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Archive for October, 2013

Kudos to the team at Keep Me Posted for a great video that spells it out…with a British twist!

A group of charities, consumer watchdogs and postal operators in the UK recently launched a new campaign to stop banks, utilities and telecoms firms from forcing their customers to use paperless billing.  The “Keep Me Posted” campaign warns that switching bills and statements to digital channels is not always suitable for a “large proportion” of UK consumers, but businesses have been looking to switch transactional mail to electronic channels in order to save on cost.  Sound familiar?

The Keep Me Posted campaign wants businesses to adopt a “Right to Choose” pledge demonstrating their commitment to allowing customers to decide how they receive their important communications.

So why do we care here in the states?  Because the UK campaign highlights many similar statistics that we have seen here in North America through a recent, independent survey and helps bring those results to life.  The outcomes are comparable and can have a global message and impact.

For example, as pressure to go paperless from banks, utilities, telecommunications companies and other service providers grows, a majority of U.S. consumers want to keep the option to receive paper bills and statements, according to a nationwide survey conducted for Two Sides US  by research firm Toluna.  Similar results were also found in an earlier National US survey conducted by Infotrends on behalf of Consumers for Paper Options and in the UK by Two Sides U.K.

We think our US  survey results speak for themselves…and for people in support of paper correspondence options:

  • 64% of consumers say they would not choose a company that did not offer a paper bill option.
  • 88% want to be able to switch between electronic and paper bills without difficulty or cost.
  • 72% agree that print and paper can be an environmentally sustainable way to communicate if responsibly produced, used and recycled.
  • 50% of consumers either do not believe, feel misled by or question the validity of claims like “Save Trees, Go Paperless” and “Go Green, Go Digital.”
  • Over 84% of people agree that e-billing and e-statements are being promoted to save costs.
  • 91% of consumers say they are unwilling to pay for paper bills.
  • 44% prefer to receive bills by postal mail only.
  • 59% of consumers would refuse to switch to electronic bills and statements or would not take action when asked to do so.
  • 50% of consumers read their bills and statements received both electronically and by postal mail; only 15% read bills which they receive by email only.
  • 34% of consumers are clearly ‘home printers’ with 20% printing up to 20% of their bills and 8% printing between 80% and 100% of their bills. 66% don’t print out any bills at home.

If you haven’t already, check out the full survey report.  It is available to Two Sides members at http://www.twosides.us/Members-Only-Page

And let us know your thoughts on the “Keep Me Posted” video!

Phil Riebel
President, Two Sides US

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Our new web page is up: Responsible Production and Use of Print and Paper

The objective of this resource is to help support a key element of the Two Sides mission which is to “promote the responsible production and use of print and paper”.

Whether you are reading a book or magazine, or writing notes on a piece of paper, the product you are using (print or paper…or both) has had a long and, sometimes complex, life before ending up in your hands.  What you do with it, i.e. keep it or recycle it, will also determine its overall impact on the environment.

This “life cycle” is key to understanding the overall environmental footprint of print and paper products.  The key factors driving this footprint are:

  • Raw material production, including forest management and the collection of recovered paper
  • Pulp and paper manufacturing
  • Printing and converting
  • Disposal and recycling
  • Transportation at various steps of this life cycle

As usual, when we start looking into the life-cycle of products, things get complicated due to the numerous steps and actors involved. 

In the case of paper and print, recycling and ensuring that forests are certified to standards such as SFI and FSC are a few examples of responsible production and use, but these are only the first basic steps in a much larger and complex life cycle.

The life cycle of printing and writing papers (from AF&PA, 2011)

The life cycle of printing and writing papers (from AF&PA, 2011)

Our new webpage outlines the life cycle of print and paper in more detail and the various ways in which producers and buyers can reduce the environmental impacts of their products.  It includes links to the following ten Reference Sheets, which are loaded with examples of topic-specific tools, reports and articles from our member companies, allied organizations and other well-know and credible sources:

