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