Happy May!


We are now on our fourth day in a row of sunshine and mild weather, what a long overdue delight! This month I want to share an article with you from Printing Impressions magazine on sustainability claims.


The debate about the sustainability of paper, or lack thereof, compared to the sustainability of electronic communication has been raging for some time. And I'm sure it will continue. This article is not paying homage to that debate, rather it is focusing more on the environmental marketing claims of those who are promoting electronic communication over print and paper.


Now before I say another word please understand I get it. Both forms of communication are essential. After all I am sending you an electronic newsletter right? And I spend more time sending and replying to electronic communications, hear emails, than I think I ought. This article is focused strictly on the sometimes exaggerated and sometimes unsubstantiated claims that electronic communication is more environmentally friendly than printed paper communications. I found it to be very interesting and noteworthy and I hope you will too. Not only do I appreciate the perspective of this organization, I also appreciate both their efforts and the manner in which they carry them out. So read on and let me know what you think.

Two Sides Continues Print and Paper Campaign

CHICAGO-Two Sides, an independent, non-profit organization created to promote the responsible production, use and sustainability of print and paper, has announced the next stage of its nationwide initiative to urge major U.S. banks, utilities and telecommunication companies to end the use of misleading marketing claims about the sustainability of print and paper. 

Phase Two will include a second round of communication intended to initiate productive discussion with senior management in the target industries, reminding them of their responsibility to adhere to best practices for environmental marketing as outlined i 
n the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's recently revised Green Guides.
Last year, Two Sides contacted senior bank, utility and telecom executives, encouraging them to follow the yet-to-be-released FTC Green Guides, which say that environmental marketing claims should not exaggerate environmental impacts and must be substantiated. While some responded positively, many of the nation's top banks, utilities and telecoms continue to tell their customers that switching to online billing and communication is better for the environment than print and paper with no verifiable or credible supporting evidence. With the release of the updated Green Guides in October 2012, the FTC made it official that that unqualified environmental language would be viewed as deceptive marketing, strengthening the Two Sides call for change.
"Two Sides has no desire to cause unnecessary negative publicity for these companies or to undermine their cost-saving and efficiency reasons for driving customers towards e-billing, but claims that print and paper are environmentally unfriendly need to stop," says Two Sides President Phil Riebel. "Rather than call these respected companies out publicly with 
greenwashing complaints, we'd much prefer to amicably work with them behind the scenes to help develop messaging that meets the Green Guides standards for environmental marketing," he says. "However, we're prepared to use the strongest means necessary to put an end to the use of unsupported environmental claims that are potentially damaging to the paper, printing and mailing sectors which support millions of U.S. jobs."    
Two Sides conducted a similar campaign to get companies in the United Kingdom to drop or revise unsupported environmental claims about printed media with great success. More than 80 percent of the U.K. companies approached-including well-known names like British Telecom, Barclaycard, Vodafone and EON Energy-worked with Two Sides to eliminate misleading or factually incorrect environmental claims about the use of print and paper.

The fact is, print and paper products made in the U.S. have a great environmental story to tell," Riebel says. "Paper comes from a renewable resource-trees grown in responsibly managed forests-and it's recycled more than any other commodity, including plastics, metals and glass. The continuing demand for sustainably sourced paper gives U.S. landowners a financial incentive to continue managing their lands responsibly and keep them forested rather than selling them for development-the number one cause of deforestation in the United 

 States. Thanks in great part to the sustainable forestry practices advanced by the paper and forest products industry, the volume of growing trees in U.S. forests has increased nearly 50 percent over the last half century and the total acres of forestland has remained essentially unchanged for 100 years."
The direct impact of electronic products and services replacing paper is far from negligible, and the trade-offs between the two depends on how often we use the different technologies and how we dispose of the products. Both electronic and print media are important, and both have environmental impacts that must be taken into consideration. Electronic communication has a significant and growing carbon footprint due to the energy requirements of a vast worldwide network of servers necessary to store information for immediate access. Electronic communication also relies on significant amounts of fossil-fuel energy and non-renewable raw materials for processing and manufacturing. With electronic waste becoming the fastest growing waste stream in the world and related environmental and health concerns escalating rapidly in many countries, promoting "going paperless" as the best environmental choice is unfounded.
It's also important to note that equating electronic billing and statements with "going paperless" is misleading. When traditional bills and statements are converted to electronic communication, much of that paper is replaced by home or office printing by those who prefer or require a permanent hard copy. Furthermore, a recent study by NACHA, the Electronic Payments Association, showed that up to 40 percent of consumers receive both electronic and paper statements.
"Some of the major U.S. companies in the financial, telecom and utility sectors are to be commended for implementing sustainability initiatives that focus on true performance measurement and factual environmental claims, but others are lagging behind in terms of credible messaging," Riebel says. "Two Sides is committed to help change this, and our experience to date shows that we've been successful in finding mutually acceptable solutions."


"Republished by permission of Printing Impressions magazine"

As always, thanks for listening,  


Bill Strobridge