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29.09.2014 11:25:02

Product Environmental Footprint from the European Commission

The European Commission is forging ahead with its plans to develop its own Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and Corporate Environmental Footprint (CEF) rules. This must be costing taxpayers a bomb, but it’s proceeding even though the need is questionable. The EU is ignoring existing and proven specifications such as PAS 2050 and ISO TS 14067 for product carbon footprinting and of course ISO 16759, which is carbon footprinting specific to print media. The EU’s also ignoring its own EcoLabel, which like the PEF and CEF is more a guideline than a formal regulatory requirement.
Product Environmental Footprint from the European Commission

The EcoLabel has been around for a couple of years and is gaining momentum in the market. Nonetheless the PEF and CEF rules are being tested in a series of pilot projects, most of which have been proposed by European companies, including some 40% coming from multinational businesses. A handful of proposals have come from domestic companies based outside of Europe: Australia, New Zealand, Sir Lanka and Tunisia. Most of the applications are from large businesses, but 28% are from trade associations.

And this is where the whole thing goes from reasonably interesting to rather depressing. Not a single proposal for a pilot study has been submitted by a printing or publishing industry association. As far as we can see no printing or publishing organisations are involved in the pilot testing. Given the sustainability of print media this is surprising, especially since printers are getting more and more environmentally savvy. Those with foresight, understand that customers will soon expect some sort of carbon accounting to support their CSR and environmental policies.

A glance at the sectors involved in PEF and CEF pilot testing, suggests that printers really do need to reach out. If you work in the labels and packaging sector, be aware that pilot studies are underway for beer, coffee, wine, canned fruits and vegetables, bottled water, food packaging and all sorts of foods for people and animals.

The obvious candidate to link prospective pilot studies with the relevant EU boffins is Intergraf, the international association of print industry associations. Intergraf has elected not to do this, citing feedback from members and preferring instead to focus on the EU EcoLabel. Perhaps this is sensible; according to Intergraf, some 30 companies have received EU Ecolabel certifications for printed paper. The Confederation of European Paper Industries is involved with the PEF, but only because they managed to persuade the EC to finance a pilot project for paper. Stationery, envelopes and copy papers are not in scope, nor are printed products. The consanguinity of the EU EcoLabel and PEF has created a muddled mess, conflicted and ineffective. Isn’t it time for all interests to talk to each other, share resources and work towards a common goal: the environmental and commercial sustainability of media?

– Laurel Brunner

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