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The SFI Certification Option

Another choice for print providers looking for chain-of-custody certification.



In today’s finicky, options-driven society, it should come as no surprise that when it comes to certification highlighting your company’s commitment to sustainability, there are options out there. The Sustainable Green Partnership (SGP) is one such example, which is print-centric and has been developed specifically for this market. Another option is to take advantage of the forestry-related chain-of-custody certifications, which ensure that the paper used in printed products come from forest-friendly and certified suppliers.

We reported on one of these chain-of-custody certifications in our January issue: the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). But be aware that there’s another option for you: the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

SFI ( is similar to other sustainability and chain-of-custody certifications, but SFI is specific to North America, says Jason Metnick, director of market access and product labeling for SFI. He adds that SFI adheres to a single standard that covers its more than 135 million acres of certified forest.“SFI gives the print company another option for chain-of-custody certification,” says Metnick. “Another option for the company in communicating to its customers its commitment to using responsibly sourced forest products.”

And, he reports, SFI chain-of-custody certification is on the increase in the printing industry. SFI chain-of-custody-certified print providers totaled only about 15 in 2007, he says, but two years later that number has grown to nearly 500. This not only indicates the growing importance of sustainability and chain-of-custody certification for print providers, but also shows their willingness to pay for (and go through) the requisite certification process.

Road to certification
There are several guidelines a company needs to follow in order to prepare for its initial SFI chain-of-custody certification audit. The company must have processes in place to track the source of its raw materials, such as inventory control, employee training, reporting, and invoicing.

“The preparation up to that day was very intense,” says Karen Wolz, general manager for Franklin Park, Illinois-based Tukaiz, which is certified with SFI and has both wide-format and narrow-format digital and offset technologies in-house. “You must be sure you have company-wide commitment. It’s an investment in time and personnel. You have to make sure your workflow is in order, make sure your employees are trained. You want to have everything in place, so you know up front that you are compliant.”


Once a company has readied itself for the initial audit, “SFI chain-of-custody certification typically only takes a half day to a day,” Metnick explains. “It’s more of an accounting-type audit that shows, ‘Here are my suppliers and here is the documentation.’”
Cost of the initial audit varies depending on the third-party auditor chosen, Metnick says, but is around $2000 to $3000 with recertification every five years. There’s also a price concession for multi-site companies, Metnick adds. The SFI website currently lists eight third-party certifiers/auditors in North America. A full explanation of the guidelines and criteria, including a list of third-party auditors, can be found on SFI’s website.

Cost vs. value
It’s difficult to assign a dollar figure to the value of obtaining one or multiple sustainability certifications, much to the chagrin of those accounting types. Will certification translate into an immediate boom in clients and profits? Probably not. But it can only help. “[Increased business] hasn’t been huge,” Wolz says, “but it has helped us get work we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. We at least have the opportunity to bid.”

Most of Tukaiz’s chain-of-custody certification comes into play in non-wide-format areas. “Most large-format printing material, such as plastics or fabrics, is unable to be certified,” Wolz says. “Most of our SFI-certified work is in offset and digital-variable [printing].” But Wolz still suggests getting the certification, “To be ahead of the curve, sure,” she says. “But projects in large format aren’t as common right now.”

Getting ahead of the curve is on an increasing number of companies’ agendas, and environmental responsibility certifications are only going to increase, “which speaks to the overall demand that customers, up and down the supply chain, are asking for these certification programs [from their supplier],” Metnick concludes. And whether it’s through SFI or another certification body, print providers have several options when seeking chain-of-custody certification.





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