Blueline Ranking – Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the methodology behind The Blueline Ranking? How were printers assessed?

A: A list of leadership sustainability criteria was developed in 2015, then reviewed by printers who lead in these areas with a request for feedback. The criteria[i] were modified based on this input and expanded in 2017 to reflect current best practice within the print sector. All assessments were made based on information that was publicly posted on company websites in May/June 2017, or based on work done in collaboration with Canopy. A binary system of credit was applied with one point given for each criterion. For example, if a printer has a sustainability section on the company website, that is a yes = 1 in that criterion.


Canopy makes every effort to ensure that the information in the Blueline Ranking is up to date and accurately reflects printers’ sustainability reporting. We attempted to contact all printers being assessed prior to the ranking release, to give all printers the opportunity to update web content in order to maximize their score in this assessment. All printers for which we have contact details received a draft copy of their assessment to review and provide feedback and/or additional information. In the case of some printers, contact names and emails were not available. Given that printers are regularly implementing new sustainability initiatives, we recognize that this is a dynamic field. Therefore if you notice any errors or omissions, or have updates, please contact us at


Q: What are elements that define a printer doing right by the world’s forests?

A: The elements that define leadership include: leading paper procurement policies focused on ancient and endangered forest conservation[ii]; paper supply chain shifts toward increased recycled, FSC and agricultural residue content; and engagement on forest conservation initiatives in landscapes of hope, beyond legal compliance and tri-certification. Canopy looks for specific, traceable commitments and actions by printers that contribute to demonstrable reductions in the impact of paper use on ancient and endangered forest biodiversity and ecosystems.


Q: Why is there such a focus on environmental paper/forest products in this sustainability assessment?

A: The Blueline Ranking places an emphasis on forest products and forest conservation as this is where the majority of a printer’s biodiversity footprint arises as well as the primary source of their carbon footprint. A study by the US Book Industry found that 61% of a paper’s environmental footprint is due to the loss of carbon-rich biomass in forests that are logged to secure the raw fiber of most conventional papers. Further more, according to other independent studies, up to 79% of the carbon footprint of magazines are ascribed to the papers used, while only 4 -17% was attributed to the printing of the magazine[iii]. An additional carbon study by a printer, assessed the company’s scope 1, 2 and 3 emission and found that 95% of their carbon footprint is attributable to the papers used[iv].


Q: How can a printer improve their ranking?

A: Printers can develop leading paper procurement policies and work with Canopy or another credible environmental non-governmental organization (ENGO) on helping to advance forest conservation initiatives, shift the practices of their supply chain to be more sustainable and enhance their public reporting. Canopy is here to help. Contact us at


Q: How can print customers support printers to become more sustainable?


  1. Source eco-papers: Choose papers with the highest recycled content and FSC® certification on any remaining virgin fiber.
  2. Develop a policy: Ask your printer to work with Canopy or another credible ENGO to develop a paper procurement policy that is transparent and details their commitments to use recycled, agricultural residue or FSC® certified fiber based papers from not only legal but also non-controversial sources.
  3. Reward the leaders and engage those who are slow to move: Printing is a service-based industry, so support printers that are best aligned with your company’s sustainability needs and business objectives and encourage those who aren’t to do so.


Q: Where does the North American printing sector source the majority of its paper?

A: Paper is a global commodity and the supply dynamics shift with the markets. Many printers’ preference is to paper from North American manufacturers. Canada’s Boreal and Coastal Temperate Rainforests are key North American sourcing regions for pulp and paper that are most commonly being logged for the very first time and represent critical ancient and endangered forests of global significance. Pulp and paper sourced from North American forestry operations generally meet legal requirements, however, it is not safe to assume that North American sourced fiber is necessarily sustainable, certified to the highest standard (FSC®), or in compliance with the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of First Nations, It is not uncommon for North American pulp to be derived from endangered or threatened species habitat and/or threatened forest ecosystems. These factors contribute to the need for paper buyers to ask questions about the papers they’re printing on, use Canopy’s Blueline Ranking as a tool to assess printers’ sustainability leadership, and work to ensure the paper chosen meets your company’s sustainability goals and objectives.


Q: How much paper is used in North America each year?

A: The FAO reports that more than 99.7 million tonnes of newsprint, printing and writing paper and paperboard (not including more than 50 million tonnes of ‘other’ paper and board) was consumed in North America in 2014[v]. This volume of paper is estimated to have required more than 2.4 billion trees[vi].

Q: Isn’t paper simply a by-product made from sawmill residue?

A: No. Paper is an integrated co-product of the forest products sector. The fiber used in paper production is generally a mix between pulp logs, which are logged for paper production and chipped specifically for that process, and sawmill residue. Depending on market cycles, there are times when the price saw mills get for the chips (used in pulp production) is the sole factor that keeps saw mills in production. In 2015, Canada exported more than 17.4 million tonnes of newsprint, paper and paper board and wood pulp and realized almost $17.5 billion CDN in exports of paper products, paperboard, newsprint, converted paper, wood and other pulp, pulpwood and wood chips[i], therefore it is prudent to investigate the forest of origin and the factors enumerated above. In many places, those trees come from ancient and endangered forest ecosystems.


Q: What is at risk when we source from ancient and endangered forests?

A: Ancient and endangered forests have developed unique and irreplaceable diversity that cannot be replaced by tree plantations, wood lots or even forests that are continuously harvested and replanted. These forests have survived for thousands of years as intact, fully functioning ecosystems and while subject to fire (a natural part of ecosystem function) they are untouched by industrial development. Furthermore, intact forests such as the unlogged regions of the Boreal Forest in Canada and the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest are the traditional homelands of indigenous peoples; provide critical habitat to endangered species; retain significant capacity to store carbon and provide a reservoir of ecological, medicinal and tourism based economic value. Endangered species once extinct cannot be recovered and other forest related economic opportunities of the future cannot be forfeited for marginal profits today. When print customers, often unknowingly, use paper that comes from these forest hotspots they risk undermining their hard-earned sustainability reputation and contributing to significant global environmental issues of concern.


Q: Are there alternatives to paper made with ancient and endangered forest fiber?

A: Yes, printers can make sure they are not sourcing from ancient and endangered forests by choosing paper with maximized recycled content, and by supporting the development of papers made with agricultural residue content like wheat straw. To learn more visit: And see the Ecopaper database for a list of leading ecopapers:


[i] To see the full list of criteria included, please see the legend at


[ii] Please visit to see all the elements of a leading policy


[iii] National Geographic 2009, Time, InStyle, Backpacker and The US Book Industry carbon footprint studies: 48 – 79 % of the carbon footprint is attributed to paper production, while 4 – 17 % is attributed to printing.




[vi] Environmental impact estimates were made using the Environmental Paper Network Paper Calculator Version 3.2.1. For more information visit Figures are based on using data for ‘newsprint’, ‘uncoated unbleached kraft paperboard’ and ‘uncoated freesheet’ to calculate the wood used for ‘newsprint’, ‘paper and paperboard’ and ‘writing and printing paper’. All numbers are based on the 100% virgin paper.



Get Canopy's Newsletter!

Receive the latest and greatest news about our work! Be the first to read Canopy's blog post on next-generation solutions and follow our team as they meet with forest products customers and purchasers across the globe.