Posts Tagged ‘3BL’

Key elements of sustainable paper procurement: Part 2

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Last week’s blog focused on four key elements of sustainable paper procurement.  Below are the remaining tips.  For an excellent resource document see the WBCSD / WRI Guide on Sustainable Procurement of Wood and Paper-based Products.

 

Good pulp and paper mill performance reduces the footprint of paper (clean production)

Paper manufacturing is a key part of the environmental life-cycle of papermaking because it uses raw materials and resources including fiber, energy, and water, and also generates emissions to air, water and landfills.  The operational “eco-efficiency” of pulp and paper mills varies from one site to the next, based on local regulations and how mills have used best-available-techniques.  The age of the mill and the amount of investments made to upgrade technology and equipment will often drive environmental performance.  For example, final mill effluent quality and chemical use can be influenced by bleaching method used (e.g. elemental chlorine free (ECF), enhanced ECF with pre-bleaching steps, total chlorine free or TCF, hydrogen peroxide, etc.).  Greenhouse gas emissions are influenced by switching to renewable energy sources instead of using fossil fuels.  Achievable levels are well defined in the EU BREF Document for companies using best-available-techniques.

Environmental management systems, such as described in the ISO 14001 standard and the EU Eco-Management Scheme (EMAS), allow more efficient management of activities and processes to reduce environmental impacts.  Companies can become certified to ISO 14001 and EMAS to demonstrate continuous improvement in environmental management and performance.

A low carbon footprint is a good sign

Given that climate change is a critical global environmental issue, more and more companies are developing energy and climate strategies, and calculating the carbon inventories of their products and supply chains.  The carbon footprint of paper can be defined as greenhouse gas emissions emitted to the atmosphere during the entire life-cycle of paper production and distribution.   The major contributor to the carbon footprint of paper is carbon dioxide (CO2) generated from combustion of fossil fuels (i.e. coal, oil, gasoline, diesel, natural gas).  However, disposing of paper in landfill sites, and subsequent breakdown and production of methane (a potent greenhouse gas) can also add to the carbon footprint.  This is another reason why paper recycling is beneficial for the environment.  A review of the literature and personal experience shows that pulp and paper mill sites that use a high percentage of renewable energy such as biomass and “green” power from the grid can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of their paper products.  Time Inc. commissioned a carbon study of some of their magazines that can be accessed here.

Other ways to reduce the carbon footprint of paper include:

  • Promoting sustainable forestry as a way of deterring deforestation, and ensuring that forests continue taking up carbon and mitigating climate change.
  • Efficient use of wood raw material.
  • Energy efficiency of operations and logistics.
  • Waste reduction and recycling.

Social responsibility is a key part of sustainability

Voluntary reporting initiatives like the Dow Jones Sustainability Index rank companies based on their social, environmental and financial performance.  A good standing on the DJSI can help companies demonstrate sustainability leadership.  Given that health and safety issues are a top priority in the industry, many companies have certified their occupational health & safety management system under the OHSAS 18001 standard.   More detail on social responsibility indicators can be obtained by consulting the web sites of the ILO, the UN, AA1000, and SA8000.

Look for eco-labels that cover the product life cycle

Eco-labels are a sign of environmental commitment and performance.  The most well know of these labels is the Mobius Loop indicating recycled fiber content or recyclability of products.  However, besides the sustainable forest management labels (FSC, SFI, PEFC) discussed in part 1 of this topic there are labels that cover more elements of the paper life cycle.  These include the EU Eco-label, the Ecologo, and the Green Seal.  Of these three, the EU Eco-label and Ecologo appear to be the most thorough in their coverage of environmental elements.

Environmental claims can also be made as long as they are factual and verifiable.  For example:  “This paper was manufactured at a mill facility that has an ISO 14001 certified environmental management system”.  Claiming that single elements (like recycled fiber use) lower the footprint of the product can be seen as a form of “greenwashing” and can be avoided by following recommendations for environmental marketing such outlined in the Seven Sins of Greenwashing.

Check for open and transparent reporting

Open and transparent environmental reporting is a sign of sustainability leadership.  Annual environmental or sustainability reports should be available on web sites.  A growing number of companies report according to the standard guidelines published by the Global Reporting Initiative and undertake third-party independent verification of reports to ad credibility.  Finally, sustainability information can be reported on a voluntary basis to outside organizations (e.g. DJSI, Carbon Disclosure Project that will rank companies based on their performance and reporting.

