Why FSC?

At our January meeting, the Digital Imaging Association featured FSC—Forest Stewardship Council—Certification. The presentation was lead by Vivian Peachey from SmartWood, a company that acts on behalf of the Rainforest Alliance’s forest division to certify companies as FSC compliant, and to police and approve the use of each and every FSC and AFF (Ancient Forest Friendly) logo. Attendees learned what is involved in the certification process, what are the costs and implications to a supplier of printing and related services, and what leads the charge to certification.

Rainforest Alliance’s mission is to protect ecosystems and the people and wildlife that live within them by transforming land-use practices, business practices, and consumer behavior. In Canada, a champion of the cause is Market Initiatives, a Vancouver-based Greenpeace-associated firm, that has endeavours to increase consumer awareness of the reduction in the critical Boreal Forest in North America. Their high impact is evident in their coup of getting JK Rowling to “green-up” the Harry Potter series and put pressure on the big five Canadian banks to lower their impact on the Boreal Forest and Ancient Forests by printing only on FSC certified stock—to name only two examples. The day following the DIA presentation, JK Rowling’s blog on Whattheythink.com stated that when it was found that FSC-certified stock was not available to the selected printer of the Finnish version, Rowling pulled the printing

It is consumer pressure that is driving corporations to make the statement that they are environmentally responsible. And you can make the statement of your environmental responsibility by choosing FSC-certified papers and emblazoning the FSC symbol on your printed materials. Print providers can be a part of the group that champions our environmental future by doing what it takes to achieve and retain FSC Certification.

What it is and how it works

FSC Certification’s Chain of Custody begins with forest management—a systematic and measurable process that is traceable and auditable. Chain of Custody further tracks the product from FSC-certified forests until the final finished product to keep intact the integrity of the FSC seal. Printers, said Peachy, can be assured that the paper supply chain is fairly contained and that most in the chain are certified. The FSC Canada web site—fsccanada.org—has an up-to-date list of FSC-certified papers and printers.

The print based chain of custody looks like this:

Forest—Pulp Mill—Paper Mill—Merchant—Printer

As you can see, FSC isn’t just about the paper. In order to be able to put an FSC symbol on printed materials, the printer must also hold FSC Certification. FSC requires each link to obtain certification to retain the credibility of the claim of FSC-certified forests as the source. No claim or label is allowed unless the chain is unbroken.

To obtain and retain certification requires a system-based approach which includes:

Assigning people to take responsibility

Developing procedures

Documenting your procedures

Training on procedures

Confirming that procedures are continually followed

Creating forms and records to demonstrate that only certified stock has been used throughout a press run. Procedurally, it is absolutely essential to develop a foolproof process so that certified and uncertified stocks are not mixed.

Be audited regularly by organizations like SmartWord

FSC actually has three different logos to be used for very specific printed product applications. The symbol that addresses intent fully is the one that shows the product has been printed on paper that can be traced to content from 100% well-managed forests. Another symbol states that the paper used is from mixed sources—a combination of well-managed forests, controlled sources, and recycled wood or post-consumer fiber. The third designates recycled content that supports the responsible use of forest resources. Each logo used has a number unique to the Auditing company and the Printer to enable tracking validity of its use (i.e. Smartwood, Chain of Custody, and the Printer’s own number).

Cost and ROI

Cost to printers of achieving and maintaining certification, advised Peachey, depends on complexity, size, and preparedness. It can range from $1500 to $5000, plus the annual Audit fee. Actively marketing your company as one that is an intrinsic part of the Chain of Custody can lead to the potential of more work from customers who recognize their own responsibility to our environmental future. On a broader scale, this also represents a catalyst for change. Operations are required to make changes to social, economic, and systems issues just as often as environmental issues. Certification also creates a discipline of process control, which assists with efficient production—the ultimate outcome translates to increased corporate pride and increased profits.