18 July 2018 Paper

Carbon counting becomes print's essential sales tool

Interest in carbon balancing through support for forest preservation or creation is increasing. Support for such programmes provides printers with a story that can engage and involve customers.

Everyone loves trees – with the possible exception of contractors in Sheffield. But printers and print buyers are squarely in the We love Trees camp. As proof there are the hundreds that will turn out each year to plant trees at Woodland Trust sites across the UK along with other customers of Premier Paper.

There is a tangible connection between the paper that is bought and having a positive impact by planting native trees in UK woodlands. Paper is produced from cropped trees in well managed forests which is not always understood by the public at large let alone those that promote a greenwash message as a reason to favour digital over print. Anything that can help reverse this perception is welcome.

This is the essence of the merchant’s Carbon Capture programme. A small premium per tonne of paper is used to fund the trees which Premier Paper will then invite its customers to help plant. Premier has become the largest corporate sponsor of the charity in recent years with more and more printers engaged in the work. All money raised through the levy ends up in the woodlands, none in administrative costs.

It is not the only scheme that seeks to offset the carbon created by the paper production and distribution process by funding reforestation and green energy projects. However, it is possibly the most successful of those aimed at the UK printing industry. A decade ago carbon balancing projects were rife, though not always relevant and not always transparent, Energy projects in Africa or Asia might have dubious benefits and carbon accounting was not always clear. Many of these have disappeared.

Carbon Capture suffers none of these problems. It is simple, transparent and in the UK. Further it enables supporters to get their hands dirty once a year on planting day and to enjoy the Woodland Trust projects for the rest of the year.

It is however, not the only option. Premier Paper’s scheme is challenged by Carbon Balanced paper, the scheme set up by CarbonCo, which is endorsed by the World Land Trust. This is a charity headed by Sir David Attenborough, which buys up tracts of land in the tropics to preserve both the landscape and the species that live there. It is promoted by Denmaur Paper Media where Danny Doogan says there has been a steady increase in inquiries in recent months.

These can be traced back to Blue Planet, Sir David Attenborough’s programme about life under the waves. Its footage of plastic waste in the ocean kick started a new wave of awareness about sustainability and what individuals might do about it. Much of the focus has been on replacing any unnecessary use of plastic, but interest in minimising environment impact in general has been racked up a notch.

People want to show that they are doing something for the environment. And these carbon footprint schemes are ideal. For a small incremental cost per tonne of paper, the purchaser can add the World Land Trust logo to show support for the charity on the printed item while both printer and client can display a certificate to show much carbon has been replaced by tree growth. It is direct and simple to understand and alongside the use of paper from FSC or PEFC is something that something that the man in the street can comprehend. It is something that printers should also consider.

“We are getting more inquiries about carbon balancing than for any time in the last two and a half years,” says Doogan. “We promoted it very heavily in the beginning and have kept that going.” The increase in interest might be the result of this marketing activity, but Doogan accepts that “it’s a direct result of the anti plastics campaign which has prompted more interest in how to more sustainable in the printed communications chain”.

The CarbonCo is a consultancy that helps print improve its environmental footprint and administers the World Land Trust scheme. Director Jonathan Tame explains that the Carbon Balanced Paper methodology uses a calculation to average the amount of carbon dioxide generated by paper mills in Europe and using this to reach a per tonne figure.

Some papers will, thanks to the advantages of their location, use of hydro power rather than fossil fuels, have a lower carbon footprint, however Tame points out that using an average figure neutralises this geographical advantage without penalising papers from less favourable locations.

The levy per tonne is used by the World Land Trust to purchase threatened forests in the tropics. He too says that media interest sparked by the Blue Planet television series has galvanised interest in sustainability particularly among retailers “reacting to Iceland’s declarations about single use plastic”.

Behind this he says is a greater pressure on businesses to demonstrate good corporate responsibility. Stock market quoted companies are now expected to produce an environmental report alongside their financials and government policy is geared towards reducing emissions within the framework of international agreements.

This can percolate down to individual businesses and how those responsible for corporate social responsibility are making decisions. This can lead to questions of their suppliers and what they are doing to minimise their impacts. Carbon Balanced paper is a tool for printers to demonstrate in a measurable way how they are cutting the CO2 they are responsible for. “This is important to the customer, but printers still do not understand value based selling. That this can help the client meet its corporate responsibility targets.

“If I have a meeting with a corporate responsibility director or I talk to a brand directly, they are very very interested in the message. But if I go to a printer, he will say it sounds interesting, but then there is nothing but silence. Most printers are still heavily focused on printing and output rather than how they can add value. Some printers understand their clients well, but in general companies and their sales people have struggled to embed sustainability within their processes.”

It is the age old problem that printers are dealing with procurement managers with a focus on buying keenly rather than putting the corporate ethos on sustainability first, or else paying lip service demanding FSC or PEFC papers. The conversation with those charged with delivering an improved environmental message is different, but printers are not having those conversations says Jonathan Tame.

