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Gail Nickel-Kailing, managing director of Business Strategies Etc.

Shades of Green

By Gail Nickel-Kailing

About Gail

A business adviser and problem solver, Gail is managing director of Business Strategies Etc., which provides strategic marketing and business planning services and manages the execution of marketing communications tactics that help companies:
• Define their sustainability strategies,
• Deliver a positive, sustainable image,
• Gain credibility, trust and respect, and
• Measure the results of their green initiatives and actions.

Gail is a nationally recognized speaker on a wide range of subjects and brings enthusiasm and a unique blend of experience to the podium. As an industry analyst and journalist contributing to publications in the United States, Canada, India and Brazil, she has covered a number of beats, particularly sustainability in printing and mailing, print on demand, variable data printing and direct mail.

You Say You’re a Green Printer?

There’s been a lot of chatter around the Interwebs about a new program—certification by the Environmentally Friendly Printers Association (EFPA)—that purports to go “beyond forestry management and focus on environmentally friendly printing practices.”

Rather than talk about the pros and cons of this particular certification, as many folks have done just that over the last week or so, perhaps it makes more sense to look at exactly what kinds of certifications are out there, and what they actually mean.

The most comprehensive type of certification program looks at more than a process or product, it examines the entire business and its affects.

B Corporation
A “Benefit Corporation” or B Corporation certification measures companies for the benefits they provide society, the environment, their employees and their customers, not just for the benefits they provide their investors.

B Corps. must:

• Meet comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards.

• Meet higher legal accountability standards.

• Build business constituency for good business.

A company is not only measured on how it does business, but what kind of effects its products and services have on employees, customers and the environment.

The certification/audit process looks at the building, business processes, operational activities and product lifecycle, as well as employee, community and customer relationships.

For more information:

Sustainable Green Printer
The Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGPP) provides an industry-specific certification—Sustainable Green Printer (SGP)—that was established to “encourage and promote participation in the worldwide movement to reduce the environmental impact and increase social responsibility of the print and graphic communications industry through sustainable green printing practices.”

Guiding principals for sustainable business, according to the SGPP, are:

• Employ, wherever and whenever possible, materials derived from renewable resources or with low environmental impact, maximizing recycling and recovery efforts with efficient utilization of renewable energy.

• Encourage the adoption of changes within the supply chain by strongly recommending the use of raw materials that do not threaten or harm future generations.

• Educate the customer and ultimate consumer regarding the benefits of a restorative economy.

The SGP certification measures continuous improvement across the plant, the operational processes, and the product(s) produced. The criteria, which are undergoing an update, include a small subsection addressing social and human resource issues. However, the certification does not look beyond compliance with government employment laws to broad benefits to society.

For more information:

Forest Certification and Chain of Custody Certification Programs
In recognition of concerns about the forest crisis in the 1980s in Europe, forest certification programs, such as FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification), were developed—for the most part by non-governmental business, landowner and environmental organizations (NGOs)—in an attempt to harness the power of the private market to encourage compliance with rules.

Companies are certified as to whether their management practices follow specified rules regarding environmental, social and business functions of the forests. Chain-of-Custody programs simply ensure that an “audit trail” exists to guarantee the certified products are being delivered to the consumer/end-user as promised.

These programs certify the documentation and handling of paper, not production or business processes. While certified papers—virgin and recycled—are considered more environmentally friendly, the use of certain inks or finishing applications, such as certain coatings and laminates, can render the final piece not recyclable.

For more information:,,

Limited Certification
Environmentally Friendly Printers Association (efpa) certification program is designed to look at three elements of business and production for printing companies:

• The printer must use paper products with at least 10% post consumer waste content.

• The printer must use environmentally healthy inks, such as water or soy/vegetable based inks.

• The printer must sort and recycle all paper used in the printing process.

The efpa program looks only at the paper and the inks used in production and one operational process, as such it is a much more limited program than other certifications currently in place.

For more information:

Companies that are seeking to position themselves as socially and environmentally responsible must look beyond business as usual or simple “green stamps” designed to impress customers without requiring any systematic change.

While small companies may find the cost of certain certifications to be high, it is not necessary to “collect merit badges” to be recognized as a responsible company.

It’s really a case of taking action—the right action—and being transparent about the results of those actions.

Look at your options; set “stretch goals” to achieve change and improvements reflected by the most respected certification programs, be honest and straightforward, and listen to your customers. They will tell you what it is they need from you.

Resources for Certification/Recognition Programs

Designers Accord
Institute for Sustainable Communication
Bio-derived Renewable Content Certification (for printing inks)

The Living Principles

Rainforest Alliance
EPA Climate Leaders

Guiding Principles of Sustainable Design

Industry Centers:


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