Letters From The Earth

Project LIFE

August 21, 2008

In June I attended Finat's 50th anniversary congress in Paris. To be sure, if you go to enough of these events you realize that many of the presentations are repetitious. However, one presenter that we hear from regularly, Mike Fairley, added a twist to his usual pontification. In his presentation, The Future of Pressure Sensitive Labeling, Mike talked about the significance of environmental issues, reduction of waste, green, sustainability, and the impact that all of these are having on the industry. While he has talked about these subjects before, his Paris talk echoed my preachings of the last several years with much more attention and focus. Subsequently, in a column in another trade publication, Mike talked about the "plethora of initiatives" all aimed at the need to be green, from every part of the supply chain. Indeed, he warned that we may have overkill with so many different initiatives. Green logos, certification, the entire spectrum of sustainability, may be confusing everyone.

During the last several issues of Label & Narrow Web, I, too, have commented on potential confusion in the marketplace. It is challenging enough to run a business. Now we have to address sustainability issues and certifications that one barely understands. What's the difference between FSC, SFI, PEFC, LCA, EBA, and RCA? Of course it is confusing.

In the last paragraph of my July/August column I mentioned that TLMI would introduce a new green initiative at Labelexpo. I was a bit premature. It will most probably be introduced at TLMI's 75th anniversary meeting in October. However, I think it is more than appropriate to outline the initiative with this Labelexpo issue of L&NW, particularly because of Mike's comments and other initiatives that are appearing in the printing industry. I believe that this initiative will reduce confusion and synergize many aspects of environmental excellence for our industry.

Label Initiative For the Environment (LIFE) is a culmination of two years of work by a dedicated, volunteer group of TLMI converter members. Spearheaded by John McDermott, president of Label World USA of Rochester, NY, USA, the LIFE task force recognized the need for direction and definition for best practices in the narrow web print industry. With TLMI board approval, the group worked diligently to develop metrics and standards that would create environmental excellence for our industry. Realizing that the task of formalization for such an undertaking by a volunteer group would be virtually impossible, John requested TLMI board approval for assistance from an outside consultancy. Five Winds International was selected and the result is the creation of the TLMI Environmental Scorecard Reference Manual, which will be available at the October meeting.

I believe our industry needs this specific document. I believe that suppliers and end users need to be on the same page as the converters. LIFE answers the need for specificity in an increasingly complex printing industry. Pressure sensitive labels, produced on narrow web presses, need a standard that addresses clean production technologies, minimization of waste, improvements of water and air pollutants, and the reduction of greenhouse gases, all of which reduce carbon footprint. It is believed by the task force and the TLMI board that this standard will become the global standard of environmental accountability for narrow web print technology. All TLMI members will have access to LIFE certification. It is applicable for large and small converters, as well as large and small suppliers. Once accredited via certification, the logo will earn the recipient a position of respect for environmental excellence, particularly with the end user. Below are some of the bullet points of the program.


In response to the growing expectations from customers and vendors about the impacts of business on society, TLMI has developed a scorecard for assisting members with evaluating and improving their environmental performance. The hope of this effort is to maximize the amount of value members can realize from cost effectively implementing environmental best practices, while also providing incentives and recognition for members who perform exceptionally well.*

In order to ensure rigor in the performance standard, activities, products and services that have a potential impact on the environment, as well as management systems to measure, control, and reduce the impact must all be included. As such, the Scorecard evaluates the four categories of requirements listed below, which are modeled on the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) guidelines:

-    Clean Production
-    Energy and Greenhouse Gas
-    Product Design and Environmentally Preferable Materials
-    Management Practices

Since initial conception, the program evolved into a Scorecard format to maximize transparency, allow members to highlight areas of success, and to allow members and their customers to evaluate performance characteristics that are most relevant to a particular product life cycle or company. The verification process was derived from knowledge of auditing and verification for other industry standards and management systems, such as ISO 14001.

The program was piloted in June 2008 to ensure usefulness and relevance of the work to day-to-day business activities of TLMI members.

Document use

The LIFE program was developed to enable TLMI members to find cost effective ways to help reduce their environmental footprint. As such, the emphasis is on identifying priorities that suit a particular business and its level of commitment to environmental protection, and encouraging continuous improvement. At this time, there are no explicit targets for performance a member must achieve in order to participate. Participants are encouraged to set their own goals that are ambitious but feasible, and to demonstrate continuous improvement on priorities based on regional, market, or business issues.

1.    Self-evaluation
Participants begin by completing the Excel based Scorecard to determine their current level of performance. They place an X in the column that best captures the extent of their involvement in the activity listed in each row. A rating for this level of performance (e.g., No Activity, Acceptable, Good, Better, Best) will automatically update in the Score column.
2.    Determine priority actions
3.    Developing a Formal Program
4.    Measuring Your Performance
5.    Verification

Categories of Standards:
1.0    Clean Production Technologies (Air, water, waste, recycle, office and plant, purchasing, compliance)

I trust that you get the point. The Scorecard is specific in each one of the four categories of requirements. The goal is to earn the seal of LIFE by submitting to third party verification. The task force has a list of auditors that have agreed to certify LIFE requirements for a nominal fee. LIFE does not replace the ISO 14000 environmental standard. However, it does give each TLMI member an opportunity to receive accretion for its own standard of environmental excellence, which I believe will become the standard for our entire industry. LIFE will give a label, a converter, a supplier, an end user, definition. The LIFE seal qualifies environmental excellence.    
Another Letter from the Earth.

* Acknowledgement to TLMI "LIFE" Scorecard

Calvin Frost is chairman of Channeled Resources Group, headquartered in Chicago, the parent company of Maratech International and GMC Coating. His email address is cfrost@channeledresources.com.