Green Goals: An Inside Look at Our Environmental Management System

No company can claim to be truly eco-friendly without having an Environmental Management System (EMS). As a carbon neutral, environmentally conscious business, The Bernard Group not only makes the claim, but also backs it up with new and ever more challenging (and rewarding) sustainability goals. Our clients have high expectations, so we’re sharing our 2022 EMS successes and previewing our 2023 priorities.

Two people standing at a table with a box of sustainable material samples in a production facility.

What is an EMS?

An Environmental Management System helps The Bernard Group (and Smartpress, our online division) reduce our impacts on the environment and increase efficiencies in the way we operate. Our EMS team leads the way by creating policies and procedures that put us in the driver’s seat when it comes to environmental performance across our entire company.

These experts do crucial research, create documentation and provide training on all things eco. In short, they pave the way for The Bernard Group to be as eco-friendly as possible in all aspects of our business.

We often say we believe in working toward something bigger than ourselves, and we believe it should be stunning. In this case, the “bigger” begins with EMS.

A woman wearing a Smartpress T-shirt and safety glasses sorting recycled magnet materials.
A man in a production area standing by a recycling bin with a flip book printed with Corrugate A.

Outcomes: EMS in 2022

When we set environmental goals, we don’t just do it willy nilly. Our International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001 Certification requires we set objectives that are consistent with our environmental policy. They’re then tracked by our EMS team and shared with employees in all of our facilities on posters and bulletins, through emails and internal TV monitors. We’re nothing if not accountable. Here are the Environmental Management System goals we worked toward in 2022:

Objective #1: Calculate energy savings

Goal: Save 100,000 kWh across our entire enterprise annually.

Result: We far surpassed this objective, with a total annual savings of 375,884 kWh – nearly four times our goal! With a third-party audit, we were able to target specific facilities, as well as smaller-scale projects like shutting down idle equipment, LED retrofits and occupancy sensors.

Objective #2: Quantify Scope 3 emissions

Goal: Having already offset Scopes 1 and 2, we wanted to quantify the next level of emissions, Scope 3, across our entire enterprise.

  • Scope 1 emissions are those made directly by our five primary facilities and company vehicles in Minnesota.
  • Scope 2 emissions consist of those generated by the electricity we purchase from local energy partners.
  • Scope 3 emissions include those made by our supply and distribution chain, employees commuting, business travel, purchased goods and waste disposal.

Result: In meeting this goal, our research revealed our total Scope 3 emissions for 2022 was 23,533 tCO2e (metric tons of carbon dioxide). We also evaluated our strategic direction and purchased new carbon offsets (COs) and renewable energy certificates (RECs) to continue offsetting our Scopes 1 and 2 emissions in 2023:

  • Katingan Redd Project (Scope 1 CO): Protects and restores 149,800 hectares of peatland ecosystems.
  • Akocak Hydroelectric Power Plant (Scope 1 CO): Generates energy from the Karadere River in Trabzon, Turkey.
  • Green-e Certified US/CAN Wind/Solar/Biomass (Scope 2 REC): Generates energy from new facilities that meet rigorous standards for environmental quality.

Objective #3: Divert 500 tons of waste to proper disposal

Goal: Improve our waste program performance throughout all facilities in order to divert 500 tons of waste to proper disposal.

Result: We exceeded this goal with a total of 538 tons of redirected waste. Subsequent wins that emerged here were us recycling magnet materials for the first time ever and boosting awareness about our recycling program with improved communication to our employees.


Hint: Our EMS goals affect not only our services, but also our approach to corporate social responsibility as a whole. See why we’re rated Platinum by EcoVadis.

A man in a Smartpress T-shirt throwing ink-stained paper towels into a blue bin in a production area.

