Looking at the various available schemes, ISO 14001 will typically require that an environmental policy be in existence within a (packaging or label) company, fully supported by senior management, and available to customers, staff and the public. This policy should set out the company’s compliance with current environmental legislation and also stress a commitment to continuous improvement. Like ISO 9000 before it, the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System requires a periodic audit to be carried out to ensure that it is effective, meets specified goals, and continues to perform in accordance with all the appropriate and relevant legislation, regulations and standards.
The TLMI Label Initiative For the Environment (LIFE) scheme, which was specifically developed for the narrow web printing industry, provides a standard that addresses clean production technologies, minimizes waste, targets improvements in water and air pollutants, and reduces greenhouse gases – all of which reduce the converter’s environmental footprint.
Initially accessible to all TLMI members, the association’s board is looking for LIFE certification to eventually becoming a global standard for environmental accountability for suppliers and converters of all sizes in the narrow web printing sector.
To assist its members in the evaluation and improvement of their environmental performance, TLMI has also developed a scorecard which enables members to evaluate four categories or requirements:
Energy and greenhouse gas
Product design and environmentally preferred materials
These requirements are modeled on the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) guidelines.
The scorecard enables TLMI members and their customers to evaluate performance characteristics that are most relevant to their particular company or product life cycle. The aim is for members to earn the seal of LIFE by submitting to third party verification. The verification process used with the scorecard was developed from auditing and verification from other industry standards and management systems, such as ISO 14001.
Probably the key differences between the ISO 14001 and LIFE certification programs are that some aspects of the latter are much more specific to the label printing industry. Within the ISO scheme converters will document their materials and energy usage, for example, and try to reduce them, although they will not be pushed heavily. LIFE, however, is more of a continuous improvement process, with the converter striving to get better in all aspects of the program. The converter will have to think more about the printing process. In that respect it may be a more acceptable process for some converters to achieve LIFE certification rather than ISO 14001 accreditation. A few now have both.
With the European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), this is a voluntary management tool for companies and other organizations to evaluate, report, and improve their environmental performance. Again based on ISO 14001, the latest revisions to EMAS have included establishing a sectoral approach to promoting best practice in environment management and in extending EMAS to non-EU countries.
The EMAS revision also includes elements to strengthen compliance with environmental legislation and reinforce environmental reporting, as well as using core performance indicators to report on energy efficiency, material efficiency, water, waste, emissions and biodiversity.
Apart from the international and sectoral environmental management and audit schemes mentioned above, there are also sustainability assessment scorecard schemes that have been established by leading brand-owner and retail organizations such as Walmart, Proctor & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson. These schemes are specific to the companies concerned and require their (including label and packaging) suppliers to meet . and continuously improve . their environmental and sustainability performance.
The Walmart Sustainability Supplier Assessment, for example, requires suppliers to complete a total of 15 questions covering energy and climate (with the aim of reducing energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions); materials efficiency (reduction of waste); nature and resources (responsible sourcing of raw materials); and people and community (looking at a vibrant, productive workplace and community). This scheme can work in association with other environmental stewardship and corporate responsibility schemes outlined above that have already been implemented by converters. Indeed, such schemes will ensure that the converter should score well on the Walmart Assessment.
The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) announced the launch of its Supplier Environmental Sustainability Scorecard and rating process to measure and improve the environmental performance of its key suppliers in September 2010. This new scorecard assesses P&G suppliers’ environmental footprint and encourages continued improvement by measuring energy use, water use, waste disposal and greenhouse gas emissions on a yearly basis.
It is hoped that this groundbreaking work by P&G will lay the foundation for an industry standard, and that the scorecard will be ‘open code’ for use by any organization to help promote a working discussion and determine common supply chain evaluation processes across all industries. P&G’s goal in deploying the scorecard is to enhance supply chain collaboration, measure and improve key environmental sustainability indicators, and encourage the sharing of ideas and capabilities to deliver more sustainable products and services for its consumers.
