Preparing for LabelExpo, the next big trade show in the graphic arts, one wonders when there will be a label expo that is all about certification labels, especially environmental ones. There are just so many of the blighters. It seems their proliferation these days is mostly about money and capitalising on different market needs. Apparently even the FSC logo costs, if a company wants to use it once achieving certification.
Labels are a money spinner there is no doubt, but some are obligatory requirements for instance energy stickers on cars and appliances. The graphic arts industry is thankfully not yet required to put a green sticker on a press or on printed documents, but that day could come, particularly if the industry does not demonstrate an independent commitment to improving environmental impacts.
In the meantime there are plenty of options for printers and print buyers, but how to decide which labels to go for? Do they opt for ones that consumers recognise, such as FSC or the US Energy Star label? Or do they go for the things other businesses seem to favour in their region, such as the Nordic Swan in Scandinavia, the Blue Angel in Germany or the EcoMark in India? Perhaps a sector specific label is the way to go, like farmers and winegrowers have? We have spoken to a number of sector specific label providers and curiously few include the associated print, for instance the packaging or product labels, in their certification scopes.
With so many possibilities it is easy to forget that the point of environmental labels is to provide some validation of sustainability measurement. This basically means that the environmental management system for a product, company, service or whatever, meets the criteria laid out in the certification scheme for a given label. The label is thus a stamp of approval, confirmation that the thing bearing it is up to the mark, literally. The difficulty is that there are so many labels and logos that it is very hard to assess their relative values, either to the company undergoing certification or to that company’s target audience. It is particularly confusing in the printing and publishing industries because print is so often invisible: a component of a product rather than an independent product.
The question of which label to choose, deciding which is best or has the longest legs in terms of marketing value, is tricky. Go for one that is easy to comply with and it may be of limited worth to end customers. Choose a really tough option and it could cost a fortune. The choice probably lies somewhere in between, but at least there are plenty of options.
– Laurel Brunner
Verdigris supporters who make the blog possible: Agfa Graphics (www.agfa.com), Digital Dots (www.digitaldots.org), drupa (www.drupa.com), EFI (www.efi.com), EcoPrint (www.ecoprintshow.com), Fespa (www.fespa.com), Heidelberg (www.uk.heidelberg.com), HP (www.hp.com), Kodak (www.kodak.com/go/sustainability), Pragati Offset (www.pragati.com), Ricoh (www.ricoh.com), Unity Publishing (http://unity-publishing.co.uk) and Xeikon (www.xeikon.com)