In 2008, SGP Partnership was formed to provide a benchmark for sustainability in the graphic communications industry. Before its formation, there were no parameters to define a sustainable printing operation. Today, SGP’s measurable criteria and third-party on-site auditing provide the standard and recognition for sustainability performance.

Here’s a timeline of the organization’s beginnings and key milestones:

July 2007 The top four trade associations – PIA, SGIA, FTA, and NAPIM – held discussions regarding the development of sustainability resources for members. This meeting was based on the requests from customers for validation of sustainability efforts and the need to define sustainability for the graphic communications industry.

August 2007 Trade association leadership agreed that a common approach to this issue was needed. A stakeholder group, including representatives from all print processes, supplier community, customer base, state and federal environmental agencies, and NGO community was developed.

September 2007 Representatives from the PIA, SGIA, and FTA held a press conference at Graph Expo to launch Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP).

November 2007 The first stakeholder meeting was held and a general consensus regarding sustainability as it relates to the printing industry emerged.  All agreed that the program must encompass more than just environmental issues – SGP should promote an integrated and balanced approach to sustainability.  It was also agreed that regulatory compliance must be the baseline for the program, but it also needed to incorporate other factors which promote sustainability. For any organization seeking to move beyond compliance and liability-driven issues to the strategic and the sustainable, the four drivers that must be considered are: competitiveness, internal efficiency, regulatory advantage, and stakeholder engagement.

At the November meeting, the stakeholders were given the opportunity to identify desired outcomes or successes as a result of  SGP certification. The discussion focused on the initial concept that SGP would address the product (i.e., input materials), process (i.e., prepress, press, postpress), and the envelope (i.e., energy efficiencies, employee issues, overall facility wide activities).  Based on this scenario, the stakeholders identified success as:

  • Establishing SGP as the premier authority on sustainability in the printing industry.
  • Serving as the portal for the industry and include industry best practices with product criteria.  The criteria needs to be structured, so that they provide for continuous growth and improvement.
  • Providing alignment with the supply chain to provide sustainable products and drive sustainability through the value chain.

To achieve the aforementioned, the stakeholders reached consensus on the following key issues:

  • SGP must be an independent body that is not affiliated with any particular trade association serving the graphic communications industry.
  • Third-party verification is essential for the creditability of the program.
  • SGP should encompass multiple levels of entry to accommodate all sizes of facilities.
  • The rollout of SGP should be done in phases so as to facilitate development of valid criteria for each aspect of the program.
  • A glossary of terms needs to be developed that will serve as benchmarks and information points for the printers, suppliers, and final customer base of the industry.
  • Education and outreach to printers, print buyers, consumer product companies, environmental groups, and other non-government organizations is critical for the introduction of the program and its continued viability.

January 2008 Stakeholders hold a second meeting. The group developed and defined the terms product, process and envelope as they related to SGP. It was agreed there would be two levels within SGP certification: Candidate Pending Verification and SGP Printer.  Stakeholders unanimously agreed that entry into the program required printing facilities to be in compliance with all relevant environmental, safety and health regulations.  Eventually, the level of Candidate Pending Verification was dropped, and only SGP Applicant remained.

At the January meeting, a set of guiding principles, which would evolve over time, were incorporated into the program. The first set of criteria would focus primarily on engaging the printing facility into the process. Recognizing sustainability is a journey, the criteria needed to grow and change over time and not remain static. Initial development focused on the 2008 criteria, with the plan to update the criteria in 2010. Thus, over time, the criteria would become progressively more difficult – evolving with new print processes and innovation.

After this extensive discussion, consensus was reached that there would only be one level within the SGP program – SGP Printer – that would qualify to use the SGP Logo. A candidate designation would be established to allow facilities meeting a certain minimum criteria to enter the program and be recognized on the SGP website. A facility could remain a candidate for one year after which they would need to apply as a SGP Printer, which would require full verification of their sustainability efforts.

Development of Criteria

During the January meeting, the stakeholder group agreed that it was imperative that the printer be in compliance with all federal, state, and local regulations. Further, a set of best practices, responsible purchasing and resourcing elements, should also be included. Recycling should not be mandated as some facilities may not be able to recycle due to their location.

Consensus was reached regarding the minimum criteria for a candidate application. Candidates applying for recognition must:

  • Meet all applicable federal, state, and local environmental, health, and safety regulations with no significant outstanding violations allowed.
  • Have a written Environmental, Health, and Safety Policy signed by a responsible party (e.g., owner, president, etc.) and communicated to employees, customers, and is publicly available.
  • Complete and submit a self-verification form with payment.  Payment will be forfeited if program requirements are not met within twelve (12) months of receipt of application.  SGP Printer verification must be achieved within one year of candidate application.
  • Not use or display the SGP logo, but will be identified on the SGP website as a candidate.
  • Apply as a single location of a company.

Over the next two months, a working group developed the first set of criteria and best management practices that would be considered during the March stakeholder meeting.

March 2008 A third stakeholder meeting is held. Draft criteria were vetted and approved for public comment and distribution.  The comment period was open for 45 days.  After that time, the working group assimilated the comments.

SGP announces beta testing at the NEHS conference.

March to August 2008 Four printers participated in the beta test time period:  Pictura, John Roberts, Pratt, and Fineline. Pictura becomes the first certified printer.

Prior to beta testing, the public comment period was open for 45 days.  After that time, the working group assimilated the comments and produced the final criteria which were sent to the beta sites. All beta sites were audited in July 2008.

Simultaneously, the SGP program began the development of SGP auditor and training programs.

August 2008 SGP program officially launched.

September 2008 – First SGP Auditors were trained and qualified.


Key Milestones

2007 Initial partners begin discussions: SGIA, PIA, and FTA

2008 NAPIM joins as partner; DuPont is first Gold Patron

2009EMA and Foil & Specialty Effects Association join as partner; HP joins as first Platinum Patron

May 2010 – Criteria expanded to include binding,finishing and looseleaf operations; SGP forms alliance with Unisource, which recognizes SGP as part of its RESPECT program; Tweedle certified as 25th Certified Printer

September 2010 – Alliance formed with Canopy

August 2010 – SGP celebrates its 2nd anniversary

February 2011 Pregis joins as second Platinum Patron

March 2011 – SGP certifies its 30th printer