The bottom line is that sustainable paper procurement is not as simple as most people would like and it goes much beyond buying recycled paper.  Your choices and your environmental footprint will depend on how engaged and educated you become about the topic.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Phil Riebel is a senior sustainability advisor to the forest, paper and print sector.  He has 23 years of international experience in the sector including senior management positions in industry and consulting. Phil also owns and manages 200 acres of sustainable forest.  He can be reached at philriebel@bellaliant.net

The Business of Sustainability for Paper and Print

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Guess what? Being “green” and being “sustainable” are not the same thing.  Sustainability includes three elements, or three “pillars”: environmental responsibility, social responsibility and financial responsibility.  Sustainability takes into account the realities of our economy and our society.  In other words, it means that organizations or individuals should operate in a financially sound framework but also be socially and financially responsible in their activities and operations.

Think of the “environment” or being “green” as just one of the three pillars, and don’t dismiss the other two.  For example, a company may have a good environmental record but they may be faced with difficult social issues in some regions, like human rights abuse and a high incidence of workplace accidents, as an example.  Likewise, the financial status of the company may be of concern.  Corporate sustainability is about how organizations are able to effectively balance social, environmental and financial responsibility.

Sustainability is an endless journey of continuous improvement.  Profitability can always improve and so can air emissions, water and energy use, workplace safety, and so on.  Some companies are further ahead on this journey than others.

A few years ago I was involved with a study that attempted to identify the key traits of corporate sustainability leaders.  Here is what we found:

  • Visible and active commitment from the top-down.  Is the CEO talking about sustainability?
  • Engagement that brings external knowledge into the company, and/or effect positive change (ex: partnerships with non-profit environmental organizations).
  • A set of sustainability principles that lay the framework for the sustainability program.
  • Short-term and long-term sustainability targets (a visible commitment to future performance is key).
  • Demonstrating continuous improvement.
  • Addressing performance across the life cycle of products, processes and activities.
  • Innovating, learning by doing, being prepared to try new things.
  • Sharing, learning, influencing, setting standards.
  • Transparent and credible communications that inform and teach (less “bragging”).

Some of the above signs should be visible on a company web site.  Below are some additional features that show engagement in sustainability:

  • Large publicly-owned corporations who have been identified as sustainability leaders are typically part of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index , FTSE4Good Index , and Global 100
  • An annual sustainability report covering environmental, social and financial elements, written based on GRI guidelines (Global Reporting Initiative) guidelines
  • Recognitions or awards related to sustainability, or environmental and social responsibility.
  • Certifications and eco-labels such as:
    • Sustainable forest management certifications and eco-labels, ex: PEFCSFI , FSC
    • Environmental management certifications, ex: ISO 14001 standard , EMAS
    • Eco-labels that cover the product life-cycle. ex: EU Eco-label , Ecologo, SA8000
    • Certification for social accountability OHSAS 18001  for occupational health and safety management.
  • Voluntary reporting for key initiatives like the Carbon Disclosure Project

In 2010 the following companies ranked among the top on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes:

Companies are usually selected for the following reasons:

  • Above-average environmental performance due to modern pulp and paper mill assets, i.e. lower emissions to air, water, landfills, energy-efficiency, lower carbon footprint.
  • Above-average financial performance due to low production costs and availability of raw materials at a competitive cost.
  • Well developed social responsibility and philanthropic programs.

To find out more about corporate engagement in sustainability people need to look beyond the environmental marketing that companies are doing.  Environmental advertising, claims and eco-labels only represent a small portion of corporate sustainability.  Company web sites should be reviewed to see how open transparent companies are when reporting of environmental and social performance. The sustainability of the companies you do business with affects your own sustainability measures and your reputation.

