After what feels like forever but what is really only a couple of years, ISO 16759 (Quantification and communication of the carbon footprint of print media products), has been approved. Yay!!
This is very exciting, but it marks only the beginning of an important journey for our industry. We are expecting ISO to publish ISO 16759 this summer. When it is available, the printing and publishing industries and their supply chains will be able to start calculating carbon footprints to a common standard using their choice of calculator. ISO 16759 is not a calculator but a framework of requirements. This means the market can develop any size and shape of calculator it wants, specific to different printing and publishing sectors and needs in the supply chain.
As long as a carbon footprinting study complies with requirements of ISO 16759 print buyers, publishers, consumers and anyone else in the print media involved in print media production, will be able to trust the data. For the ISO authors the real work will begin once this starts to happen: the standard is rather like slightly shakey software that has just been released into the market. Only when users start offering feedback, can the standard be made even more robust.
The publication of ISO 16759 puts the printing and publishing industries in a unique position. This standard is the first of its kind to be on track to reach market. Despite over four years of struggles and debate, ISO will publish the draft of ISO 14067 (Quantification and communication of the carbon footprint of products and services) as a technical specification not as a standard. The document did not achieve consensus because of concerns over reporting and worries that it might be used as a restraint to trade. This means that there is no ISO standard that specifies the basis for calculating the carbon footprint of a product or service. Only ISO 16759 is specific to a given industry sector.
ISO is either missing something or they are ahead of the curve on the need for tangible carbon footprinting data. Given the number of companies already touting carbon calculators for our industry, we rather hope the latter to be true. And we are already aware of a certification project to establish whether a calculator meets the requirements of ISO 16759. The only way is forwards!
– Laurel Brunner