‘One of the first things people ask for when they call up is what our environmental policy is, and if we’re FSC certified.’
Welshpool Printing Group (WPG) has been in business for over 53 years and employs over 50 people. The wall of their reception has a framed copy of their FSC certificate, alongside their environmental policy. Not only is over 90% of the material they bring in FSC certified, they also use 100% vegetable oil based inks, and generate electricity from 181 solar panels installed on the roof.
WPG were among the first 100 printers to be FSC certified, and are therefore well placed to tell us what they really think about certification. They also actively promote their FSC status to customers with their own publicity and during the enquiries potential customers make. WPG’s certification means that they get work from environmentally conscious customers who may otherwise go elsewhere.
‘When we buy FSC paper, it gives peace of mind to know we are buying responsibly and are buying paper from sustainable sources.’
One thing that immediately stands out is the huge drop in numbers between those who want to print on FSC certified paper, and those who want to include the FSC label on the finished production. Of the nearly 20 million sheets of paper WPG printed in the last year, under 700,000 went into publications that carried the FSC label.
On the one hand, it’s great to know that most WPG customers are keen to use sustainable paper, but on the other, it’s disappointing that so few choose to celebrate and publicise this by including the FSC label.
Mostly, this seems to be down to the limitations on the final artwork – there may not be enough space for the label or it may not fit in with the design of the publication, especially if it’s a small one. Although, it’s worth bearing in mind that the FSC mini label can be used where there is limited space and is always permitted on paper less than A5 and packaging less than 500ml. The other potential hurdle to getting a publication FSC labelled, is the time taken to get trademark approval by the Certification Body. This can take from one to three days, and since modern print runs are shorter and need to be returned in a faster time, this time may not be an affordable luxury.
‘People will ask if their printer is FSC certified and they do care, but don’t want the logo on.’
Fundamentally, the provenance of the material matters more than whether the label is on it or not, but it’s unfortunate that more customers aren’t choosing to include it. Our research (GfK 2013) shows that certification seals are the most trusted source of information on a product’s level of environmental and social responsibility.
Regardless of the concerns around trademark use, seeing WPG at work shows how the FSC certification system fits well into normal business practice. Paper is checked for its FSC status on delivery into the warehouse, when that paper is used for a job, the FSC status is communicated to the client and appears on their invoice and delivery notes. The racks of paper standing ready in the WPG warehouse are adorned with the tick-tree logo and show that, as for many businesses, FSC certification is a core part of their day to day activities.
‘It doesn’t cost to add the FSC logo.’
FSC, and forest certification in general, continues to evolve as uptake increases across different industries and experience is garnered in the field. Simplification was a key theme at last year’s FSC General Assembly, where motions included a request to simplify trademark requirements and approval procedures, which was passed almost unanimously. Work is underway on this and other motions but it must always be borne in mind, that not only must requirements be simple, they must also ensure the FSC system remains strong.
Businesses like WPG do a lot to increase awareness about what FSC certification means and how customers can request the use of FSC certified paper and have their publication carry the FSC label. They do not charge anything to add the FSC label to productions using FSC certified paper, but it is commonly assumed that there must be a cost involved.
After being shown round WPG and had the whole operation explained, it was encouraging to go away knowing that FSC certification can fit into an already busy organisation. Knowing that the paper comes from well-managed sources is a boost for WPG and a source of confidence for their clients. FSC has come a long way since it was founded over 20 years ago, and having created a certification system that does so much to improve forest management, addressing the remaining barriers to trademark use is surely just around the corner.