Environmental systems and tools (SCO 256)
Benefits of environmental management | Environmental management systems | Eco-labels | Other environmental and related tools

This part explains what environmental tools and systems a printer can use. You will learn about environmental management system, life-cycle assessment and environmental labels, and how these can be used to facilitate management, operations and marketing.


Benefits of environmental management

The idea behind environmental management is to apply specific procedures, standards and criteria to improve the environmental performance of a company. This can be related to production processes, materials, products and services.

It is commonly believed that environmentally friendly activities are more expensive than the normal ones. Evidence from the printing industry proves this belief wrong. In many case, making an environmental investment or moving to a less-polluting production process actually saves money in the long run. The savings can be related to lower energy and materials consumption, lower amount of materials waste, lower waste fees etc.

There are also additional benefits:

  • working conditions are often improved, and employees are more satisfied
  • interaction with environmental authorities may become easier
  • improved company image can bring new customers
  • customers may be willing to pay higher prices for environmentally friendly products

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Environmental management systems

Many large printing companies are using EMSs (environmental management systems). The most common of these is based on the ISO 14001 environmental management system standard. The other system, EMAS, is more extensive, and uses ISO 14001 as one component.

ISO 14001

ISO 14001 requires companies to establish an organisation for environmental management and to organise its operations according to specified principles and practices. Figure 1 shows the cyclical form of ISO 14001 operation.


Figure 1. Operation of ISO 14001-based EMS is cyclical, and leads to continuous improvent of the environmental management.

ISO 14001 requirements include product planning, production processes, materials usage, waste management and other environmentally important issues. It specifies what kind of documentation the company should have to plan, carry out and report its environmental performance. When a company has established an EMS which fulfils the requirements of ISO 14001, it can apply for a certificate. An accredited certification company assesses the documentation and the practical application of the system, and grants a certificate if the requirements are met.

More information available at the ISO website: http://www.iso.org/iso/en/iso9000-14000/iso14000/iso14000index.html



Figure 2. EMAS-registered organizations can use the logo in their communication.

EMAS (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme) of the European Union is designed to help companies further develop their environmental activities. The steps in applying EMAS are shown below.


Figure 3. EMAS operates like ISO 14001, but includes additional steps like the initial review and the statement.

The environmental system specified in EMAS should be built according to ISO 14001. EMAS operates in a similar cyclical way. Environmental plans are implemented, the results are assessed in the environmental audit, and corrective actions eliminate environmental problems one by one.

An additional feature of EMAS is the required environmental statement. The company should publish the statement every two or three years, and it must be verified by an accredited third party.

Companies that fulfil the EMAS requirements can be registered by the EU, and will have right to use the EMAS logo in their public communication (not on products).

For more information, go to http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/emas/index_en.htm

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A printer can apply for an eco-label to show that its products are environment-friendly. Strict criteria must be fulfilled before the right to use the label is given.


Figure 4. The EU eco-label (left) and Nordic swan-label (right).

The EU Eco-label

The EU eco-label or the Flower label covers many product groups. Criteria for new product groups are constantly being developed. More: http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/ecolabel/index_en.htm.

Eco-label criteria for printed products is under development. The first version should be published in the end of 2005. The draft documents can be found at http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/ecolabel/product/pg_printedpaper_en.htm.

The Nordic environmental label

The so-called Swan label or Nordic environmental label is popular in many product groups. More information can be found at the Swedish website.

The Swan label for printed products has established itself among the Nording printing companies. There are different criteria for different printing methods. The criteria is available as a pdf file in English here.

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Other environmental and related tools

There a various other management systems and tools that deal with environmental issues or include some environmental aspects.


Life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a tool that is used to estimate the total environmental impact of a product - from cradle to grave. It requires thorough knowledge of the environmental implications at every step of the production chain.

For printed products, LCA evaluates the wood harvesting, pulping and papermaking, printing and finishing, use of printed products, and recycling or disposal. An important factor is transportation, which takes place in many stages along the life-cycle. LCAs are complicated processes, and are often carried out by research institutions, using special computer software.

Charter for Sustainable Development

International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has established a Charter for Sustainable Development. Many member companies have included the charter in their commitment for environmental development. The Charter can be found at the ICC website (click here).

Occupational health and safety

OHSAS (occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series) is an international occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS) specification. It comprises two parts, 18001 and 18002. It is intended to assist in managing and controlling operations of organizations that operate in fields where health and safety risks exist. It was developed in response to an increasing demand for a recognized standard against which to be certified and assessed. More: http://www.ohsas-18001-occupational-health-and-safety.com/

Responsible Care

Responsible Care (RC) is the initiative of the chemical industry to improve working conditions, risks and environmental impact of companies producing and using industrial chemicals. More: http://www.chemind.fi/english/future/rc.html


HACCP (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points) is a process used in the food processing and manufacturing industry to minimize risks related to contamination. It also applies to foodstuffs packaging and printing sectors.

Social accountability

SA8000, the social accountability standard, is a way for retailers, brand companies, suppliers and other organizations to maintain just and decent working conditions throughout the supply chain. It is administered by Social Accountability International (SAI). Among other issues, SA8000 requires decent working conditions and fair treatment of employees, and forbids the use of child labour. More: http://www.cepaa.org/

Integrated management systems

Many organizations need to implement two or more management systems. For example, a printing ink manufacturer often needs to have QMS, EMS and OHSMS. Since there are similarities between the standards, it is possible to integrate the systems, at least for the most parts. The updated versions of the ISO quality and environmental standards, ISO 9001:2000 and ISO 14001:2000, have been harmonized partly just for this purpose.


A printing company can apply various environmental tools and systems to improve its operations, products and image. Implementation and usage of these tools require some effort and investment, but can in the long run benefit the company in many ways. The most important benefits are better image in the market and a more systematic development of environmental issues.


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