The scorecard is specifically designed to focus on, and encourage, year-on-year improvement . regardless of a supplier’s total size or the current stage of its sustainability program. Roll-out beyond P&G’s key suppliers will be determined once learning from the first phase of deployment has been incorporated. Suppliers will have a full year to prepare their data before the rating can adversely impact their supplier rating with P&G. In the future, P&G will use the scorecard to determine each supplier’s sustainability rating as part of the company’s annual supplier performance measurement process.
The Johnson & Johnson Sustainability Guidelines and scorecard look at issues such as prevention by source reduction, elimination of heavy metals and dangerous substances, making packaging reuseable, maximizing the use of recycled materials, using renewable resources and anticipating and exceeding regulatory requirements. Their aim is to enable Johnson & Johnson to work with suppliers that have the best environmental practices.
Whether the label converter is directed towards an environmental sustainability scorecard approach by a customer such as P&G, Walmart or Johnson & Johnson, or has decided to implement one of the available environmental management systems . such as ISO 14001, LIFE or EMAS . or even wishes to establish its own environmental improvement scheme (as the Spear Group have done through the use of Six Sigma), they will all have key aims in common:
To implement an environmental management system to assess, manage and improve the company’s environmental footprint. In other words, to create an environmental management system;
To determine the key areas where action needs to, and can be, taken in the label plant and to develop cost-effective solutions to reduce the environmental footprint
The use of scorecards, check lists, audits, monitoring systems and perhaps certification, may all be employed depending on the particular scheme or program. So let’s look in more detail at the components of a label converter environmental management system.
IMPLEMENTING AN ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
An environmental management system (EMS) should be part of a label converter’s overall management system and is intended to provide a framework for the continual improvement of the company’s environmental performance . and is ideally integrated with other management systems that may be in use, such as ISO 9000 or Six Sigma.
The environmental management system that is implemented . whichever it may be . will generally include some or all of the following elements:
The writing of an environmental policy statement
Setting out the organizational management structure to implement the policy
Providing information about personnel and job responsibilities
Setting out what the environmental review and planning process will consist of
Developing guidelines on the practices, procedures and processes to be used
Providing information on the resources being made available for developing, implementing, checking and achieving the EMS
Establishing procedures for reviewing, maintaining and improving the environmental management system and policy, plus management reporting
In simplified form this can be seen in the Fig. 2.1..
Figure 2.1 - Shows the process of attaining continual environmental improvement
So let’s examine these stages in a little more detail.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT POLICY
A label converter’s environmental management policy should be a clearly written and concise agreed and documented statement for the company to set out its mission towards the environment in which it operates. It is seen as the first step in the converter’s commitment to sustainability and must be written in such a way as to clearly communicate to all employees, suppliers, customers, and even the consumer and general public.
Figure 2.2 - An example of how a converter’s environmental policy impacts on the company, its personnel, materials suppliers, production processes, its customers and even neighboring buildings, contractors, consumers and the general public
The statement is intended to confirm the company’s commitment to continuous improvement in managing environmental issues, including minimizing waste, reducing its carbon footprint, improving its use and sourcing of raw materials, improving recycling, establishing a clean manufacturing environment, reduction of pollution and emissions and improving the efficiency of energy and water usage.
The policy statement should apply to all of the company’s operations and departments and contain the key commitments that the policy undertakes. All the goals should be able to be measured, achievable, realistic and bound to a timescale. Ideally it should be set out on no more than one sheet of paper.
Once produced and agreed, it needs to be signed by a senior company executive - so demonstrating that it is company policy . and should be reviewed and updated at regular intervals. A guide to a general environmental management policy that a label converter might adopt is set out in Figure 2.3 and repeated at the end of the chapter again for quick reference.
Figure 2.3 - General environmental management principles by which a converter may choose to operate
The agreed Environmental Management Policy statement should then be included in the company’s Employment Documents Folder, alongside a range of other employment-related policies, such as those on disciplinary rules and procedures, equal opportunities, sickness and absence, and so on.
THE ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE
Within a label converter it will be the president, managing director, other directors, VPs and line managers that are responsible for implementing the environmental management policy and establishing the necessary environmental management system . and giving it equal priority with all other business activities. An organizational chart showing the various environmental responsibilities can also provide a useful demonstration of how the environmental system is being implemented.
