Sustainability is one of those feel-good issues that most people are for but are not necessarily willing to put in the effort to implement. Printers are no exception. For example, out of the thousands of printing companies in the country, only a few dozen have gone through the rigors of becoming SGP...
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Sustainability is one of those feel-good issues that most people are for but are not necessarily willing to put in the effort to implement. Printers are no exception. For example, out of the thousands of printing companies in the country, only a few dozen have gone through the rigors of becoming SGP certified.
If you are unfamiliar with this certification organization, the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP) was founded in 2008 as an independent, non-profit organization to provide a certification label for sustainability in the graphic communications industry. It bills itself as “the industry standard for the certification and continuous improvement of sustainability and best practices within print manufacturing operations.”
Backed by top trade associations such as Printing Industries of America, Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA), Flexographic Technical Association (FTA), and National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM), SGP was founded to quantify sustainability in the printing industry. Prior to its inception, there were plenty of “green” products and processes in use in the industry but there was no real definition as to what a “sustainable” printing operation should be.
Supported by such industry vendors as 3M, Durst, DuPont, and HP, SGP provides a benchmark for print facilities’ sustainability efforts, which cover more than simply using green products. While its criteria do cover the input materials used to produce products such as substrates, inks and coatings, they also address manufacturing process involving press equipment and supporting technology and the printing facility in its entirety—its energy consumption, employees, and supporting activities.
Is SGP certification worth it? Is it difficult? What are the benefits? To find out we talked to executives at two SGP certified companies.
The Berman printing company is a 75-year-old commercial and package printer in Cincinnati, OH, which is heavily into sustainability. Not only is it SGP certified but it also belongs to such “green” organizations as the Rainforest Alliance, Agfa Greenworks, and Forest Stewardship Council. According to Chuck Oaks, Berman’s pressroom department head, the company decided to pursue SGP certification for two main reasons.
“First, it was the right thing to do for our employees, for the long term viability of the company, and, of course, for the environment,” said Oaks. “Also, we knew we could use it as a sales and marketing tool. We knew that a couple of our larger customers were interested in environmental responsibility because they had already urged us to become FSC certified, Rainforest Alliance certified, and AGFA Greenworks certified. The same customers had also been instrumental in our decision to switch to soy based inks years before.”
ProGraphix is a large-format printer in Austin, TX which specializes in such things as banners, signs, vehicle graphics, and tradeshow displays. It bills itself as “Your Choice for Eco-Friendly Graphics” and touts the fact that it is the only SGP certified printer in Austin.
“The SGP certification process gave us the opportunity to develop and implement a formal sustainability program that delivers value and results,” according to ProGraphix president Nicki Macfarlane. “As a credible, third party endorsement, SGP certification demonstrates our commitment to achieving our sustainability goals, while meeting customers’ expectations and providing a safe working environment for employees.”
Both Oaks and Macfarlane said that while the certification process was demanding it also was very worthwhile.
“It was somewhat challenging as we were in the midst of restructure and many of the requirements fell into categories that were not easily defined as one particular manager’s responsibility,” said Oaks. “We were already huge into recycling anything we could, reducing usage as much as we could, and re-using. Those aspects were already well taken care of. We just needed to add the metrics to our efforts. The program really did help us to step up our awareness of health and safety issues. The biggest part was putting together the documents for SGP, not the actual recycling programs.”