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Does the Printing Industry Association have a Position on the Carbon Neutral initiative?

Posted Wednesday, June 11, 2014 by Jules VanSant.

Does the Printing Industry Association have a Position on the Carbon Neutral initiative?
Posted on June 11, 2014 by ppiadmin


A member emailed me the other day with the following question:

Does the printing trade association(s) have a position on the Carbon Neutral initiative? It appears some printers are claiming “Carbon Neutral” and we were just wondering the validity of that claim since some sources call it a “Carbon Neutral scheme”.

The following reply is courtesy of Gary Jones, Assistant Vice President, EHS Affairs at Printing Industries of America (PIA) — PPI Association’s National Advocacy Partner


In response to the question, we don’t have a formal position on companies going “Carbon Neutral”. In looking at the question, it is more directed at validating claims of carbon neutrality and how this occurs. There are two approaches, the first would be a self-declared statements by companies. The second is an independent certification where an objective third party performs an audit of a company’s operation to confirm the claim. Of course first party claims have very little creditability and third party certifications have the most amount of creditability. Regardless of the approach, any declaration involving a green claim must meet the general requirements set out under the FTC’s Green Guides. Here is a link to the revised guidelines – CLICK HERE.

The FTC did not directly address carbon offsets for end users, but did specifically put those who market them on notice that marketers of them need to have competent and reliable scientific evidence to support their carbon offset claims, including using appropriate accounting methods to ensure they are properly quantifying emission reductions and not selling those reductions more than once.3GF-and-State-of-Green-Tour-007

In addition, the green guides addressed specific claims such as certifications, free of claims, compostability, nontoxic claims, etc. Also, they strengthened their position on general claims by clearly stating that all claims have to be qualified and that unqualified general environmental benefit claims are not acceptable because ‘‘it is highly unlikely that marketers can substantiate all reasonable interpretations of these claims.’’ A great example of this would be a claim made by a printing company that they used “recycled paper” to produce a specific job. This type of claim is no longer acceptable as the company would now have to say that the paper had “x% post- consumer and Y% of pre-consumer” recycled fiber content.

So if we apply these same principles to a Carbon Neutral claim, the very first question that needs to be asked is what is the scope of the claim? Is the claim for a specific product or is it for the entire operation? In either case, the company making the claim needs to clearly define the elements that are being addressed in the claim. For example, if it is for a job are they taking into account the carbon in the manufacturing of the product (file preparation, prepress, press, post press, warehousing, transportation) and the input materials including ink, substrate, coating, adhesive, other finishing materials? If it is for the facility, are they taking into account the Scope I (direct emissions), Scope II (indirect emissions such as that from purchased electricity), and Scope III (both direct and indirect such as employee commuting, business transportation, purchased goods and services, capital goods, etc.)?

carbon_paybackThe other part of the claim is how is the company substantiating how they are offsetting the emissions? What is the basis for how they are making the claim? For example, are they planting trees or investing in a windmill? Planting trees is a bit shaky in my opinion as there is no guarantee the trees will survive and grow to some level of maturity to account for all of the carbon they will absorb during their life. Windmills are much more predictable and the amount of carbon reduced easily quantified. There are other legitimate projects than windmills, but they are a great example of a good project.I am aware of some companies that have set up on-line calculators for printing operations and they put in some information about the job and they get some type of answer from it. I have spoken to several of them to find out what data they are using for their calculations and I keep getting relatively vague answers. Much of the data seems to come from Europe and they don’t want to reveal their sources. There are some creditable organizations that do provide this service, but the ones that I am leery about are the ones that provide a calculation and sell you offsets. Source:

The bottom line is that any company wanting to make any green claim needs to make sure that they are very clear in the scope and nature of the claim, be able to provide supporting documentation for the claim, and be completely transparent about the claim. Even if they receive a third-party certification, they need to be able to demonstrate that the third party is a legitimate certification body. FTA’s Green Guides do address criteria for certification bodies and they issued them because of number of questionable third party organizations in the marketplace. Therefore, if a company is going to use one of these bodies, they need to do their homework and due diligence to ensure the organization is legitimate.

frog49Companies that do not take the time or exert the effort to ensure their green claims are at a legitimate risk an enforcement action by the FTC. The FTC has taken action over the past year or so and has fined companies for making unsubstantiated green claims. In addition, they risk losing creditability in the marketplace and there are plenty of NGOs who are more than willing to pounce on companies that are not being legitimate in their marketing efforts.

Gary can be contacted at: |