The company should be committed to effective communication and consultation on environment, health and safety matters with all interested parties, reporting internally and publicly (if requested) on performance.
Implementation will be through the line management who will involve employees in the identification and achievement of the company’s environmental objectives. Best results are achieved when all employees work as a team. Commitment and support throughout must come from the top management – and they should lead by example.
CREATING THE ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW AND PLANNING PROCESS
Before implementing an environmental management system it is recommended that the converter undertakes an initial review or analysis of all the company’s processes and products to identify all elements of their operation . and even future operations . that have an impact, or interact with, the environment. From this review the converter should be able to establish their environmental objectives, goals and targets.
These should ideally be measurable and lead to the development of control and management procedures and processes, as well as highlighting any legal or regulatory requirements.
The review will additionally enable the converter to establish what resources are required to implement the system and which personnel in the company will be responsible for both implementing and control.
DOCUMENTING HOW THE SYSTEM WILL BE IMPLEMENTED
Following on from the review and analysis, and the identification of the personnel who will be responsible for implementing the system, it will become necessary to document all the different processes and procedures . both operational control and documentation control . and to establish necessary responses.
Once personnel, procedures, processes and documentation have been established there will almost certainly be a requirement for the education and training of employees to a level where they are competent to implement the necessary processes and record the results. Company-wide participation and communication at all levels, from the top management down, is seen as a key part of the implementation phase.
PROCEDURES FOR CHECKING AND IMPROVING ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE
To move towards continuous improvement of environmental performance it is necessary to both monitor and periodically measure progress so as to ensure that the converter’s environmental targets and objectives are being met, as well as to ascertain whether the system is being implemented properly and whether procedures and processes are being adequately maintained and monitored.
Planned, periodic management reviews can take feedback from the monitoring and progress measuring stages to ensure that the objectives of the environmental management system are being met, to evaluate any changed circumstances . whether legal, regulatory or company . that need to be implemented, and to then make any necessary recommendations that are required to improve the system. The recommendations go back into the system to be implemented before subsequent reviews.
REPORTING ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE
The use of environmental performance indicators, or of customer or industry scorecards, will greatly assist label converters in providing transparency, clarity and comparability of environmental information within their organization . whether reporting to employees, suppliers, customers, the local community, or even to investors, shareholders and financial institutions.
The report may include information on how the environmental policy statement and system is being implemented, plans and/or opportunities for the environmental training of staff, and information on how the employee working conditions relate to accidents, safety and environmental performance. Discussion and feedback with employees will also aid increased environmental awareness.
Reporting to suppliers. Suppliers of label substrates, inks, varnishes, chemicals, cleaning equipment, etc, can play an important part in a label converter’s move to becoming more environmentally conscious and sustainable. They can help with information, support, research and new innovations, and it is therefore worthwhile to keep them in the loop with environmental feedback and reporting.
Reporting to customers. Increasing numbers of label converter customers today are requiring specific environmental demands from their suppliers as part of their procurement policies. Some have introduced their own environmental reporting in the form of scorecards, others are seeking sustainability improvements for which regular feedback or reporting is essential. What information customers require and what improvements are demanded will probably be fixed through mutual contact and co-operation.
Reporting to the community. From a label converter’s perspective, there are a wide range of health, safety and environmental issues that may have an impact on the local community. Converters may therefore wish to publish information of interest to the community. This may include information about materials, substances or emissions (chemicals, solvents, gases, etc) that are used, emitted or disposed of that can have an impact on the local environment, or information about contacting the company, or for dealing with complaints or non-compliance with local or national bye-laws or legislation.
Reporting to investors, shareholders, financial institutions. While it may be thought that reporting environmental information at this level is only for larger converting companies, it is becoming a fact that even small label converters may be asked by their bank or insurance company whether they have an environmental strategy. Such questions may arise when renewing insurance or seeking a bank loan. Indeed it is probably good business practice for a converter to keep his bank and insurance companies up-to-date with its environmental activities. It shows that they understand the relationship between environmental and financial information, and also between environmental and business strategies at a corporate level.
