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International sustainability standard to be published in 2012

July 8, 2011

Service providers and print buyers will gain a methodology for determining 
the carbon footprint of printed products.

Answering the growing need within the graphic communications industry to address sustainability and the protection of the environment, the International Organization for Standardization Technical Committee 130, Working Group 11 (WG11) is currently working on the development of ISO 16759, Graphic technology – Quantification and communication for calculating the carbon footprint of print media products.

WG11 was created to develop a set of international standards that address the environmental impact of printed products. ISO 16759, being written for prepress, printers, print service providers, content publishers and other media companies, is on track for publication in 2012.

NPES, the Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies, administers WG11 and coordinates the activities of the US-based representatives. Actively involved in the development of this standard are experts from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, China, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and United States, representing a broad range of the industry’s leading printers, manufacturers, and other industry stakeholders. The development of this international standard represents a significant cooperative effort to provide an international framework to create sector-specific carbon calculators.

“When it comes to sustainability, printers and their customers want a formal framework against which print media products can be measured and the results certified,” says Laurel Brunner, managing director of Digital Dots and convenor of WG11. “Printers want to be able to confirm to their customers that the carbon footprint for the print they produce complies with an international standard. And print buyers want the assurance that a printer’s calculations are transparent, clear and comparable across sectors and geographies.”

Unlike other areas of the graphic arts, there are no international standards that provide specific information regarding carbon impact reduction. Without a standard, the printing industry has no means of capturing, reporting and tracking its carbon footprint, says NPES. ISO 16759 will provide a framework for carbon calculators, enabling the creation of tools specific to a given industry sector. Tools that are created following the methodology outlined within this standard will allow the printing industry to track progress internationally in the reduction of the carbon footprint of media products.

Using ISO 16759-compliant carbon calculators, print buyers worldwide will be able to compare the footprints of different production processes. The basis on which the carbon footprint of a given print media product is calculated can be defined by each individual user. Using an inventory of the various production processes used to provide a given piece of print, the carbon impact for each stage in the workflow may be determined. Substrates, inks and other consumables used are included as well as transport, laminating and ambient environmental factors such as lighting or heat with a goal toward calculating a carbon footprint for each stage in the inventory.

NPES is a US trade association representing more than 400 companies that manufacture and distribute equipment, software and supplies used across the workflow of nearly every printing, publishing and converting process.