Archive for July, 2012

Two Sides U.S. has joined the Forest Legality Alliance (FLA) as a commitment to advancing the responsible production and use of print and paper, one of the core elements of the Mission of Two Sides U.S.

The press release was issued today and can be found at this link.

The Alliance is a joint effort of the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Environmental Investigation Agency, supported by the United States Agency for International Development and companies in the forest sector.  FLA’s diverse membership includes organizations such as Staples, Ikea, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

The goal of FLA is to reduce illegal logging and eliminate illegal fiber in paper products.  To achieve this, FLA engages in the following activities:

  • Outreach and dissemination – providing information and building capacity on legality aspects including the 2008 U.S. Lacey Act amendments.
  • Information and analysis – compiling information and generating new analyses to help buyers understand the context in the countries of origin of their raw materials.
  • Demonstrating feasibility – through case studies, showcase best practices and examples of how companies are addressing and meeting legality requirements.
Our engagement with FLA also gives us an opportunity to work much more closely with WRI staff.  For the past year, Two Sides U.S. has been looking to collaborate more closely with reputable science-based environmental organizations that have experience and knowledge in the environmental impacts of forest products over their life cycle.  WRI meets this need perfectly as their experience in the sustainability of forest products is world-class.  They have worked with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, NCASI and others to produce documents which are now industry standards, such as:

Over the next few months, we will be featuring these tools and others more prominently as we develop our dedicated web pages on Responsible Production and Use of Print and Paper.

Forest Legality Alliance staff will also help provide training and education services to Two Sides U.S. member companies on topics related to illegal logging and associated trade, including legal requirements in global marketplaces and the sourcing of legal and sustainable paper products. FLA will also provide peer review for Two Sides materials including web content, blogs, printed publications and promotional materials.

This new initiative will not only benefit our members, but also will strengthen our mutual efforts to promote the responsible production and use of paper.  When fiber is sourced legally from well-managed forests and paper is manufactured and printed responsibly, print on paper is a sustainable way to communicate.

Phil Riebel

President, Two Sides U.S., Inc.

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The following is a response to this recent article by Mr. Raz Godelnik:


Two Sides is well aware of the Life-cycle studies done in this field. Our goal is not to do life cycle assessments, but to encourage companies to carefully compare electronic communications to paper-based communications (using LCA) so that their communication choices are based on sound scientific evidence.  We also believe that LCAs need to follow recognized standards and be peer-reviewed by an expert panel, as recommended by ISO (International Standardization Organization).

The Two Sides campaign is aimed at identifying and eliminating environmental claims that are not factual and not substantiated.  If a company decides to do a peer-reviewed LCA and finds e-billing to be more favorable then we are OK with that, as long as the sensitivity analysis is clear on when LCA results start favoring paper billing.  As Mr. Godelnik notes, there are circumstances in the Telstra LCA when the global warming impacts of e-billing is greater.

The LCAs we have reviewed, including the Telstra study cited by Mr. Godelnik and others not mentioned in his article, have been available on the Two Sides website for some time.  There is a great review by Dr. Peter Arnfalk on the environmental impacts of e-media and paper.  This is a must read since it reviews several LCAs.  Simply go to the Reports and Studies page (under Resources) and submit a search by clicking the “Life cycle Assessment” box on the right hand side of the page.

It should be clear from Mr. Godelnik’s examples and the LCAs on the Two Sides website that such assessments are very case-specific, as they should be, due to the many variables that must be considered.  LCAs are best used in specific situations and the results of one study should not be used to generalize for all situations.  This is one of the basic rules of life cycle evaluation and of environmental marketing when it comes to using LCA results.

So, results depend on assumptions and data used in the LCA.  All situations are different.

Key parameters which greatly influence the magnitude of the environmental benefits are:

  •  Time spent on the Internet.
  • Printing frequency, no. of pages printed
  • The number of online bills produced per year
  • Whether IT infrastructure is used at capacity or not
  • Amount of energy consumed by servers

Two Sides’ position is that print and electronic media are complementary and should co-exist.  It is not a question of paper or electronic, but rather which combination of the two has the least impact on the environment while meeting social and economic needs.  Responsible environmental choices are based on factual and verifiable life cycle assessments of each alternative.  Depending on the application, paper can be a better choice for economic/ environmental reasons (as noted by Arnfalk).