DETERMINING WHERE ACTION NEEDS TO BE TAKEN IN THE LABEL PLANT
Once an environmental management system and policy has been set up and the organizational structure established, then the label converter will need to review all the company’s processes and products to identify elements and areas that have an impact on the environment. Whether this is through working with ISO 14001, LIFE, EMAS or one of the end-user scorecard systems, the converter will almost certainly be looking at some or all of the following:
Label materials selection and usage
Label converter production performance/clean production
Waste management and disposal in the label plant
Transportation and distribution
Look at each of these areas in a little more detail and it soon becomes apparent where the potential environmental benefits and savings are to be found. Certainly many of these areas will come up in the questions being asked by the key label user organizations in their procurement procedures or in their sustainability scorecard schemes. Questions such as:
Have you established publicly available sustainability purchasing guidelines that address issues such as environmental compliance?
Have you set publicly available solid waste reduction targets?
Have you set publicly available water usage reduction targets?
Have you taken steps to reduce your corporate greenhouse gas emissions?
Have you carried out energy efficiency audits?
Put together, the most common areas of their production processes and products that label converters will need to asses and take action about can be seen in Figure 2.4.
Figure 2.4 - Diagram shows the key production and process elements that can be built in to a label converter environmental policy
So, let’s look at each of these areas in a little more detail.
LABEL MATERIALS SELECTION AND USAGE
Whatever the type of label . self-adhesive, wet glue, sleeve, wrap-around, in-mold . they all make use of a paper, plastic, synthetic or other material to carry the printed image, which is subsequently applied to a wide variety of products or containers. This label substrate is one of the key elements that the end-user pays for and, not unnaturally with today’s global environmental pressures, has also been coming under increasing pressure to be seen as ‘greener’, more sustainable and easier to dispose of.
Worldwide, there is now a plethora of commendable initiatives . frequently backed by documented schemes and special on-pack or on-label logos that the converter can now sign up to: sustainable forest products, sustainable green printing, carbon footprint labeling, chain of custody certification, scorecard schemes, compostable packaging logos and more. All are taking the packaging and label industries forward into a much needed ‘greener’ future.
Some labels may also need to be recycled with the container, or maybe washed-off or removed at some time after application. Others labels perhaps need to be compostable or free of certain chemicals. The demands on label substrates seem to grow every day – both from the converter’s point of view and from the customer’s, and, increasingly, from the ultimate end-user, or one or more of the environmental pressure groups. National and international legislation also continues to put more pressure on disposal of waste from label production, matrix and liner.
Solutions for self-adhesive liner waste, for example, are already growing rapidly, with schemes around the world that convert the backing waste into fuel pellets, into building and decking products and into paper hand towels that can be used with the dispensers found in hotel or aircraft washrooms. Another initiative is taking mixed plastic waste and converting it into durable, lightweight curbstones to replace concrete. As these, and other recycling initiatives grow, the whole image and perception of self-adhesive liner and packaging waste will become far more positive and sustainable. All this work is essential for the future of label converting.
Today, the major label user organizations – the brand owners, retail groups, consumer products manufacturers, etc – are increasingly presenting their label suppliers with environment or sustainability assessment documents, with requirements for materials efficiency, for the use of responsibly sourced raw materials (made in an efficient, ethical and environmentally responsible way), for third-party certified (CoC) materials supply chains, transparency about where and how materials have been produced and on the handling and disposal of materials waste.
Put together, all these initiatives have already led to lighter and thinner label materials, to sustainably managed forest paper products, recycled content in label papers, chemical free label papers, biodegradable substrates, compostable label stocks, corn starch and other bio label films, recyclable grades, environmentally benign or recycling compatible adhesives, chain-of-custody certification and a whole host of label waste recovery, recyclable and reprocessing solutions.
All of these areas of environment and sustainability of label materials will be further examined and reviewed in detail in Label materials selection and usage.
