Laurel Brunner: Not Quite Hobson’s Choice

laurel_templatedEnvironmental management is something all businesses should bother with, but it’s such a wooly term. In a way it has to be vague because it means running your business to have the least negative environmental impact possible, and how do you define that? If you’re in the mining business your challenges will be rather different than if you are a florist. The graphic arts industry has equivalent extremes, from gravure printing that has to deal with very nasty chemicals, to digitally printing documents on demand, the producers of which give chemicals and their disposal barely a second thought. Environmental management in all cases is necessary and useful. Fortunately there are only two options we consider relevant for all graphic arts situations.

These are the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), developed by the European Commission and ISO 14001, the Environmental Management System standard. In many ways they are similar but both are established and recognised, with uptake across all manner of industries.

EMAS has been around for several years and is designed to help companies go beyond the bare minimum of legal compliance. It has much in common with ISO 14001, but has additional focus on legal compliance and getting people involved in environmental performance improvement. Like ISO 14001 it requires external validation of a company’s management system, however because ISO 14001 is an ISO standard, it tends to have more international credibility than EMAS.

Environmental management is increasingly important in many industries, although it has to be said that printing and publishing companies aren’t a big part of this cohort. But for printers especially, it’s a mistake to overlook the benefits environmental management systems can bring. Not least is the business efficiency improvements that come out of improved resource management. There is also the benefit of having a coherent environmental impact management structure for customer relations and supply chain management.

Choosing EMAS or ISO 14001 is a matter of what works best for the business. ISO 14001 is considered a stepping stone for EMAS so that there is no duplication of effort, if you already have ISO 14001 and want to gain EMAS certification. The main difference between the two is that EMAS tends to go a bit further in some areas such as legal compliance. There is also a heavier emphasis on performance improvement which is evaluated with an annual performance audit. ISO 14001 is more concerned to see improvements to the system itself, and that the company complies with the law but there is no specific legal compliance audit. Also ISO 14001 doesn’t include anything about public dialogue, unlike EMAS which requires open dialogue. The question isn’t really which of the two to choose, but when to make your choice. Sooner is better than later.

Rob van den Braak

Printer’s devil (1964), phototypesetter, offsetprinter, teacher of graphic techniques, salesmanager, productmanager, trade journalist, founder of BlokBoek e-zine (2011). But above all husband, father, friend and lover of life in southern Spain (since 2010).

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