Is Carbon Balanced Paper here to stay?

Richard Stuart-Turner
Monday, January 11, 2016

Carbon Balanced Paper was reintroduced in the UK last month amid hopes that the scheme will be more successful this time around.

The initiative, which dates back to 2008, was previously tied to Paperlinx, and was brought to a swift halt last year when most of the company’s UK operations fell into administration.

Following a nine-month absence it was relaunched by CarbonCO and international conservation charity World Land Trust.

Carbon Balanced Paper is now available from a wider choice of paper partners, namely Antalis UK, Denmaur Independent Papers and Fedrigoni UK.

The average carbon impact for paper production is balanced, or offset, by the World Land Trust through the purchase and preservation of ecologically important forestry under imminent threat of clearance. This locks up carbon that would otherwise be released.

During its initial phase prior to the relaunch, more than 350 printers in the UK had registered 12,000 individual carbon balanced print jobs on behalf of 2,500 different brands and organisations.

Eleven printers have already become Carbon Balanced Paper certified, meaning that they measure and offset their footprint during production, but CarbonCO says any printer can use Carbon Balanced Paper for any job.

Despite the nine-month absence, CarbonCO director Jonathan Tame is confident the initiative will recreate its previous success.

“I would hope that we would be back to similar numbers of printers using Carbon Balanced Paper on a regular basis; 300 or more within a very short period of time,” he says.

“In terms of printers who understand the opportunities and benefits of becoming certified, I would like and expect us to be able to double our current figure of 11 within the next six months.”

Tame says the initiative is an inexpensive and easy way for printers to both attract new eco-savvy clients and to add value for existing ones.

“It isn’t complicated or expensive and it’s a very simple way for printers to help their customers reduce their carbon emissions,” he adds.

“It shows their environmental responsibility, which is important, but it’s also all about showing what they can do for their customers beyond printing a nice job.”

Big users of Carbon Balanced Paper have traditionally included local government, banks, insurance companies and the automotive and retail sectors, which Tame says are generally more focused on their corporate responsibilities than organisations in manufacturing.

Like many of the other printers that are Carbon Balanced Paper certified, Birmingham-based Pinstripe Print Group also holds PEFC, FSC and ISO 14001 environmental certification standards.

“Not only do standards say something about a business, they drive good business process, drive down cost, instil disciplines and differentiate you from the competition,” says managing director Nigel Lyon.

“It has helped our corporate social responsibility credentials but, probably more importantly, it has become central to our ISO 14001 standard. It also makes us feel a little better – that we are doing our bit.”

Clear benefits

Wimbledon-based Curtis Packaging has also become certified. Managing director James Williams says the initiative has clear benefits.

“The World Land Trust policy of purchasing critically threatened forests is clear and simple for me to understand and it is easy for us to communicate the positive message to our customers and in turn get them to join in for relatively small financial contributions.”

Bath-based print and mail specialist CFH Docmail does not currently use Carbon Balanced Paper but managing director Dave Broadway says the firm favours anything that will genuinely benefit the environment.

“We already offset by tree planting with the Woodland Trust in the UK. With that route we can actually go and walk in the new woods that we have planted,” says Broadway.

“We have just about reached 100,000 trees planted through our Toptree Initiative and have a wood named after us – the Toptree Wood near Burton on Trent – a wood that didn’t exist when we started.”

But not everybody has been won over by carbon offsetting. Shaftesbury-based printer Blackmore has PEFC, FSC and ISO 14001 standards but has no plans to use Carbon Balanced Paper.

“We’re not a great believer in carbon offsetting, all it does is move the problem elsewhere in the world so we remain to be convinced that it’s the most sensible way forward on that kind of thing,” says director of sales and marketing David Bland.

“It also costs money so there is a knock-on cost to the business of going down that particular route, which you’ve either got to absorb or pass on to customers, and you’re at a disadvantage in either case.”

But Tame is confident that Carbon Balanced Paper will prosper.

“Previously, when this was a Paperlinx initiative, it was not overly printer-centric, in that they could only access products from Paperlinx group companies. Therefore there was quite some risk, as was quite clear when Paperlinx went into administration.

“This is much more open now for the print community to use and be comfortable and confident, with lower risk.”

But he adds that CarbonCO’s new paper partners need to do some legwork to ensure its success.

“We’re relying on our partners to communicate the benefits to printers of measuring and balancing their operational footprint,” says Tame.

“CarbonCO are limited by the number of people we’ve got and we don’t have the direct printer relationships, which is why having paper partners on board is really important.”

Tame concedes that Carbon Balanced Paper has got to rebuild its brand awareness, but is confident the initiative is now here to stay.

“Now it isn’t limited to one merchant outlet, it makes itself far more attractive to a much wider range of printers.” 

Carbon Balanced Paper certified printers 

Banbury Litho Banbury, Oxfordshire

Barnwell Print Norwich, Norfolk

Crossprint Newport, Isle of Wight

Curtis Packaging Wimbledon,  London

Healeys Print Group Ipswich, Suffolk

Kingfisher Press Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

NB Colour Print Chorley, Lancashire

Pinstripe Print Group Birmingham, West Midlands

Potts Print Cramlington, Northumberland

Resource Leeds, West Yorkshire

The Print Academy Bradford, West Yorkshire

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