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Green standards sprout like weeds – Brunner

Wednesday, 05 August 2015
By Laurel Brunner
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One of the benefits of implementing an ISO standard or going for an environmental label is the management and process discipline it imposes. This may seem obvious, but labels and standards can be a useful tool for helping companies improve environmental management. In doing so, they often improve the business’s overall performance.

The trouble is that there are hundreds of environmental labels and standards sprouting like weeds, mostly because there is good money to be made in creating and promoting a label. You can ignore the rubbish ones that you get online for a fee but even without the dross, printing and publishing companies are overwhelmed with choice. If you want certification to a standard or label, choose one that’s meaningful and relevant for customers, such as ISO 14001 or the Nordic Swan.

The Nordic Swan is one of the best known environmental labels. Companies go for certification for various reasons, but the most common is access to clients who require it. There are nearly 150 printing companies certified to the Swan and, as well as access, compliance gives them other benefits, from improved procedures to reduced waste and costs. It applies to the print a company produces, so the label can be highly specific. There is even dedicated guidance for printers. And this is a prestigious label: it communicates in an instant a company’s environmental hubris.

The Swan is a combination of mandatory requirements and “a range of possibilities for scoring points” which are complicated to work out, but which could be more nuanced. For instance it isn’t clear how to account for plate processing chemistries or for different digital printing technologies or inkjet inks. Nevertheless being points based means there is ample scope for the label to apply to diverse situations, so it’s still possible to gather sufficient points for certification. For instance you can get top points for the right choice of paper, or for how much adhesive you do or do not use.

This points system helps overcome one of the Nordic Swan’s deepest flaws, a flaw which seriously constrains the label’s future applicability particularly beyond the fjords. The Nordic Swan is hitched to the European Recovered Paper Council’s scoring system for paper deinkability. This uses a single deinking method which has not been updated for years, so the Nordic Swan cannot reflect the modern digital printing reality. This is unfortunate because digital printing has lead to a far more responsible approach to print production, use and recycling, not least because it can be produced on demand and for particular interests. Ecolabelling should encourage environmental friendliness in print, not discourage the use of modern techniques that help keep print relevant and valuable.


– Laurel Brunner

Verdigris supporters who make the Verdigris blog possible include: Agfa GraphicsDigital DotsEFIFespaHeidelbergHPKodakMondiPragati OffsetRicohShimizu PrintingSplash PRUnity Publishing and Xeikon.


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