ISO Publishes ISO16759 (Quantifying and Calculating the Carbon Footprint of Print)

It has been a rocky road and we met with an awful lot of opposition, but we made it. To all 66 members of Working Group 11, the international band of hardy volunteers who authored ISO 16759 for ISO.

Thank you for your effort and commitment.

Thanks to you the graphic arts industry and its customers have a single reference framework for carbon calculators. Print buyers will be able to trust that carbon calculators used for print media carbon footprinting studies work to a common reference. The framework that ISO 16759 provides means that the industry has the flexibility to create carbon calculators for different applications and sectors, all to a common standard. As long as they follow the specifications of ISO 16759, their quality can be trusted and they can be fine tuned for different types of print media, from labels to direct mail.

How this standard gets used in the field depends on the industry, print buyers and publishers. We are aware of at least one carbon calculator is undergoing review with a view to certification for compliance to ISO 16759. Certification of a carbon footprint calculator is just one option, but it is likely to be the most common.

Certifying bodies and industry associations have several opportunities here. They can certify a calculator, a relatively simple matter of checking that the calculation tool includes all of the requirements outlined in the ISO 16759 standard. Essentially a box ticking exercise, this includes requirements for data quality, accounting for energy and consumables, and explaining uncertainties.

The second option applies the same principles but to a carbon footprinting study conducted using a certified carbon calculator. This requires evaluating how the study has been done, its completeness and so on. Then there is verification of carbon footprint calculations that have been done without using a certified tool. This could involve the use of an uncertified tool or simply following the ISO 16759 standard.

There is a fourth option for certification which we expect to emerge but which is as yet nascent. A number of RIP vendors are following Caldera’s lead and introducing basic carbon calculations for print jobs as a prepress task. If more such tools become available it will be important for quality control that these tools are certified to ISO 16759. So shouldn’t someone somewhere be looking into developing such a service?

All of these methods will help the industry to gather data about its carbon footprint. However it will take time for markets to get up to speed with using carbon calculators and sharing results with any confidence. ISO 16759’s publication is a mark of tremendous progress, but its success and long term health now depends on publishers, print buyers and printers to get on and implement it.