Francesc Egea confirms: ‘In the last few years, the collaboration between our association and FINAT has indeed been much more active. This is a changing marketplace, and cross-border trading has become a normal practice. Working in a broader geographical context with our sister associations and FINAT has put our ANFEC converter members in touch with a wider portfolio of suppliers; helped us benefit from others’ best practice experiences; and, of course, kept us abreast of the status of international regulations. And ANFEC plans to help more Spanish label converters to visit Labelexpo this year, by subsidising their hotel and travel costs.’
One national association that has revived after years in decline is the UK association, BPIF Labels, which is chaired by John Bambery (UK), now also an NAB member. He says: ‘While our national association is able to provide services to its own supplier and converter members, in today’s ever-shrinking world, FINAT provides a platform which enables cross-country issues to be addressed and solutions to be found, without duplication of effort.’
The Italian label association, GIPEA, is enthusiastic about the increased communications from FINAT which, says NAB member Domenico Tessera Chiesa (IT), have ‘turned out to be a true connection with our national association.’ Domenico adds: ‘On top of this, it has been possible to share experiences, studies, activities, and data on a European basis, which I believe has great value.’
Representing UNFEA on the NAB is Dominique Durant des Aulnois (FR). ‘The collaboration with FINAT has helped to create a pathway for improved political weight in Europe (the release liner result is a good example), and has really brought us together with our sister associations in Europe.’
Locally, the national associations are busy. UNFEA, for example, is promoting the expertise of its members with its own label competition, technical guides to various aspects of labelling, and an annual congress attracting more than 150 participants. It is actively recruiting new members, and has introduced a ‘seal of quality’ for label converter member companies; a working party on food contact labelling; and a broader base for its statistics.
NAB member Kaj Flick (SE), Secretary General of GFF, highlights the Swedish label association’s local initiative to develop an industry benchmarking and indexing analysis to monitor costs for self-adhesive materials. ‘We have also,’ he says, ‘developed delivery terms for the label industry, a guide for customers on the industry's business, and plans for training for professional qualification for label printers.’
Every NAB agenda item must therefore take into account not only the local and regional modus operandi and preferences, but also any macro legislation and recommendations at a European, and sometimes global level. Because FINAT membership spans the entire supply chain, the scope of that agenda is particularly wide-reaching. While the language differences across Europe make it important that interaction begins at a local level, FINAT publications – particularly the Technical Handbook and the Test Methods – are the European industry standards, and required reading at all levels. Europe’s label converters and suppliers can in many cases now access this invaluable information in their own languages as well as in English.
The environment, health and safety
Recycling remains a topic right at the top of the agenda, for everyone working in the industry. Currently, the national associations and FINAT are working to find a reliable method of creating a central bank of information through input and updates from local associations, coupled with regular, harmonised reporting to the members on activity across Europe’s regions.
Everyone, is aware of the importance and intrinsic value of recycling – but business and economic considerations get in the way, particularly for release liner collection from retailers and brand owners. This is an area where label converters and supplier members need to work at a local level, in view of the existing base of local regulations – but local actions and experience, shared with other regions, could help create a cohesive pan-European plan. The NAB is very keen to drive progress, and to develop initiatives that can be replicated across Europe’s label industry.
The newest legislation of concern because of its possible implications for paper-based products is the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), which obliges companies to undertake due diligence if they are bringing timber-based products into Europe. It is an example of how to put FINAT’s pan-European focus to good use.