantly over the past three years, and 42% said it had increased moderately.
Most companies focused their sustainable procurement efforts first on direct spend categories, but today the practice is also being applied to indirect spending.
How to Identify “Green” Print Suppliers
Spending on printed materials is a significant category of indirect spending for many large and mid-size companies. It typically covers a broad range of diverse products and involves purchases from numerous suppliers, which can make it challenging to evaluate the sustainability practices of suppliers on a case-by-case basis.
Fortunately, there are several independent organizations that provide environmental certifications for firms in the printing industry. These certifications differ in purpose and scope, but they all provide an easy way to establish the environmental “credentials” of print suppliers. Sourcing professionals can use these certifications as criteria for choosing among competing suppliers, or they can require companies to possess one or more of these certifications in order to be classified as an approved supplier.
Below is a brief description of four of the more widely-recognized environmental certifications available to printing firms. This list is not exhaustive, but it does include the certifications that sourcing professionals are most likely to encounter.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
The Forest Stewardship Council is an international organization that provides two types of certifications – Forest Management and Chain-of-Custody. The FSC Forest Management certification is obtained by forest owners and managers, and confirms that a specific area of forest is being managed in an environmentally sustainable manner. The FSC Chain-of-Custody certification traces the path of products from forests through the supply chain. In the case of printed materials, FSC certification means that the products were printed on paper that was produced from FSC-certified forests. An FSC-certified printer is entitled to print the FSC logo on products produced using FSC-certified paper.
Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)
SFI has promulgated three sets of standards – a Forest Management Standard, a Fiber Sourcing Standard, and a Chain-of-Custody Standard. The SFI Chain-of-Custody Standard is similar to FSC’s in that it is a system for tracking forest fiber content through production and manufacturing to end products. An SFI-certified printer is entitled to print the SFI Chain-of-Custody label on products that meet SFI standards.
Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) – PEFC is a global alliance of national forest certification systems. It provides a Chain of Custody certification similar to those offered by FSC and SFI.
Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP)
The FSC, SFI, and PEFC certifications all focus on the sustainable management of forests, and in the case of printed materials, the chain-of-custody certifications they provide will confirm that the paper used in a printed product was made from trees grown in forests that are managed in a sustainable manner. The certification provided by the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership is significantly broader. The standards promulgated by SGP and used in its certification process cover practices relating to energy and other resource consumption, waste reduction, and greenhouse gas emissions, among others. Therefore, SGP certification indicates that a printing company is using a range of business practices that support environmental sustainability.
There is a clear and growing belief among consumers and business leaders that companies have a duty to minimize the impacts of their operations on the environment. In addition, there’s a growing tendency among consumers to hold large enterprises responsible for the environmental and social behaviors of their suppliers.
These circumstances are leading many companies to include sustainability criteria in their print sourcing policies. The environmental certifications issued by FSC, SFI, PEFC, and SGP give companies one mechanism for determining how “green” their print suppliers are.