Going Green: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an organization familiar to many in the commercial print industry, although perhaps not as familiar to their customers. Founded in 1993, FSC provides a chain-of-custody certification, which provides assurance that products bearing the FSC label directly support responsible forest management. After twenty years of FSC certifications and a much longer environmental movement, there is some debate over the success of these programs in the print industry.
As of Jan., 2013, 3,522 U.S. companies have FSC certification. There are many reasons initial certification might be pursued by a commercial printer: competitive advantage, to support company green initiatives, to satisfy a client request. Ideally, multiple clients will come to value the use of the FSC logo to signify the sustainability commitments of their organizations. Maintaining certification is a significant expense and if customers to do not see the value, it can be difficult to continue support year after year.
This is the good part! Despite debate, there are many protections offered through the FSC that are still relevant and important and have a direct environmental impact that printers and customers alike should care about:
- Protects water quality.
- Prohibits highly hazardous chemicals.
- Limits clear cuts to protect forest ecology.
- Protects high conservation value forests, such as rare old growth.
- Prevents loss of natural forest cover.
- Protects indigenous people and local communities.
- Governs in a democratic and transparent way.
So, why doesn't everyone use FSC-certified paper for their print projects?
Now, for the bad. Commercial printers and other companies that support the certification are still not sufficiently sharing with clients exactly what the certification represents. Companies, especially commercial printers should take the extra steps to let their commitment to corporate responsibility to the environment be known.
Beyond that, the movement lost steam during the recession due to associated costs. Prior to the recession of 2008, printers had the money available to justify becoming certified. But, the economic downturn had them looking at every expense item and slashing it. To some organizations, they had a choice of making payroll or paying for FSC certification. As you would expect, making payroll won.