Printers show 'green' concern by FSC approval

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Printers show ægreen' concern by FSC approval

By Patrick Murray

There's no doubt about it - "green" is in. And for a lot of corporations, especially those that send out millions of direct mail pieces or catalogs or flyers, there's more to being green than just lip service. That means the printing industry has taken notice and has looked for ways to become more environmentally aware in response to customer interest.

For a growing number of printers across the United States, one of the best ways to assist their corporate customers with social responsibility awareness has been to obtain the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.

The certification signifies that both the printer and its clients actively demonstrate and support sound environmental practices as well as proper forest management. In order to use the FSC logo as an environmental claim on paper, the product must have flowed through the FSC chain-of-custody from the FSC-certified forest, to a paper manufacturer or merchant and finally to a printer who has FSC certification.

I came of age during a time when environmental issues were coming to the forefront. Today, people want to know the carbon footprint. There's a lot [that] printers can do with their paper buy that can be environmentally and socially responsible.

FSC is a nonprofit organization formed in 1993 to encourage the responsible management of the world's forests. Purchase of FSC-certified paper and print products also contributes to conservation and community benefits for people who live near paper-producing forests.

According to the FSC, the intent of its system is to shift the market to eliminate habitat destruction, water pollution, displacement of indigenous peoples and violence against people and wildlife that often accompanies logging.

The FSC says that the United States is the largest market for paper products in the world, producing 90 million tons of paper annually and, in-turn, consuming about 100 million tons. Only 35 percent of current consumption is met by using recycled fiber.

The paper that originates from FSC-certified sources is pure, good quality paper from 100 percent virgin fiber. There's a small pool of FSC pulp, so lead time is the biggest difference rather than price in obtaining the paper.

There are four FSC-accredited certifiers with offices in the United States: the Bureau Veritas Certification, SGS Systems and Services Certification Inc., the Smartwood Program and Scientific Certification Systems.

"We've seen very large growth for certification requests from the printing industry," said Neil Mendenhall, natural resources program associate at Scientific Certification Systems.

"This is basically being driven by large corporations that send out everything from a catalog, to brochures, to direct mail pieces, to stockholder reports. It's one of the things they can do to show they are green in some way. Out of all of our new clients, printers probably represent at least two-thirds."

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