Print and paper have many unique environmental benefits that surface in a well done LCA, including renewability, recyclability and low carbon footprint in many cases.  Paper also helps promote well managed working forests that are key to the US environment and economy.  The answer to our environmental problems is not to replace highly recyclable and renewable products (from well managed forests) with ones that are not renewable, less recyclable and eliminate the need to manage forests.  Our working forests rely on a sustainable forest products market.  Without it, forest land will be sold and lost to malls, highways, agriculture…or server farms.

The bottom line is that most companies don’t do LCAs, or even consider the impacts of electronic communications prior to making negative claims about paper.  They also typically don’t consider the fact that many people print at home or at work so that they have a record.  In other words, the life cycle is often not paperless.  In many cases, the use of paper has just been shifted downstream to the consumer.  A study by NACHA – The Electronics Payment Association recently found that up to 40% of people who use e-billing also receive paper copies in the mail.

Furthermore, we are not asking companies to drop e-billing and go back to paper billing, as Mr. Godelnik suggests.  E-billing has many benefits that I personally find useful.  We are simply saying don’t paint paper as a bad product with more negative impacts than e-billing unless you have studied the matter carefully and have the backing of a credible third party.  Companies should also stick to the basic rules of environmental marketing before they tout the environmental benefits of one product or service over another.

The ISO 14020 series of standards (esp. ISO 14021) are good documents that outline best practices for environmental claims and declarations.  Other good resources on best practices for environmental marketing can be found on the Two Sides website under Resources / Reports and Studies.  They include:

  • US FTC Green Guides
  • CSR Europe’s Sustainable Marketing Guide
  • DEFRA’s Quick Guide to Making an Environmental Claim

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Many leading U.S companies, including banks, utility companies and telecommunications providers, are urging their customers to go paperless with claims that electronic business communications and transactions are environmentally superior to those printed on paper.   But are they really better for the environment, and can these companies back up their claims with supporting data that would meet the standards set by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, better known as the Green Guides?

The Guides say that any environmental assertion must be based on competent and reliable scientific evidence, which the FTC defines as “tests, analyses, research, studies or other evidence based on the expertise of professionals in the relevant area, conducted and evaluated in an objective manner by persons qualified to do so, using procedures generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate and reliable results.”

The truth is that both paper and electronic communications have effects on the environment and making valid apples-to-apples comparisons is impossible without sorting through the complex life cycles of both.   We can, however, make some common sense comparisons that raise questions about the validity of claims that “going paperless” is a more environmentally responsible choice.

First, let’s look at raw materials.  Paper is made from a renewable resource, wood fiber from trees, while computers and the data center technology that support them are made primarily from finite resource – petroleum-based plastics, metals and rare earth minerals.  Then there’s energy use.  More than 65% of the energy used to manufacture paper in the United States comes from renewable, carbon-neutral biofuel.  With very few exceptions, the growing infrastructure of the U.S. information and communications technology sector is powered by electricity generated from fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases and contribute to climate change.  And lastly, consider recycling rates.  In 2011, 66.8% of paper consumed in the United States was recovered for recycling (AF&PA) compared to only 38% of computers in 2009 (the most recent figure available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).

If companies want to encourage the use of electronic bills and statements to reduce their costs or promote the convenience of e-communications, that’s their choice.  But playing on consumers’ desire to be environmentally responsible without sound scientific backup only serves to further erode confidence in all green marketing claims, including the ones that represent real environmental value.

This week, Two Sides will launch a nationwide educational initiative to engage and encourage major U.S. corporations to adopt best practices for environmental marketing and end the use of misleading claims about the sustainability of print and paper.  You can read the press release here.  For more facts on the sustainability of print and paper, check out the Myths and Facts section on the Two Sides website at www.twosides.us.

Kathi Rowzie is a guest blogger for Two Sides.  She is a sustainability communications consultant with The Gagliardi Group in Memphis, TN.

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