  1. The Paper Life Cycle – Resources explaining “life cycle thinking” and how to aim for a continual reduction in the environmental footprint of print and paper.
  2. Sustainable Forest Management – Information on best practices, forest certification and how to curb illegal logging.
  3. Clean Production – Example of best practices for manufacturing pulp and paper, including energy efficiency and water reduction.
  4. Climate Change and Carbon Footprint – Selected examples of how companies can determine their carbon footprint and reduce it, and how climate change creates not only challenges, but opportunities, for print and paper.
  5. Recycling and Use of Recovered Paper – What is sustainable use of recycled fiber? Statistics on fiber use, import and export.
  6. Environmental Reporting – Examples of resources supporting open and transparent sustainability reporting.
  7. Eco-Labels and Environmental Claims – Information to help readers understand the various eco-labels and what is behind them, and to cut through the “greenwashing”.
  8. Guidelines for Responsible Paper Production, Use and Procurement – Guides and tools published by credible organizations to help define responsible procurement, production and use.
  9. Examples of Responsible Paper Procurement Policies – Policy examples from leading companies that are setting the pace for responsible paper procurement.
  10. Environmental Scorecards and Product Declarations – Examples of paper scorecards and declarations used to evaluate the environmental performance of various paper grades.

I invite you to share this information with your co-workers, customers, suppliers and others, and take an active part in the conversation about on the sustainability and value of print and paper.

Two Sides feels that the US Graphic Communications Value Chain has a great story to tell about the responsible production and use of print and paper, and about the perks that this value chain provides our communities.

Phil Riebel
President and COO, Two Sides US

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Although many of the “save a tree” messages are printed on bills and envelopes, consumers don’t differentiate between different paper products.  These messages are a major driver of public perception about all paper and print products.  If your company’s business and livelihood relies on print and paper, I can guarantee that this message is not helpful.  It’s not only on bills, it’s on websites, emails, Youtube videos… it’s even printed on the back of buses and in bus stops!  Major corporate marketing departments are spreading their views on paper far and wide to promote lower cost e-billing and e-statements.  These claims are harming our industry and the livelihood of millions of Americans who work in the paper value chain, from the family forest owner to the direct mail company.

Watch out not to get hit by the anti-paper bus!

Watch out not to get hit by the anti-paper bus!

As a private forest owner and someone who has made a career in the forest products industry, I have a personal agenda and a business reason to have these claims removed or changed.  Based on our recent Two Sides member satisfaction survey, I also know that the vast majority of our members feel the same way.

Banks, utilities and telecoms (among others) willingly take our money and, at the same time, their marketing departments spew out “anti-paper” slogans to convince consumers to stop using the very products we rely on for our livelihood!  Whatever happened to the basic rule that says “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”?

The Good News

It appears that many Americans are seeing behind the “greenwash”.   This was evident from our latest Nationwide survey  where we asked US consumers how they felt about the “go green – go paperless” message.

1) Half of consumers surveyed do not believe, feel misled by or question the validity of such claims.

2) 84% agreed that paperless bills and statements are being promoted to reduce costs.

In another recent study of paper versus electronic services done by Infotrends on behalf of Consumer for Paper Options, 80% of US consumers said it was not appropriate for companies to cite environmentalism when it is not their real motive.

clickThis data is greatly helping our campaign to challenge and remove the claims.  As of today, we have engaged with 61 companies, 17 of which have removed their anti-paper environmental claims.  Most of our discussions with corporate marketing and legal staff have been productive.  Due to the size of the companies and the attempt to “turn the ship”, patience and persistence is key.

A progress report on our campaign is available to Two Sides members.

The Bad News

“Go Paperless – Go Green” claims still create a misleading view of print and paper products for many people.  They link paper to permanent forest loss or deforestation and they suggest that not using paper will save forests.

Truth is: Paper comes from a renewable resource and is highly recyclable.  US forest area has been stable and growing.  There is 49% more wood volume than 50 years ago.  Forest loss is caused by urbanization and development, not forestry.  In fact, US pulp, paper and other wood products provide an incentive for forest owners to retain well-managed forests instead of converting the land to non-forest use.  If our forestland loses its economic value, it will gradually disappear in favor of other land uses.

The green claims also suggest that using electronic media instead of paper will help the environment.  However, over its life cycle, electronic media has many environmental impacts that are sometimes unknown and often ignored when companies make the switch from paper to electronic.  The interplay between paper products and electronic services is complex and depends on many variables.  For example, in many cases the use of paper is just shifted to the consumer with 34% of people printing statements or bills at home.

The role of Two Sides is to ensure people and corporations receive both sides of the story and the science behind our facts.  In the end, it’s not rocket science and many people understand the environmental, social and economic value of paper products.

After all, 72% of people we polled said that when print on paper is responsibly produced, used and recycled, it can be an environmentally sustainable way to communicate.

For more about the above facts, go to http://www.twosides.us/mythsandfacts  and http://files.twosides.info:8080/content/facts/pdf_312.pdf

Phil Riebel
President, Two Sides US

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