The risk is that unless there is communication about the sustainability of print, print becomes something to cut to achieve the CSR targets. “Printers are missing a huge opportunity,” he says. “There are good sustainable reasons for communication with print and paper. most companies are really keen to focus on their public image. This is something that printers can do that is really easy.”

One of the latest to join up is Pureprint, a company that has led the way in sustainable production. It has worked with the CarbonCo so that it can offset the amount of carbon generated in production of paper from a job if the customer wants this. “We are still doing what we have always done,” says Pureprint director Richard Owers.

“There was a phase when customers seemed less interested in the environment, but there is definitely more interest now, not only in what we are doing, but also in a reduction in the use of plastic.”

Pureprint is one of the few UK printers with Emas and has led the way in many environmental initiatives along the years. This includes making its factory CO2 neutral. Carbon Balancing is a way to take that a step further and to engage with clients says Owers. “It gives them the option to become involved,” he says. “And gives them the opportunity to do something positive if they want to.”

A key advantage over FSC or PEFC is that Carbon Balancing comes with a strong story attached, involving the World Land Trust, conservation projects and its patron Sir David Attenborough. The charity says Owers is well respected.

The logo is recognised and this can be added to work that has been balanced through a premium on the paper cost that is directed to WLT. The money is used to protect High Conservation Value Forests through buying up tracts of land. The vegetation continues to absorb atmospheric CO2 and endangered species are protected. It is a strong story to relay to the industry’s customers.

The CarbonCo comes in as the intermediary that understands the paper production process and can fill in the gaps for printers with only a rudimentary understanding of how paper production is carried out. “Both Jonathan Tame and Martyn Eustace at the PaperCo have good in-depth knowledge of the paper industry and can bring that knowledge to bear,” Owers says.

The calculation applies to any paper produced in Europe, regardless of the source of the energy used to run the mill. The inclusive approach means that more papers can be covered than when the energy source is prioritised.

“The big picture is about getting more people thinking about the impacts of their communications. This way we can start the conversation. When we have spoken to clients about the World Land Trust they become very interested and many are happy to pay the £15 premium per tonne,” Owers says.

The premium at Premier Papers for its Carbon Capture is £8.50 plus VAT a tonne, calculated through reference to guidelines from the Carbon Trust and Defra.

“It is a fantastic marketing opportunity for our customers, giving them the opportunity to share their environmental values with their clients,” says Premier. “It’s a unique initiative from Premier with the opportunity to be involved in creating new woodlands in the UK.

Carbon Capture provides a long lasting demonstration that the printer is committed to the environment.” The printer is able to apply the logo to the job being balanced, a further benefit to the customer as the Woodland Trust logo is recognised widely.

“It enhances the client’s brand as well as the printer’s brand. It is a low cost way to deliver a big impact.” A certificate to show the amount of carbon offset in this way can also apply to the job or the amount of work covered in a year.

It has taken off with great success: more than 400 printers have taken part in tree planting days in different locations close to Premier’s branches around the country, around 38,000 tonnes of CO2 have been balanced in this way with more than 187,000 trees planted.

It is a stronger story for some customers than signing up to FSC where the audit to enable the company to hold a Chain of Custody certificate has no tangible environmental impact. All the money raised from Carbon Capture is directed to the Woodland Trust. Premier Paper bears the cost of administration.

The carbon balancing schemes have a further strong element over the Chain of Custody schemes, though they can run hand in hand and do for companies like Pureprint. The UK government, along with others, has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide being a crucial element of this.

The carbon balancing or carbon capture programmes are part of this, helping corporates and the UK achieve its carbon reduction targets. Stock exchange quoted companies must publish both a sustainability report and their carbon figures. A printer that can help, if in only a small way, towards achieving carbon targets is clearly in a good position.

TPA piles on the pounds

The Print Academy in Bradford is strong support of Carbon Balanced Paper as part of an environmental policy that includes FSC, embedding a culture of sustainability for staff, building a shared community and reducing impacts.

In 2017 the company was responsible for generating 135.5 tonnes of CO2e which was offset through the World Land Trust and enabled the charity to safeguard 23 acres of high conservation forest in Vietnam. This was 20 tonnes fewer than the previous year, testament to its own efforts at waste reduction and to the effectiveness of UV drying instead of hot air/IR drying on its Speedmaster.

Among the customers gaining from this were Pacific Lifestyle which cut its carbon emissions by 3,900kgs, equivalent to 320 acres of forest, and Riverside Greeting Cards which preserved 100 acres of threatened forest by offsetting 1,180 kgs of CO2e.

Gareth Ward

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The Woodland Trust plants native British trees to create new forests to be enjoyed by all. Paper supplied by Premier can be offset under its increasingly popular Carbon Balanced scheme with all funds raised going to the Woodland Trust.

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The World Land Trust buys land in high conservation forest areas, such as above in Vietnam, in order to preserve the carbon capture features of the tress and the species that live among them. It is supported by Carbon Capture schemes supported by Denmaur and by CarbobCo to ensure and offset the carbon element of any paper used.

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