LABEL CONVERTER PRODUCTION PERFORMANCE, INCLUDING CLEAN MANUFACTURING
The production environment in a label converting plant is one that uses a wide range of materials, inks, adhesives, coatings and varnishes, chemicals, oils and greases, water, energy and light. Studies by the Gallus Group have highlighted areas within the production environment and on or around a label press where wastage may occur and improved environmental performance, energy efficiency and waste reduction need to take place, as well as how well-regulated these areas are. This can be seen in Fig 2.5
Figure 2.5 - Areas within the press room environment where wastage may occur and improved environmental performance, energy efficiency and waste reduction needs to take place
Undoubtedly one area of the production environment that is increasingly to the fore in environmental management and scorecard systems is the reduction of energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Actions to be taken by label converters include measuring and taking steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions . which have been shown to be responsible for much of the increase in global average temperatures.
These gas emissions include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and various other gases, with industry being the second-largest emitter through the burning of fossil fuels for heating and power generation
The aim for label converters, therefore, should be to cut fuel and utility costs by firstly measuring energy usage and then by improving energy and fuel efficiency. Where feasible, renewable energy sources . such as the sun, wind or water . should be used, perhaps even generating renewable energy on-site, as some label converters are starting to do.
Becoming more efficient in the use of water in the label plant is also increasingly important. Water usage comes from washing and sanitation facilities, showers and toilets, cooling, air conditioning and heating systems, employee canteens, production process, cleaning and landscape watering. Again, taking steps to measure and monitor water usage, and then setting targets for reduction in different departments or operations, is not only worthwhile environmentally, but also in terms of reduced water purchasing costs and in helping to ensure a sustainable supply. The collection and usage or rain water or treated wastewater may be economically feasible for some converter requirements, such as flushing toilets or landscape watering.
There are four primary components of printing inks . varnishes, solvents, colorants and additives . which can each present their own environmental hazards and challenges.
Varnish preparation, for example, is said to be one of the greatest sources of emissions from the printing industry, with odorous emission released during the heating and cooling processes of the varnish preparation, including emissions from resins, drying oils, petroleum oils and solvents.
Common solvents that are used include butanol, ethanol, glycol ethers, heptane, hexane, methanol, mineral spirits, toluene and xylene. Most conventional solvents used in the printing industry are VOCs. Indeed, VOC emissions from the US printing industry are said to be the fifth largest of 18 industrial sectors tabulated by the EPA, placing it just below the fabricated metals industry and ahead of the motor vehicles, bodies, parts and accessories industry.
VOCs in the printing industry present numerous health concerns and, when in the presence of sufficient UV radiation, contribute to ground-level ozone formation, which is an irritant, a contributor to smog, and a possible carcinogen. Many VOC’s are irritants to the skin, eyes, lungs, and throat.
While the usage of heavy metals in the printing industry have been reduced significantly over the years, a number are still in use. For example, titanium oxide, chromate, molybdenum and iron are used as pigments; cobalt and manganese are employed as driers; titanium oxide is used for pearlescent pigments; and aluminum and brass are found in metallic inks. These heavy metals can pose severe environmental problems, such as the possibility of leeching into ground water, leading in turn to serious health issues in both humans and wildlife.
The use of ink additives typically comprises less than 10 percent of total ink components. However, they may still contribute to environmental pollution.
Although conventional printing inks used in the label plant may pose some environmental difficulties to both the air and water, there are alternatives that are less damaging. Vegetable oil-based inks, for example, such as those that have long been used in the newsprint industry, reduce or eliminate mineral oils in inks, conserving non-renewable reserves and reducing VOC emissions. Vegetable-based inks made from renewable resources and with less than one percent mineral oil content may be pumped straight from large drums, rather than smaller containers with more wasteful packaging.
While vegetable oil-based inks are most appropriate for lithographic and letterpress label printers, water-based inks have undoubtedly proven to be suitable for both screen and flexographic label printing; the greatest advantage being the significant reduction of solvent emissions. Challenges printers face when using water-based inks include longer drying times and difficulties resulting from the high surface tension of water. These challenges are reduced through the use of radiation-curing inks.
Such inks typically do not contain solvents. Although this process results in a significant decrease in VOC emissions, UV curing systems may pose their own unique problems. For example, they require the use of acrylate resins, which are irritants and UV radiation is damaging to the skin, while UV radiators produce ozone from atmospheric oxygen. Additionally, UV-curing systems ‘dry’ only if they are bombarded with UV light, and UV radiators can consume high amounts of energy, although lower energy (cool) systems are now more widely used.
