Sun, May

The key to improving environmental performance

John Pymer, managing director of Certification International, explains how printing companies can unlock the benefits of introducing better environmental practices.

Since 2008, Certification International has seen significant growth in the number of companies integrating environmental practices into their management systems. The number of certificates issued for ISO 14000 has increased by 300%, and many of these have been achieved by companies in the printing industry.


As in many other sectors, the environment is an area which can be overlooked by printing organisations. Some simply don’t recognise the contribution they can make in terms of improved environmental performance – nor the substantial benefit it can have on their business in fiscal terms. When the Government carried out its Envirowise Attitudes 2000 survey – an exercise to assess attitudes and barriers towards improved environmental performance - print was bottom of the list in terms of the number of organisations which had adopted environmental policies.

However, the need for printing businesses to demonstrate improved environmental performance is growing and is nearly as important as the products and services offered. There is a body of legislation compelling businesses to operate effective Environmental Management Systems (EMS), so having an environmental strategy in place should be central to any business plan. It’s not just about being ‘green’ and complying with regulations. Improving environmental practices also shows commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR). This is increasingly important as retailers and print management companies seek to use eco-aware printers and demand their suppliers have relevant environmental certification. Environmental claims are easy to make but are much harder to substantiate. One of the best ways for a print firm to demonstrate commitment to environmental best practice is to have systems independently verified through certification to an internationally recognised standard. The main scheme adopted by organisations to demonstrate environmental commitment is the ISO 14000 group of standards, and of these ISO 14001:2004 is the one most companies are familiar with. Certification is not just about complying with legislation, and attaining industry standards should not just be a badge of honour. Adopting an effective EMS and achieving certification makes good business sense and if the whole print industry got on board it could perhaps move off the bottom rung of the Envirowise ladder. A recent industry wide survey showed achievement of environmental accreditation was no longer seen as something out of the ordinary. For many buyers ISO 14001 is a must have. Three quarters of print buyers expected printers to have it as a matter of course – just under 30% said it was very important – and it was regarded as the most important industry wide environmental standard. In the same survey a year earlier, when asked what environmental standards printers aspired to attain, 22% of companies said they would strive for ISO 14001. Figures show the number of print companies who have achieved ISO 14001 certification had grown but there are still many companies who could improve environmental performance through certification. ISO 14001:2004 requires companies to look at all areas of business that have an impact on the environment. It focuses on controlling an organisation’s environmental impact and the way activities, products and services interact with the environment. Through the EMS, businesses must describe what they intend to do, adhere to their procedures and record their efforts to demonstrate compliance and improvement. There are guidelines that companies can follow to produce an effective EMS but these are dependent on the environmental maturity of the company. An external assessor can guide companies through the actions which need to be taken before certification is awarded. Implementing a management system is a huge undertaking for any company, which is perhaps why some print companies have been deterred from the certification process. But the introduction of an effective EMS will result in significant savings and even the smallest changes will have a big impact. So what are the benefits of ISO 14001? Investing in the scheme can reduce costs in the day to day running of the organisation. For example, it provides cost savings through the reduction of waste and more efficient use of electricity, water and gas – all big areas of expenditure for a printer. It ensures an organisation is better placed to avoid future fines and penalties from not meeting environmental legislation and reduced the amount of tax paid for sending waste to landfill. It can also reduce insurance costs through demonstrating better risk management. At present, there are no plans to introduce changes to the ISO 14000 group of standards. But there are other factors printing companies can consider to further improve environmental performance. The print industry uses a significant amount of energy. Energy is critical to any operation but as costs soar businesses are looking at ways to reduce fuel consumption and bills. Last year a new standard was launched to address energy management. ISO 50001:2011 enables printing companies to integrate energy performance into their existing management systems and improve efficiency in this area (see panel). It’s an important standard and has been eagerly awaited. In fact it is estimated the standard could have a positive impact on some 60% of the world’s energy use. The number of print related companies seeking environmental certification has grown strongly and will continue as the environment continues to play a central role. Certification International is forecasting the same growth in demand for ISO 50001. John Pymer is managing director of Certification International – a UKAS accredited organisation. It provides assessment, analysis and certification services to companies of all sizes across a wide range of standards. www.cert-int.com.

WHAT IS ISO 50001: 2011?

Introduced in June 2011, the purpose of ISO 50001:2011 (an Energy Management System - EnMS) is to help companies establish the systems and processes necessary to improve their overall energy performance. While there is some overlap with ISO 14001:2004 (Environmental Management Systems - EMS), ISO 50001:2011 focuses specifically on energy management and the technical factors that drive energy efficiency and environmental impact.

It was developed in response to increasing global awareness of energy consumption and offers organisations, particularly in the energy hungry print sector, a recognised framework for integrating energy performance into their management practices to reduce energy costs, greenhouse gas emissions and minimise other related environmental impacts.

ISO 50001:2011 standard was designed to deliver benefits to companies who implement it including:


  • Making better use of existing energy consuming assets
  • Improving visibility of energy usage
  • Facilitating an organisation’s ability to communicate about energy performance, both internally and to its customers
  • Promote energy management best practices and reinforce good energy management behaviours
  • Assist in evaluating and prioritising the implementation of new energy efficient technologies
  • Provide a framework for promoting energy efficiency throughout the supply chain
  • Facilitate energy management improvements for greenhouse gas emission reduction projects
  • Create transparency and facilitate communication on the management of energy resources
  • Allow for more streamlined integration with other organisational management systems such as environmental, and health and safety.

An EnMS framework enables organisations to develop a policy for more efficient use of energy, fix targets and objectives to meet the policy, use data to better understand and make decisions concerning energy use and consumption, measure the results to review the effectiveness of the policy and continually improve energy management. The standard has been designed for implementation by any organisation, whatever its size or activities. Because ISO 50001 does not fix targets for improving energy performance it means that any organisation, regardless of its current mastery of energy management, can implement it to establish a baseline and improve on this at a rate that is appropriate to its context and capacities. ISO 50001 provides customers, suppliers, employees and stakeholders with evidence of an organisation’s commitment to improved energy performance, as well as compliance with applicable laws and regulations. It can be integrated with other management systems, including those related to quality, environment and occupational health and safety.

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