Print that doesn’t cost the planet 

Welcome to the third blog in our sustainability series, in this blog we’ll be taking a closer look at the sustainable print choices available. We’ll unravel the various accreditations so you can focus on what’s right for you, and help guide you through making the most planet-friendly print decisions. If this is a topic close to your heart, let us know and we’ll make sure you don’t miss out on future sustainability blogs.

When it comes to driving more sustainable print the priority has to be on the source and production process of the paper.

When forests are destroyed carbon is released, accelerating global warming. Deforestation currently accounts for around 10% of total heat-trapping emissions, which is roughly the same as the annual emissions from 600 million cars. When it comes to ethical printing, there are two primary forestry management organisations to be aware of.

Sustainable print accreditations


Forest Stewardship Council logo

FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council and is a global, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to promoting responsible forest management worldwide, managing 223 million hectares of certified forests. It not only prevents illegal logging but also protects wildlife and local people from the impact of deforestation. Buying products with FSC accreditation enables businesses and consumers the reassurance that the wood, paper and other forest products have been made from well-managed forests and/or recycled sources.

Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification logo

PEFC stands for Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification and like FSC, is committed to forest management, managing 264 million hectares of certified forest in over 30 countries.

With the support of environmental organisations such as WWF and Greenpeace, FSC was established in the early 1990s to address consumer concerns about the indiscriminate and often illegal logging of tropical hardwoods, and the knock-on effects on climate change. However, as this became a worldwide standard, demand grew for certification of forests in Europe and North America, specifically for businesses owning small areas of forest. FSC, primarily working on large tropical environments, was unsuited to smaller, private forest owners who found it difficult to access certification. These owners wanted to be able to demonstrate that they were managing their forests sustainably and to sell their products under an internationally recognised label, and so PEFC was formed in 1999 and quickly developed a group certification model that made the certification of small forest areas possible. ​Both organisations now work closely together to constantly improve the practices and management of our global forests.

Making sustainable print choices

Making the right paper choice when it comes to print is complex, here’s our lowdown:

100% FSC

This signifies that all the fibres come from entirely FSC sources. This can make the product significantly more expensive and it’s difficult to quantify if this use of virgin fibres is the most sustainable way to produce paper when recycled fibres could be used in the process to reduce waste.

FSC Recycled

This includes paper made from 100% recycled material (or 70% in the case of PEFC) and is arguably a more environmentally friendly option as it doesn’t require further deforestation. Recycled papers are however more complex to produce and thus expensive to buy. The reclaimed paper has to be pulped and bleached in order to create usable recycled paper, and the chemicals used to bleach the pulp can also be said to be harmful to the environment.


A good compromise, this refers to paper made using of a mix of virgin fibres and recycled fibres, simplifying the process and reducing the costs, making this arguably the most sustainable option.

At Something Big, to ensure we’re helping our clients make the most sustainable choices, we’ve ensured our printers and paper merchants have FSC Chain of Custody certification, we work closely with clients to specify the best possible paper for each print project, advocating FSC mix paper where possible, and can support vegan print requirements if appropriate.

We know that print is a powerful communications channel, so if you want to review the sustainability of your print sources, get in touch.