Other production areas that may need to be examined including plate-making, where CTP (computer to plate) technology eliminates the need for any film and any associated chemicals. The CTP plates are then recycled.
A more detailed analysis and review of the key environmental issues in the label converting production plant is set out in Label converter production performance. This looks at buildings, energy sources, UV curing energy reduction, environmentally friendly inks and processes, water recovery, greenhouses gases, production performance and lighting systems.
SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT AND DISPOSAL IN THE LABEL PLANT
When talking about wastage in the label plant, the converter perhaps initially thinks of production waste such as make-ready waste, handling waste, running waste (print faults, missregister, etc), matrix and edge trim waste, reel ends, cores and the like. Depending on the type of label and process, this may include paper, plastic, metallic and metallized materials, all kinds of self-adhesive laminates, synthetic materials and other day-to-day wastage around the printing press.
Recent research has indicated that an average of 17 percent of all incoming labelstock materials are lost within the label production plant, leaving just 83 percent as finished labels saleable to the customer. This figure excludes matrix, edge-trim and liner waste. The best label plants have this wastage figure down to no more than three percent or four percent.
Certainly, end-users are continually looking to be ‘greener’ and more environmentally friendly and expect their label converters to be researching, supporting and encouraging the latest developments in eco-label materials, reducing or eliminating materials waste to landfill and introducing bio-degradable or compostable labelstocks
Down-gauging and light weighting of label paper and films will become more common, new sources of papers fibers are being encouraged, bio-plastics have been developing fast, bio-degradable adhesives will be increasingly needed for composting applications, while recyclable and recycled materials will be increasingly demanded.
However, wastage in the label converting plant is far wider than just substrates and the concern of the press operator. It can include all kinds of general office waste, packaging waste from incoming goods (such as cardboard and corrugated boxes, plastic films and shrink materials), reel or sheet material wrappers, processing chemicals in pre-press or plate-making operations, old or damaged printing plates, wooden pallets, soiled rags and cleaning materials, ink containers and waste inks, paper towels, electrical equipment and batteries, even garden waste. Almost all of these items can be recycled, with some even creating an income stream.
A label converter’s solid waste management program therefore needs to cover all areas of wastage, and wastage reduction programs established, monitored and improved. All processes should be constantly refined to ensure that waste . of any kind . is minimized. What waste is produced needs to be separated wherever possible into distinct streams for easy recycling or reprocessing, with the use of waste extraction and compacting systems being used to efficiently handle all paper . and possibly plastic-based . waste from printing and finishing departments for recycling purposes.
Any hazardous waste needs to be placed in sealable containers and disposed of via a waste collection facility.
The Solid waste management in the label plant article provides a more comprehensive review of solid waste management issues and solutions in the label plant, including streamlines manufacturing, inspections systems and solid waste recovery and recycling schemes.
Global brand owners, retail groups and other leading buyers are increasingly requiring their suppliers of packaging and labels to submit a wide range of data and information on their packaging/labels and their environmental and sustainability performance. This information may include:
Calculating a carbon footprint and reporting the percentages of greenhouse gases utilized during sourcing, manufacture and transportation
Meeting market and environmental criteria for performance and cost
Calculating the product/package ratio and the environmental impact of transportation
Calculating and optimizing recycled content, disposal options and recovery value
Introducing renewable energy and product innovation.
Ensuring the product is manufactured using clean production techniques and best environmental practices
Providing supply chain transparency and third party certification
Undoubtedly, there needs to be a return on investment (ROI) in all of this. Some of these items may be intangible, but there's a benefit to intangibles around brand performance, brand recognition and believability. It's about building a business strategy and a business opportunity.
Much of what label buyers are seeking in relation to environmental, sustainability and product performance requirements are again based on guidelines set out by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), an industry working group dedicated to creating a more robust environmental vision for packaging – including labels and labeling.
According to SPC, implementing the guidelines is intended to eventually lead to a world ‘where all packaging is sourced responsibly, designed to be effective and safe throughout its life cycle, meets market criteria for performance and cost, is made entirely using renewable energy and, once used, is recycled efficiently to provide a valuable resource for subsequent generations’.
