FSC and SFI Certification: Navigating the World of “Green” Printing

Video Creative Producer
Published 3/5/13
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This post is part four of a five-part series Miles is publishing every Tuesday, through March 12, 2013, to help make your next print project a green one. To read the complete series, start here: Navigating the World of Green Printing. You can’t talk about greener printing without throwing around the acronyms FSC and SFI. But, what are you really buying into when selecting an FSC sheet or FSC certified printer?

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an independent, non-government based entity that promotes environmentally sound and responsible forestry. By sourcing timber from responsibly managed forests, the FSC believes it will help maintain the health of the world’s forests for future generations. FSC-certified paper is rigorously monitored through every step of the paper and print making process and only publications printed 100% on FSC papers can carry the official logo. fsclogoFSC-monitored forests must adhere to a long list of standards and regulations that oversee a number of different attributes. For instance, the source of the trees—no rare forests, old-growth forests, protected forests or forests that serve as home to indigenous peoples. The environmental impact of forestry to the surrounding region is closely watched. Water and soil pollution is monitored along with limits on clear-cutting and the kinds of allowable chemicals used to process the wood. Even the compliance of industry partners is monitored—manufacturers who utilize the end product must also carry FSC certification—extending the chain of custody. Chain-of-custody-certification is required for printers who wish to offer FSC papers as an option to their customers. They must demonstrate compliance with all relevant procurement policy standards of operation, policies that outline everything from how the paper is stored to how the paper will be used in printing. Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) is a non-profit organization that manages the world’s largest single forest certification standard. Similar to FSC standards, the SFI Standard is based on sustainable forestry practices and conservation. Forests that wish to become certified must be audited and meet minimum standards regarding sustainable harvest levels, protection of native habitats, water and soil quality, reforestation, visual quality and protection of rights for native inhabitants. Printers must be SFI certified to use SFI stock, however, the rules regarding mixing of SFI and non-SFI stocks are less strict than for FSC-certified papers. The majority of paper used in the printing must be SFI-certified in order for the publication to be allowed to carry the SFI logo.