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Certified Papers: Taking Advantage of Business Opportunities

Are you familiar with certified papers? If not, then it is high time because these papers do not just protect the environment, they also offer print shops lucrative business opportunities. Erich Clef-Prahm, responsible for corporate communication at Papier Union, the first German paper distributer to be certified in 2004, explains this in more  detail.

Mr. Clef-Prahm, what exactly are certified papers?
The wood that is used to manufacture the papers stems from forests farmed in a sustainable and socially acceptable manner. So, for example, they come from forests that are reforested. The intention is to put a stop to illegal felling, such as in nature reserves, as well as stop the worldwide decline of natural forest habitats that are ecologically very valuable.

And how does this work?
Within the framework of certification, each individual link in the production and distribution chain is examined and certified according to the sustainability criteria. This so-called Chain of Custody starts at the forests and extends to the saw mill, pulp and paper mill, up to the paper dealer and the print shop. Each one is responsible for making sure that across the entire production flow the sustainability criteria are indeed met and documented. In this way, there is complete and uninterrupted transparency from the tree to the paper machine to the finished print product. Thus, only print products manufactured exclusively from certified paper may carry a certification logo. For print shops, this means that they can't "mix in" any uncertified paper in case of shortages, if, for example, a print order increases its run size.
Do certified papers differ from others in processing?
No. The certificate has nothing to do with the quality, suitability or print characteristics of a paper. The same types of paper can be on the market both uncertified as well as certified.

Why is certification worthwhile for print shops?
Certification is valuable because of the increasing demand, particularly from large companies such as Deutsche Bank and the publishing group Random House. They are increasingly proactive when it comes to the environment, in part because of pressure from the public. They want to project this dedication outwards to improve their image through business reports or brochures, for example. These companies therefore place a lot of importance on having print products that carry the certification logo. As I said, however, the commissioned print shop needs to be certified. Otherwise the certification logo may not be used. This factor is often overlooked.

And how exactly can I profit as a print shop?
For example, by positioning yourself as a business which is actively dedicated to protecting the environment. In addition, the certification is not yet very widespread. In Germany, for example, there are currently only around 100 certified print shops. This of course opens up the possibility of intentionally employing the certification in marketing to distinguish oneself from the competition. One print shop I know won new customers by printing a book of samples exclusively with certified papers. They sent this book to businesses that value environmental protection. Either they knew the business or found out about environmental priorities through research on the Internet. Here, even small print shops have the chance to do business with large companies, especially when they address advertising agencies that have never dealt with certified papers or have done so only tentatively.

What do I have to do to gain certification?
You have to invest a certain amount of time and money in training. In addition, business processes have to be adjusted as well as documented precisely. This is because the flow of the paper through the operation has to be traceable at all times.
Which organization certifies print shops?
Organizations authorized by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) certify print shops. These include TÜV-Nord or GFA in Hamburg, Germany. Both organizations operate worldwide and vary only slightly. The paper selection with PEFC certification is much larger than that with FSC certification because more forests are currently PEFC-certified.

Which system do you recommend?
It is best to be certified with both systems, the FSC and PEFC. Otherwise, there's the danger that a customer wants certified paper from the other system. Another reason is costs. Since the beginning of this year, certification by both is offered as a package. This costs less than two individual certifications and saves you time.

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