The US-based SGP is expanding its sustainability certification programme into Europe and is looking for participants in its pilot project. Should you get on board?
How do you validate sustainability? While there are eco-logos, partnerships, community groups and award programs that help UK printers demonstrate their sustainable practice there is yet to be a print industry specific, full-facility certification available to UK printers.
Well, in May, the US-based Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP) - a NGO dedicated to certifying sustainability in printing and supplier facilities -announced it would be bringing its sustainable certification programme to the UK as a pilot project.
SGP sustainability certification is different from other schemes and programmes being used by the printing industry worldwide.
As its chairman Jonathan Graham points out: “SGP certification encompasses every aspect of a printing facility not just print production. Our criteria basis is a sustainability management system (SMS) adapted specifically by an applicant (print shop) covering the entire business and operation.”
He adds: “While SGP recognises the value of eco-labels for materials - like the Antalis and FSC programmes and the environmentally focused ISO 14001 management system - only the SGP criteria covers the full facility and the three areas of sustainability - people, planet and profit.”
The SGP is an all-volunteer organisation. Its management team comprises leaders in companies supporting a more sustainable future for the printing industry, and sponsors include 3M. Since 2008, SGP certification has been driving sustainable in the North American printing industry. With its SMS and annual improvement projects, SGP certified facilities are widely recognised as industry leaders in providing sustainable printing and trusted by major brand by having independent validation of their claims to be part of a sustainable supply chain.
Until 2020, PSP applicants for SGP certification - and recertifying PSPs - had an onsite audit with an independent auditor, but for over a year now the SGP has been holding audits virtually. Using these virtual audits (paid for my the PSP being audited), the NGO can expand its sustainability certification internationally, allowing printers and industry suppliers worldwide to achieve SGP certification.
“In 2018, the SGP released the SGP Impact Tracker data tool, which helps SGP certified printers certify and recertify by monitoring sustainability performance over time and benchmarking efforts against an aggregate of other facilities. With enhancements, the Tracker provided a virtual audit solution for the current global situation,” explains Wendy Nadan, SGP lead auditor.
“The new features of the Impact Tracker inspired us to rethink how we could extend the SGP certification outside of North America. From the initial certification planning meeting to the completion of document review including photographic evidence, all can be accomplished virtually with the local sustainability team. Each facility can meet the expectations of the audit as if an SGP auditor were physically on-site.”
Graham says that the SGP “will select a few international printers who are willing to commit to the rigorous SGP certification process,” explaining that “the SGP website certification page (http://sgppartnership.org/certification/) gives info on what the certification process can be. It is essential that a full-time person lead the process along with managing a local sustainability committee - and we advise a minimum six-month commitment. If a company has gone through an environmental scheme like ISO 14001, it should help reduce the time and planning to develop a comprehensive, facility-wide sustainability management system.”
The SGP certification pilot programme will be launched in October 2021 with the next revision of the SGP certification criteria, which is adopted after a public review process every five years. More programme details, including the application for pilot testing will be released this month (August) and at the time of going to press Graham says there are several interested printers in Europe and Asia.
Get with the programme
Any printer in the world can follow the SGP sustainability criteria. You can use the SGP criteria available to the public at http://sgppartnership.org/sgppwordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/2016-SGP-Certification-Criteria.pdf
While it is easier to have an SGP independent auditor issue SGP certification, print facilities can self-declare they meet the SGP sustainability criteria - then it is up to the printer to document/validate their claim to brands and customer looking to improve their sustainable supply chain.