 Editors Note: We’re pleased to welcome Phil Riebel to TheDigitalNirvana. Phil is a senior sustainability advisor to the forest, paper and print sector.  He has 23 years of international experience in the sector including senior management positions in industry and consulting.  Phil also owns and manages 200 acres of sustainable forest.  He can be reached at philriebel@bellaliant.net

How Responsible Sourcing Will Impact Printers in 2011

Friday, January 21st, 2011

If you were in the storefront printing industry in the early-to-mid Eighties, the sign “We Accept Disks” means something to you. It was the beginning of the digital and “desktop” printing revolution. “We Accept Disks”. It meant you had a PC and/or maybe a MAC, and would accept customer floppys in order to print out copies to paste up and shoot to a neg or output an analog poly plate, or maybe run copies (not files) on your copier. But it didn’t mean there was any compatibility with what your clients were bringing in. All you knew was that you had to do it because everybody else was.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now. This is not going to be a crystal ball article. The rhetoric surrounding “green”, “sustainability” and “corporate social responsibility” has cooled a bit. This means we are now in the normalization phase. Between 2005 and 2008, literally everything gained a greenish tinge. It’s the same with every standard business practice bubble. First there were the early adopters, and then market acceptance comes along. This is typically followed by market saturation, and finally normalization. Many shops claimed to be a “Green Printer”. Maybe you got FSC certified, increased your recycling efforts, switched to low VOC chemistry or replaced or upgraded offset equipment, or implemented higher efficiency digital.

2009 capped the trend by becoming the year of the “green printing trade show”. Again, everything had a greenish tinge to it. It didn’t matter what the product or service was. It was either “green” or “sustainable”. Then the inevitable happened. The Six (or Seven) Sins of Greenwashing hit the print industry airwaves and uncertainty about the message and its credibility crept in. Trade shows in 2010 had a diminished green presence. Not that it completely disappeared; Green now has earned a secured place in Print’s message. Now the FTC is releasing new green claim guidelines.

So here we are in 2011. Responsible sourcing/procurement is fast becoming the driving realization that encompasses everything green and sustainable. Business Green offers 11 (as in 2011) things to look for in the next 12 months. Number 7 is “Ethical consumer spending will keep rising”. To quote a portion of the Business Green statement: “Every indication suggests this market will grow substantially this year even as other areas of the economy falter. It is time to stop treating green industries as a niche and appreciate them for the robust and fast-growing success stories they are”.

Let’s take a closer look at what this means to the printing industry.

Paper is most likely to be thought of first. Chain of Custody certification, whether it’s FSC, SFI or PEFC puts third-part verification of at the very least legal and ethical sourcing. The credibility of the certifying bodies, who themselves are validated by independent accreditation organizations provides transparency as well as credibility. Supplies, whether for offset, digital, or for infrastructure (janitorial, facilities) also have their certification and third-party certifying body counterparts.

Green computing is going to have a large presence this year as the IT industry takes sustainable computing mainstream. The Climate Savers Computing Initiative is a nonprofit group of consumers, businesses and conservation organizations dedicated to promoting smart technologies that can improve the power efficiency and reduce the energy consumption of computers.

Formalized waste-stream reduction strategies have become profit centers for many organizations. Harmon Recycling, a division of Georgia Pacific is one of many organizations offering full-service programs to both manufacturing and office environments. Everything that can be recycled should, including strapping, containers of all types and other shipping material. In short, a zero manufacturing and office waste program is more of a reality now than ever as the reclamation industry matures.

A life cycle assessment (LCA, also known as life cycle analysis, ecobalance, and cradle-to-grave analysis) is a technique used by organizations to assess each and every impact associated with all the stages of a particular process from raw material sourcing through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and disposal or recycling). LCA’s can help avoid a narrow outlook on environmental, social and economic concerns which can validate both responsible sourcing and responsible disposal methodology.

Then there are all the other infrastructure improvements that also have their ethical, responsible and or sustainable components. This includes everything from buildings, HVAC, lighting, logistics and production equipment, to transportation and facilities management operations.

The end-game is that professional purchasers are embracing responsible sourcing. Organizations like The National Association of State Procurement Officials, the Responsible Purchasing Network, and The International Society of Sustainability Professionals are serious about responsible sourcing and many options are considered in choosing suppliers, based at least in part on their ethical sourcing policies. Don’t be caught out in the cold because you cannot quantify and provide objective evidence pertaining to where your raw materials, products and services came from, and where your waste and by-products are going.

Responsible sourcing is the new green.

Vic Barkin