TRANSPORT AND DISTRIBUTION
Transport and distribution is indispensable to the supply chain of any business – whether goods in or out – and in today's competitive business environment, savings and performance gains from logistics and transport can provide a competitive advantage.
Some companies have even introduced the concept of ‘Desk Miles’ into their operations. This is the distance products travel during manufacture, from raw materials to finished goods and onward to the customer. Part of this concept includes sourcing raw materials as locally as possible. This helps contribute not only to the local economy, but also to the environment.
Other companies have implemented the latest satellite tracking and navigation technology to plan the route of each vehicle in their fleet – whether sales teams or delivery vehicles. Located in the company office, it can help to control and organize each sales visit or customer delivery as efficiently and with as little environmental impact as possible. Other factors include purchasing more fuel efficient vehicles, use of optimization delivery or sales visit software, new route schedules and shared user schemes.
Operations and equipment are the first place many businesses can make adjustments to reduce their transportation and travel costs. By establishing some common-sense ‘rules of the road’, many companies have found the potential to realize marked improvements in fuel efficiency.
In most outside sales and road transport operations, fuel can account for at least 30 percent of operating costs, so improving fuel management can be a useful place to start on the road to operational efficiency.
From an operational perspective, examples of relatively simple changes in transport and delivery operations may include:
Scheduled/routine equipment maintenance and repair
Driver training, tracking, and incentives programs
Engine control modules to regulate top speed, cruise speed, RPM and idle time
Helping employees to plan their journeys effectively and encouraging them to drive safely and efficiently can also help reduce fuel costs and improve the environmental and safety performance of your business. Educating employees about the environmental impacts of transport and encouraging them to walk, cycle or use public transport for commuting and business travel can benefit their health and finances. It may also contribute to reduced sickness absence, increased staff retention and improved local air quality.
By using vehicles more efficiently, companies can make significant financial savings through reduced fuel costs and less wear and tear. It can also make financial savings from more cost-effective use of employees' time and by unlocking the potential of land previously used for parking. All businesses have a responsibility to ensure that any vehicle used at work is roadworthy and complies with exhaust emission standards.
It is also important to recognize that different means of distribution present varying hazards for products being dispatched and delivered. This includes carrier or courier operations. Overnight delivery by carrier normally presents the highest level of damaging shock inputs due to the large number of handlings involved. Common carrier shipment, while known to be highly variable, is viewed as less severe than the overnight distribution environment. Delivery to international destinations is also thought to be significantly different than domestic distribution. Thus the distribution environment is highly variable in its nature and quantifying it is fraught with problems.
For more in-depth information on transport and distribution issues impacting on the label converting environment please see the Transport and distribution article. It includes information on transport auditing, developing a transport plan, choice of company vehicles, energy efficient vehicles, types of fuel used, more efficient vehicle usage, optimizing journeys, driver education and training and the use of telematics.
RETAILER AND END-USER CONSIDERATIONS
While most of this article is related to the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of what the label converter should be doing to become more environmentally friendly and sustainable, it should be recognized that these requirements are largely driven by the global brand owners, retailers and procurement professionals who, in turn, are implementing their own take on legislation, standards and guidelines drawn up by governments, environment and industry groups, trade associations, consumer organizations and other bodies.
It is therefore important to review the current and changing requirements of the retail and end-user label buying organizations in terms of new industry standards, the latest BS, EN and ISO publications, packaging scorecard schemes, zero landfill waste progress, new recycling initiatives, the latest thinking in sustainable packaging, and what schemes, courses, education and training are being put in place to further enhance environmental performance and sustainability.
Within this series, there will be a guideline environmental management policy table relevant to the particular article and which label converters can draw on, amend, update and adapt as required for their own company. By the end of the series a label converter should be able to use all these guideline policy tables to create a comprehensive set of environmental policy statements specific to their own company.
The first of these environmental management policy guideline tables is repeated from earlier in the series and set out below.
Figure 2.6 - General management policy principles by which a converter may choose to operate