Will carbon balanced paper make a real change?

The initiative enables printers and their customers to boost their environmental credentials and differentiate themselves from their rivals in an increasingly competitive industry.

Carbon Balanced Paper has been relaunched in the UK last month amid hopes that the scheme will be more successful this time around.

Balance can be difficult to achieve. You may struggle to balance your books, get your socks on of a morning without excess hopping, or offset your business’s carbon. What you do to achieve balance in the first two examples is up to you. When it comes to the third there are plenty of options, and yet relatively few graphic arts businesses bother with carbon offsetting.

This is partly because it isn’t easy and partly because there’s whiff of something not quite right with many offsetting projects. Too many seem to have been set up more for the benefit of the organisers than for the planet. However, carbon offsetting projects are not all bad. One in particular actually looks quite promising.

Carbon Balanced Paper is a UK project that has been relaunched after debt overwhelmed its founder Paperlinx, one of the country’s largest paper merchants. CarbonCo now works with Antalis UK, Denmaur Independent Papers and Fedrigoni UK to supply certified Carbon Balanced Papers.

A Carbon Balanced Paper’s carbon is offset through a deal with the World Land Trust (WLT). The WLT is a conservation outfit that buys or leases forests in order to preserve and protect them. So far the WLT and its partners have acquired nearly 500,000 acres of forest and habitats, together managing over four million acres worldwide.

Jonathan Tame, CarbonCo’s founder, says that Carbon Balanced Paper is “a good way to add value to clients and customers by helping them to meet their sustainability objectives”. Over 12,000 print jobs produced by 350 UK printers have been offset with the WLT since the original project started in March 2012.

Is this just another label? Well, yes it is, but in the case of CarbonCo it could be a bit more than just a label for the UK print community. CarbonCo has certified eleven Carbon Balanced Paper printers in the UK and is looking to encourage more companies to join the scheme. The current eleven are ISO 14001 certified, and use Carbon Balanced Papers as part of wider environmental management strategies.

So far so good, but there is a long way to go for Carbon Balanced Paper to make a real difference. Printers and print buyers don’t much want constraints on substrate choices, no matter how much they support offsetting, so there needs to be as broad a paper range as possible.

Buyers want to be sure that companies offering Carbon Balanced Paper and the papers themselves are kosher, which requires independent audits. CarbonCo’s current certification criteria are pretty basic, but they are being developed to give the project bigger teeth and hopefully greater transparency.

Anyone with an environmental penchant has to reach out to the unconverted which is an uphill task. CarbonCo is undertaking this outreach, offering a simple offsetting mechanism which the UK print industry should embrace.