Chesapeake - FSC & PEFC Chain of Custody
Why chain of custody certification?

Packaging giant Chesapeake is internationally renowned as a leading supplier of cartons, labels and leaflets to some of the world’s best-known brands. With demonstrable corporate responsibility and best environmental practice becoming increasingly important within its core markets, Chesapeake needs to have chain of custody certification in place to both retain and expand its global customer base.

FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) are the most widely recognised chain of custody certification schemes, and demand for FSC or PEFC certified paper and board continues to grow as more brand owners develop specific environmental policies of their own.

Chain of custody certification is also desirable as it closely complements other certifications, such as ISO 14001 environmental management systems.

Chesapeake worked with world-leading multi-sector certification body Exova BM TRADA to achieve FSC and PEFC chain of custody certification. With these standards firmly in place across operational sites worldwide, Chesapeake can send out the right reputational messages concerning the company’s commitment to environmental responsibility. Its ability to offer customers a full portfolio of paper-based products that originate from certified, well-managed forests bolsters its enviable position as one of the world’s pre-eminent packaging companies.

The journey to certification

Chesapeake has been a client of Exova BM TRADA since 2005. In that time it has completed a programme to have all of its 28 paperboard sites in mainland Europe certified to FSC and PEFC chain of custody standards, as well as operations at Long Island, Lexington and Evansville in the United States. In total, 31 of Chesapeake sites can now offer certified products and the company is the only packaging supplier who can offer customers FSC and PEFC products across Europe and in the US.

The company employs 5,200 people across three divisions – pharmaceutical & healthcare, branded and plastics – and following the initial certification of its Newcastle UK site in 2005, opted to expand the programme to multi-site certification. The multi-site approach to chain of custody certification was ideal for a business such as Chesapeake that operates 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 the company to save money through reduced direct auditing costs. Each certification programme took approximately 12 months to complete.

Elaine Murray, Group Materials Development Manager at Chesapeake, says the decision to roll out multi-site certification was driven by market demand.

She said: “We were producing lines for a major UK retailer at the Newcastle site, at the time out biggest factory in terms of making and packing food cartons, but were told that we needed chain of custody certification to continue our relationship.

“Newcastle was therefore the driver for certification, but around the same time we started to see a growth in enquiries at the tendering stage regarding chain of custody certification so the decision was made as a group to pursue certification at all applicable sites.”

To receive chain of custody certification, the company had to demonstrate traceability, showing that it could identify and track the origin of the timber in certified products to prove it came from well-managed forests. This meant that all links in the supply chain from the forest through to the manufacturer had to possess chain of custody certification, so the onus was on Chesapeake to ensure this was the case with its suppliers before initiating the evaluation.

Certification was completed in two stages, with stage one consisting of an on-site evaluation by Exova BM TRADA to check the company’s chain of custody system and review all related procedures and processes. The auditors also evaluated whether critical control points had been indentified and the risk of product mixing eliminated or minimised.

During stage two, the audit team prepared a written report on the audit findings, highlighting any non-conformances with the standard that still needed to be addressed. Chesapeake was complimented by Exova BM TRADA on its thorough preparation for certification and robust management systems, and the process was concluded with recommendation for certification.

Exova BM TRADA provided a very good level of service and we were very happy with them as a certifying body,” says Murray.

“Chain of custody certification was slightly different to ISO 14001 certification but Exova BM TRADA were very clear as to the requirement and thorough in their audits, as well as being highly supportive and encouraging throughout.”

Chain of custody certification is issued on a five year basis, with certification maintained through annual surveillance visits. Chesapeake opted for both FSC and PEFC certification, and though both come with their own specific requirements, generally speaking there are only a few differences between the standards. As a certified company, Chesapeake has permission to use the schemes’ internationally recognised trademarks on certified products.

Murray adds: “To maintain our certification across the 31 sites, Exova BM TRADA randomly selects five or six each year to audit to ensure the same standard is still in place.”

The benefits of chain of custody certification

Demand for FSC and PEFC certified packaging has steadily increased over the last few years, driven by a demand for more environmentally-friendly products among consumers. With certification in both standards, Chesapeake is able to fully demonstrate its commitment to environmental responsibility and maintain its position as Europe’s leading packaging company.

Being certified means that Chesapeake can provide greater product choice for customers across the world, allowing the company to continue serving clients that now insist on chain of custody standards are in place.

The business has also won new work on the back of certification, particularly in the branded goods sector, with interest continuing to build in other markets such as healthcare.

“Certification is part of our environmental strategy and has certainly been helpful in gaining new business that we otherwise wouldn’t have won,” says Murray.

“It’s opened doors for us and helped retain business in a very competitive market so chain of custody has been of great value to our sales teams.

“Certification demonstrates to customers that we take out environmental and ethical sourcing credentials seriously and have the capability to deliver FSC or PEFC certified products if they require it.”

Advice for certification

Murray says that chain of custody certification is “customer driven” and that companies need a “prod from the market” to begin the certification process.

But though there is a cost factor involved in getting certified, she predicts that market forces are such that in the future it will likely become an essential pre-requisite for businesses “large and small.”

“We see steady growth in demand for chain of custody certification year on year,” confirms Murray.

“It’s an organic process and once customers choose chain of custody certified paper, they tend not to move away from it. One day it will be the norm.”