Friday, February 06, 2015
SGP Spreading the Sustainability Word
It’s the little everyday things that add up to potentially negative environmental impacts. One of the world’s most fundamentally important activities is buying and selling goods, commodities and services. It keeps us all busy and of course drives economies. Printing and communications technologies are as vital for business as transport. Our industry is pretty smart when it comes to producing sustainable products that do not have a negative impact on the environment. But we don’t do much to preach the sustainability word to our supply chains, preferring instead to depend on industry associations for collective action. One of the more proactive industry groups is the US based Sustainable Green Printing (SGP) partnership. SGP certifies US printing companies for compliance to its own print specific sustainability standards.
SGP recently joined an influential group working on sustainable purchasing guidance. The Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC) is a group formed specifically to develop a “guidance program for leadership in sustainable purchasing”. This will inevitably include print buying and publishing processes, so it’s great that SGP is representing these sectors. The SPLC’s members include people from US national and regional governments, academia, standards groups and NGOs as well as a range of industries. Some of these are very large such as the World Wildlife Fund, Fedex, UPS, and Asian Pulp and Paper. This is an important initiative for the US which is the world’s largest consumer, purchasing goods and services worth some $15.2 trillion per year, according to the SPLC. The US is also the world’s biggest producer of waste, so anything that can be done to improve it’s environmental footprint is a good thing.
The SPLC objective is to develop standard definitions of what sustainable purchasing actually means and how it is measured and recognised. ISO 16759 for calculating the carbon footprint of print media is an obvious tool here, however the guidelines will also cover actions to improve purchasing processes. This includes switching suppliers or using performance criteria for contract renewals. The guidelines development process involves sharing best practices and experiences, as well as coming up with ideas for how to train people in sustainable purchasing and how to measure and certify compliance. This process has much in common with how ISO standards, which are based on shared knowledge and consensus, are developed.
Acting collectively depends on coordination of diverse interests, but it can be more effective than acting individually, particularly if the goal is to encourage more sustainable purchasing processes. The SPLC’s first step is to define what sustainable purchasing actually means, so that people all along the supply chain understand the term. Despite the tempting vanities of anarchy we should all be taking a closer look at what this group is doing. It is especially important that printing and publishing industry associations do so, perhaps with a view to joining the SPLC.
- Laurel Brunner