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SGP Releases Certification Criteria

The Sustainable Green Partnership offers "green" certifcation.

Everyone wants be environmentally friendly these days, or at least give the impression that their prints are the purest. But eco-jargon alone is no longer enough to hold water. As you likely have been finding out, customers are not willing to shell out more green simply because your sales staff is screaming "recycled," "eco," "degradable," or any other hot-button word of the day.

As Marci Kinter, SGIA’s vice president of government and business information, said at the recent National Environmental, Health & Safety Conference in Indianapolis, "It’s no longer acceptable for companies to just say they’re acting sustainably. They now need to prove to their customers they are incorporating actual sustainable business practices that offer measurable results."

Now, that proof is possible, because the printing industry has created accountability through certification with the formation of the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP, www.sgppartnership.org). A collaborative effort between SGIA, PIA/GATF, and the Flexographic Technical Association (FTA), the SGP was formed late last year. Its goal: defining sustainable green printing and identifying steps "that will help the printing industry establish sustainable (or green) manufacturing and business practices." In addition, it will allow print buyers to shop for "green printers" by accessing an SGP Partnership Registry, which will list shops that meet specific SGP criteria.

As a step toward achieving these goals, SGP has announced initial criteria for shops to become SGP-certified green printers.

Applying for recognition

Any print shop in the United States and Canada will be eligible to apply for registration with the SGP Partnership. All types of printing platforms are eligible, including mixed-use facilities and in-plant operations. Two registration categories will be available: Candidate Pending Verification (CPV) and SGP Printer.

The CPV category is provisional and CPV applicants must develop and make available a written Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) policy and meet two of the major criteria. This provisional status allows for a 12-month window for print shops to fully comply with all criteria before full SGP certification is awarded. CPV facilities will be acknowledged on the SGP website, but will not be able to use the SGP logo.

Those facilities already meeting SGP standards can bypass the CPV category and immediately apply for recognition. An on-site verification will validate the SGP certification for two years; once certified, SGP Printers will have to complete an annual progress report and will be subject to periodic verification by an accredited third party. Both categories will require an application fee (not determined at press time), and applicants also will be responsible for all fees associated with the third-party verification process.

Specific SGP Printer certification criteria include:

* Regulation compliance: Shops must comply with all local, state, and federal environmental, health, and safety regulations.

* Guiding principles: Shops need to be proactive in meeting applicable legal regulations, use materials from renewable resources or of low environmental detriment, encourage sustainable changes in the supply chain, establish clear communication with all members of the print process, observe the principles of sustainability, and practice social responsibility.

* Management system: Eligible candidates must establish and maintain a commitment to sustainability through management processes. The management system must include a unique EHS policy as well as: an in-house Sustainability Committee; an Implementation and Operation procedure; a Checking and Corrective Actions program; and more.

* Best practices: Meet mandatory best practices within three print-facility categories: Product-design aspects and input material management to create the product; Process-all manufacturing steps (prepress, press, post-press) involved in converting raw materials into a finished product; and Envelope-all the manufacturing support activities (including the building, grounds, utilities, employees, etc.).

* Social aspects: All shops must adhere to local, state, and federal employment and non-discrimination laws.

* Metric system: Members must use the SGP Partnership Sustainability Metric System to measure and report on progress; these metrics are under development.

* Annual progress reports: Shops must use the official SGP template to demonstrate the commitment to excellence.

People, planet, and profits

The criteria will be beta tested in the next few months and modifications made as needed. SGP has set up a comment section on its website and will be garnering comments through mid-April; the registry’s official launch is this summer.

Finally, says the SGP, it’s important that print shops understand that sustainability "encompasses more than just environmental issues. Corporate social responsibility is another major component. As a result, the criteria are based on all three key elements of sustainability-people, planet, and profits."

Angela Prues is assistant editor of The Big Picture magazine.

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