The company, formerly known as UCB Films and headquartered in Wigton, Cumbria, has an annual turnover in excess of Є400m with a total annual film production capacity of more than 120,000 tonnes. Its films, which include the famous Cellophane™ brand, are sold to converters, brand-owners and end-users across the globe, for packaging, labelling or overwrap solution for a wide variety of everyday consumer goods.
In 2002, the company saw an opportunity in the market to develop a new range of flexible biodegradable films made from renewable wood pulp. The innovative and unique brand, NatureFlex™, takes the Cellophane™ concept “to the next level” by being fully renewable and certified compostable according to various industry standards, contributing to waste reduction throughout the packaged-goods supply chain.
Innovia Films worked with BM TRADA to gain both FSC® (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC™ (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) certification - the most widely recognised forest products Chain of Custody (CoC) certification schemes. By doing so, it has become the first certified Cellulose plant operating in the UK, further cementing its reputation for best environmental practice and setting a glowing example to other firms across the world.
The decision to pursue Chain of Custody certification was driven by a growing awareness and need within their markets to have demonstrable environmental responsibility for their NatureFlex™ products, as Lucy Cowton, Product Sustainability Manager, Innovia Films explains.
“We decided to go ahead with Chain of Custody certification because we were getting an increasing number of enquiries from our customers concerning our pulp suppliers. Our market for NatureFlex™ is targeted towards people who are more environmentally conscious and who are concerned about where the wood pulp comes from, and whether or not the pulp supplied comes from responsibly-sourced plantations.
“Because of the value proposition for NatureFlex™ we like to be able to substantiate any claims we make. The best way of doing that was by becoming certified, and FSC and PEFC were the most reputable and recognised CoC certifications available – the gold standard.”
THE JOURNEY TO CERTIFICATION
Innovia Films have production sites in the UK, USA, Belgium and Australia and operate a network of sales offices, agents and distributors throughout the world, employing a global workforce of 1,350 people.
The certification process commenced in 2012 with the CoC certification of one of Innovia Film’s two cellulose production plants, situated in Wigton. Certification was awarded within 12 months, in December 2013.
The decision was then made to expand the programme to multi-site certification. The multi-site approach to CoC certification is ideal for companies that operate multiple facilities, allowing the certification body to evaluate sites based on audit sampling in recognition of common, centrally administered and monitored control and reporting systems. This enabled Innovia Films to save money through reduced direct auditing costs. Each certification programme took approximately 12 months to complete.
For multi-site certification, Innovia Films first opted to transfer their existing UK Chain of Custody certification to BM TRADA. They then worked with BM TRADA to add certification for two sites in the USA: a second cellulose production plant in Tecumseh, Kansas, and their sales office in Atlanta, Georgia.
The auditing process is split into two stages. The stage one audit comprised an on-site evaluation to review Innovia Film’s chain of custody system, and the procedures and processes covering all activities related to this system; an evaluation of whether Critical Control Points (CCPs) had been identified and the risk of product mixing eliminated or minimised; a review of the record-keeping process; evaluation of all outsourced processes and verification of the company’s use of appropriate FSC and PEFC trademarks for on-product labelling and off-product market communications and claims.
As with all companies operating a CoC system, Innovia Films was required to define and put in place controls to demonstrate how certified products would be identified throughout all stages of production.
For FSC certification, they chose to operate under the “credit” control system, which allows the mixing of certified and non-certified raw material under controlled conditions. The credit system is based on the monitoring of the volume or weight of certified raw material that is purchased to manufacture a batch of products, as this value will determine the total amount of finished product that can be sold as certified.
For Innovia Films, the credit system was the best fit as the global wood pulp market is noted for its volatility and challenges faced in maintaining continuity of supply. The credit system allows the company to satisfy their FSC requirements whist remaining flexible enough to deal with a fluid market where the supply of certified wood pulp is constantly in flux. An added benefit of the FSC credit system was that Innovia Films did not need to change its factory production control system to allow for segregated batch production systems.
Lucy Cowton says that gaining certification was a “cross-functional” collaboration both internally and externally with suppliers.
She said: “We undertook a significant amount of work before deciding to kick-start the certification process. Initially we assessed what we had in place already, and what we needed to put in place, by carrying out a GAP analysis.
“Once we had sign-off from the company board to proceed, we embarked on a programme of awareness sessions for staff as we needed to ensure that everyone understood the implications of certification and how it affected their role.
“Training included a wide range of people on site including staff working in environmental, sales, marketing, regulatory and production departments. We were not asking for a dramatic change to how things operated on site, but there would still be slight changes and as we were putting additional steps into their working processes and so it was important that everyone understood why they were being asked to do these things.
“We disseminated what we had learnt through the certification process in Wigton and replicated it onsite in Tecumseh and Atlanta.
“For the credit system, we already had thorough accounting and volume control records in place, so there were no additional requirements for data, but we did need to pull it together into a package so that the auditors could clearly see our inputs and outputs, and ensure everything was traceable.”
She added: “Our target is to be able to say that all our pulp suppliers are certified, but historically, there were only a few producers of dissolving pulp for whom certification wasn’t a priority as their main markets were for textile companies, where certification was less relevant.
“But the landscape is changing, with paper producers who already have forestry certification, moving their assets to dissolvable pulp, so we are making good progress. When all the pulp we use is from certified suppliers then we will be happy.”
Innovia Films received both FSC and PEFC certification for their sites in Tecumseh, Kansas, and their sales office in Atlanta, Georgia, in April 2015. The Certifications are valid for five years and are maintained through a programme of annual surveillance audits and a re-certification audit in the fifth year before the certifications expire.
As a certified company, Innovia Films has permission to use the schemes' internationally recognised trademarks for on-product labelling and off-product marketing.
Cowton says that when it came to exploring multi-site certification, BM TRADA – which has branches in America as well as more than 30 other countries worldwide – stood out from its competitors.