Archive for the ‘best practices’ Category

Below is the second progress report on our ongoing campaign to promote best practices for environmental marketing of print and paper products.  We issued our first report in April 2013 which also included the background and rationale for the campaign.

Progress to Date

Number of U.S. companies who have received a first letter from Two Sides 48
Number of additional cases that Two Sides has referred to member companies and allies 14
Total cases to date 62
Number of companies who have removed their anti-paper environmental claims 13
Success rate 21%
Number of companies who have responded to Two Sides 32
Number of companies that Two Sides has had (or is having) discussions with 17
Number of companies who have not yet responded 20

Our success rate is now 21% and has increased 7% since the last report.  We increased our number of target cases by 8 companies overall, for a total of 62 to date.  Many companies have received a second letter from us and more have responded and removed their claims.  Just this week I received an encouraging letter from a major West Coast utility company that removed all their green claims related paperless billing.  Here is the letter:


Dear Mr. Riebel:

This letter is in reply to your January 30, 2013 and June 19, 2013 letters regarding [company name] messaging around electronic billing . Because these issues fall within my area of responsibility,  I have been asked to respond to you.  In particular, your letters express concerns over messages that encourage customers to switch to on-line billing for environmental reasons.

 I appreciate your bringing the concerns of Two Sides U.S. to our attention and your willingness to discuss them. [Company name] takes seriously any suggestion that its messaging to customers might be unreliable or contain inaccuracies.

The statements cited in your letters were, we believe, appropriately incorporated into our customer messaging based on information we had available at that time. Nevertheless, following receipt of your initial letter in January, [company name] reconsidered our messaging and determined that cost savings is the most significant driver for our campaign. As such, we decided to discontinue statements regarding environmental benefits of electronic billing, and to focus on the cost savings associated with electronic billing. Accordingly, we believe our actions have addressed your concerns.

 Let me assure you that we share your desire that the public be accurately informed on issues regarding the environment. It is also important to [company name] that our messaging to customers is accurate, reliable, and helpful. {Company name] would therefore welcome any further suggestions you may have in this regard.

Finally, we assume that this matter is now concluded, but please let me know if you believe further discussion would be helpful .


There is hope!  In other words, it’s more about “fees” than “trees”.

We have agreed not to publicly name companies who are working with us, however a list of all companies and results is available to Two Sides commercial members.  Our plan is continue our initiative and start taking actions to convince non-responding companies to pay attention.

Phil Riebel
President and COO
Two Sides US, Inc.

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I am ticked off at my bank, utilities and telecom providers for saying “go green – go paperless.”

I’ve had it with my bank and all the other companies that are bashing paper products to promote electronic billing, statements and other e-services.  Yes…I’ve finally lost it.

I have decided to be diplomatic and not name you…but we all know who you are.millions

To my bank and other providers out there who are doing this:

You are damaging my livelihood and you are misleading people with greenwashing so that you can cut costs.  Please be honest.

I am your customer and I have spent the last 25 years of my life working in the forest and paper industry.  This industry has allowed me to lead a good life, raise a great family together with my wife, and provide a good education for my children.

My youngest son standing on a beaver dam on our forestland. This was taken during a weekend exploration trip several years ago. He's 17 now and graduating from high school in a few months.

My youngest son standing on a beaver dam on our forest property. This was taken during a weekend adventure several years ago. He’s 17 now and graduating from high school in a few months.

I buy your products and services: banking services, cell phones, TV services, electric and water services.  I spend my money to make you more profitable – money that comes from the pulp and paper industry.

Not only are the green claims making me upset, it makes many of your other customers upset as well.  In fact, millions of them.

It may come as a surprise to you but 8.4 million Americans make a living in the print, paper and mail value chain that generates 1.3 trillion in revenues (EMA 2012 Job Study).  I bet you’re getting a lot of this money in your coffers.

About 10 million Americans own private forestland (US Forest Service) and many of them rely on the income from their properties to make a living (ex: lumber for construction and pulp used for papermaking – yes PAPER).

