03 February 2016 Paper

Carbon returns to print’s environmental agenda

The world has agreed action to stem climate change. Printers can do their part by supporting carbon balancing schemes linked to paper consumption.

The carbon impact of paper and print is back on the agenda. The COP21 talks in Paris stressed the importance that forests play in capturing carbon with countries pledging to better manage forests, prevent illegal logging and restore valuable landscapes.

COP21 provided a government and legal framework around the voluntary promises that businesses had made at the New York Carbon Disclosure Project conference.

Major brands are going to look to their supply chains as never before. Exposure for using fibre from illegally sourced logs, from slash and burn forestry, from practices that are seen to harm wildlife or forest peoples, is going to hurt. Investment and pension companies are starting to remove or reduce holdings in carbon intensive businesses.

While this targets fossil fuel extraction, the carbon balance of all business is going to be part of future investment decisions.

The COP21 talks ended with commitments to cap global temperature rises to 1.5ºC. It is only going to be possible through government action either to reduce the amounts of carbon generated, or by massive schemes to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

While there are schemes to encourage oceanic plankton to flourish and so soak up massive amounts of carbon, the more practical path will be through forest management. Trees are a best hope for removing carbon from the atmosphere while also providing shelter for vast numbers of animal species.

Major consumer brands, financial and energy companies will be at the forefront of steps to reduce the impact of their supply chains. It may be a while before there are declarations to this effect, but the work is underway to measure and monitor the impact of their own activities and those of suppliers.

ISO 14001 is a start towards showing what a printer or other supplier is doing to improve their environmental impact, but without figures it will not be enough. The time is coming for carbon balancing, offsetting to capturing programmes to make a return.

These were plentiful in the first wave of environmental flag waving, but fell from favour because of the dubious nature of some of the schemes, for example energy projects in the developing world that would have gone ahead without the spur of conscious driven western businesses. Carbon today is being managed in a more honest way.

In print the Carbon Balanced paper scheme, championed by Paperlinx is coming back. Talks have been underway since the demise of the paper merchant last year put its continuance in doubt. It has the authority and integrity needed and provides figures that printers can use to demonstrate the impact of what they are using.

But rather than restrict its use to one paper merchant, the scheme is being relaunched by the World Land Trust in partnership with paper companies Antalis, Denmaur and Fedrigoni. Papers from outside this trio can also be balanced, but that will require some effort from printers to do the calculations.

The revamped and simplified scheme has been developed by Jonathan Tame, director of CarbonCo, a new business able to assess the carbon footprint of any UK business. While CarbonCo’s directors are Tame and Martyn Eustace, both involved with Two Sides and Print Power, this is a separate business engaged in helping any business manage its carbon impact.

Tame had previously developed the measurements used by Paperlinx involving separate figures for each of the papers covered, calculated from the individual data for carbon emissions at each mill. Now the revised calculator is using the Eurograph average of 670kg of carbon emissions per tonne of paper.

This makes the calculation much simpler and remains robust, he explains. It also enables three paper providers to sign up and for World Land Trust to continue to endorse the validity of the system.

If a printer sources paper through one of the merchants involved in the system, the calculation will be automatically carried out and the sum needed to offset that amount automatically invoiced.

A certificate can be issued for each job along with a trackable job number to be used with the World Land Trust logo. Certificates can be rolled up and issued to show how much carbon has been balanced over a longer period for any regular customer.

For printers who wish to go a step further, it is possible to become a certified publication printer where the carbon emissions created by that printer are offset by donations to the World Land Trust.

The money is used to buy and protect forest, or to help restore cleared land and return it to forest. “The best way to capture carbon is through retaining existing forests,” says World Land Trust senior conservationist Roger Green.

The number of printers certified in this way peaked at 15, but had fallen as Paperlinx allowed the scheme to drift even before its administration. There are now 11 UK printers certified in this way. Others are able to balance the paper used in specific jobs.

Mark Thomas, carbon balanced expert at NB Colour Print which is one of those, says: “We have kept in touch with Jonathan Tame during this process. Carbon balanced is something that we are still engaged with and want to promote.

“It has been a bit flat last year because of the uncertainty, now we are hoping to push it again. It helps us engage with customers in a different way rather than just talking about the costs of print.”

There will be no increase to the merchants that are now offering the Carbon Balanced paper scheme. It takes time to train sales staff to be able to explain the concept and the system, says Tame “and we need to be able to support these companies”.

Antalis marketing director James Jarvis adds: “At Antalis we were very struck by the effectiveness that WLT had with local people and that they were making an impact. Consequently we thought it was a good scheme to be involved with.

“We have a couple of hundred sales people dealing with customers every day who are able to tell printers why this is a good idea.”

However, it will still be possible for a printer to carbon balance the paper used in a job when the material is not sourced through these companies. In this case the company will visit the calculator on the Carbonbalancedprinter.com website, enter the amount of paper being used and receive the information about how to make a payment to the World Land Trust.

The charity uses the funds to buy tracts of forest which would otherwise be cleared for cattle grazing or to become palm oil plantations. It has projects around the globe, including the latest in the Khe Nuoc Trong forest in Vietnam where efforts are underway to secure 50,000 of lowland forest which is home to 20 species on the Red Book list of endangered animals including half-a-dozen at critical risk of extinction.

Under Paperlinx, the WLT benefited from £120,000 of donations to help purchase and manage otherwise threatened forests. It had involved more than 350 printers registering 12,000 carbon balanced jobs on behalf of 2,500 brands and organisations.

Each time a job is carbon balanced, a logo can be applied to the job, Carbon Balanced printers can use a different logo to show that all their work has been offset in this way.

Throughout the hiatus of the World Land Trust scheme, Premier Papers has continued to work with carbon capture closer to home. Its Carbon Captured paper scheme delivers £8.50 a tonne to the Woodland Trust to fund tree planting and woodland management in this country.

Marketing director Dave Jones adds that trees are now being planted in upland regions to help alleviate flooding problems by slowing the run off of rainwater into rivers that then burst their banks.

“The emissions are calculated from manufacture to distribution to us and include onward distribution,” he says. Certificates are available to show how much carbon has been offset from any job or for a customer, but this amount can only be claimed by either the printer or customer. Carbon cannot be captured twice.

Premier has 330 customers signed up to offset all the papers they purchase from Premier. Some are also part of the World Land Trust effort, Jones says. “It becomes an embedded part of what they do,” he explains.

It can also be a very tangible part of what they do. At the end of last year, 150 customers and their customers turned out to plant 2,500 trees to create new woodland in Hertfordshire. Premier took photos and provided information packs so that those taking part could publicise their participation on their websites or through local press coverage.

It is a direct engagement that is not possible when the work takes place overseas. However, Jones is also conscious that participation has to make commercial sense. There are no funds taken to help pay for administration or marketing, he says. Premier funds that aspect of the project. Every pound raised is handed over to the Woodland Trust every quarter, says Jones.

There is now a branded Woodland Trust Office Paper, produced to specification by the Nymolla mill in Sweden and sold into the office market, where again the message is about the difference that use of the paper can contribute towards.

And that is the crucial aspect for these schemes. Printers have tangible evidence that they are working towards the sustainability of their industry.