Onward: EMS in 2023

When thinking about goals for 2023, we saw it as a chance to really focus on what it means to be a carbon neutral company and sustainable business as a whole. The Bernard Group once again aligned our Environmental Management System initiatives with our environmental policy and came up with three exciting opportunities:

Objective #1: Bolster our eco design process

Goal: Create and implement a tool for comparing project materials during pre-production and improve access to more sustainable options for The Bernard Group clients. The tool will include information on each material’s environmental performance and how clients can optimize their projects. Previously used with select clients, this version will be accessible to all (holla!).

Objective #2: Provide more sustainable packaging

Goal: Test and make available more options for sustainable packaging. For shipping materials specifically, eliminate 50% of virgin plastic and replace it with materials that are recycled, recyclable or sustainably sourced. (Check out the recyclable Custom Boxes already available – each style comes in three sizes!)

Objective #3: Continue recycling improvements

Goal: Identify and develop successful recycling streams for at least two more currently non-recyclable materials. As mentioned above, 2022 was a big year for recycling upgrades at The Bernard Group, including recycling magnets for the first time. 2023 is the perfect time to target even more material streams.

“Our environmental policy states that we commit to leading the industry, and that takes involvement from everyone, every day.”

A man and a woman in Smartpress T-shirts sorting through materials in a box in a production area.

Q&A with Our EMS Team

We wouldn’t be the eco-friendly printer we are without our impressive Environmental Management System and the experts who make that team a force to be reckoned with. We spoke to two of them, Industrial Engineer Clay McCarty and Environmental Program Manager Emily Keith, about the challenges of meeting goals, what every EMS needs and more.

Why is it important for our company to have an EMS team?

Clay McCarty: “Different areas have their own challenges with environmental success, but having an EMS team allows us to ensure that The Bernard Group and Smartpress are united in these efforts as a whole.”

How do you determine annual objectives for EMS?

Emily Keith: “We determine annual objectives by looking at the needs of our company, as well as client interest within the last year. We also make sure the objectives we set are measurable. Each year brings different challenges and new goals, and we want to make sure our EMS objectives reflect those well.”

How do The Bernard Group and Smartpress employees contribute to accomplishing these goals?

Keith: “Many employees will be directly involved in helping us achieve our objectives for the year, but the big picture is always very important. Our environmental policy states that we commit to leading the industry, and that takes involvement from everyone, every day. Every project we plan, every bin of waste, every chemical drum is an opportunity for us to lead.”

What are you most proud of accomplishing in 2022?

Keith: “One of the biggest initiatives we’re most proud of is our Calculated Energy Savings Project. This project really started from the ground up as we participated in a third-party energy audit to analyze where we have energy savings opportunities. It gave us great direction and helped us organize priorities and impacts of certain improvements.

“The energy savings goal of 100,000 kWh was almost quadrupled at 375,884 kWh. The amount of energy we were able to save is incredible! We’re really proud of this one.”

What do you anticipate will be the biggest challenges in accomplishing our 2023 objectives?

Keith: “The biggest challenges in 2023 will probably be sourcing. For each objective, sourcing is necessary and will require lots of involvement from different teams to help find the best materials, waste streams and resources to complete them. We don’t want to settle for something that doesn’t align with the true purpose of our objectives, which is to be better than the year before.”

What advice do you have for companies interested in starting their own EMS?

McCarty: “Make sure your program is supported from the top down. If your leaders aren’t committed to setting standards and sustaining them, your program will encounter obstacles at every level. The bare minimum is not enough, and it starts with having committed leadership.

“Also, be ready to have documented policies and manage them. ISO programs are all about doing what you say and saying what you do. Workplaces are a moving target in a lot of industries, and your policies have to be agile enough to stay relevant in a fast paced environment like that.”

Why is it important for companies to monitor their impact on the environment?

McCarty: “Humanity as a whole is experiencing an awakening of sorts. We’re more aware each day of our impact on the planet. It’s crucial that industry and commerce understand their part in the bigger picture and take responsibility for it.”

“It’s crucial that industry and commerce understand their part in the bigger picture and take responsibility for it.”