I am one of those forest owners.  My family owns 200 acres of woodlands and we manage it responsibly for economic and recreational benefits as well as biodiversity.

How do you think I and the millions of other family forest owners feel about your “save a tree” claims?  I think they are very misleading because I believe we are the ones saving forests for the long-term by managing them responsibly and making sure our society can benefit from forest products (like paper) that are highly renewable, highly recyclable and store carbon for their useful life.  These inherent environmental features make paper quite a sustainable product compared to all the other things that surround us, including electronics.

Most of us are well aware of the massive infrastructure and environmental impacts of electronic media that you forget to mention in your green claims.

All products and services have pros and cons.  To bash one product in favor of another is an easy game to play when you have no verifiable facts or evidence that consider all the economic, social and environmental benefits of our forest resource and products like paper.  I believe your green claims fall short of many rules and guidelines for environmental marketing.

Paper and electronic can happily co-exist and I need both…so do most other people I know.  I use e-billing and on-line banking regularly, but I need a paper copy to remind me to pay the bills.  I also keep the paper copy, or print the e-statements for accounting and record-keeping.  It’s more secure and won’t get lost.

All my paper gets printed on both sides and gets recycled.  I also buy paper that has been made with fiber from forests certified to the Forest Stewardship Council or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

Paper is far from being a “bad” product as your marketing suggests.  I believe that the majority of people see paper as a sustainable way to communicate as long as it is produced and used responsibly, including recycling it.

It’s time to gather your marketing team in a room and tell them to stop greenwashing the millions of people who earn a living from the print, paper, mail and forestry value chain.  Please focus your message on the true benefits of e-media: speed, convenience and maybe a few others.

Remember…we are your customers and most of us care about the environment just as much as you do.

Now it’s time for me to shut down my computer and cell phone for the day and go for a walk in the forest.  Happy Earth Day!

Phil Riebel
Family Forest Owner and Proud Paper Supporter

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Shortly after its beginnings in 2008, Two Sides launched a campaign in the UK to challenge negative environmental claims about print and paper being made by many companies in order to promote electronic statements (ex: e-billing).  You’ve all seen them: Go green – Go paperless.  Go GreenSave trees.

Two Sides made this a focused initiative with a strategic approach to get the claims removed or changed.  The reasoning behind this is:

  • The “go green – go paperless” message is damaging to the print, paper and mail value chain and millions of jobs rely on this value chain.
  • Print on paper has unique environmental features that many other products and materials do not.
  • The “saving trees” and “go- green” messages create a false impression that forests and trees are a finite resource that is being lost instead of a renewable resource being replenished based on sustainable forest management practices.
  • Corporations must follow best practices for environmental marketing.  Claims should be based on sound and peer-reviewed scientific evidence (ex: CSR Europe guidelines, UK CAP, US FTC Green Guides and ISO14021)
  • The full impact of switching to e-media are often not properly considered and sometimes ignored.
  • The life cycle of e-statements is not paperless because many people print e-statements at home or at the office for record-keeping and other uses.

Although the process was time-demanding and required many discussions and exchanges, our success was more than what we had expected.  In total, 80% of the companies (27 out of 34) we engaged changed or removed their anti-paper claims, including several large corporations.

In July 2010, we launched the same campaign in the US with a strategic approach and focus to engage the top banks, utilities and telecoms that are currently using similar environmental claims.  We looked at over 100 companies and discovered that half of them are using misleading claims.  We are now systematically addressing these.  The “list” is growing weekly and our database now includes about 250 companies in many different sectors.

Thanks to all of you who have been sending us claims of concern.  If you see one, just email it to us at inquiries@twosides.us

Our goal is an 80% success rate in getting claims changed or removed.

We are collaborating  with some member companies as well as with the AF&PA in this initiative to avoid duplication of efforts and discuss how we can best address the numerous claims being made.  The PrintMediaCentr has been very supportive in spreading the message.  PIA and PIASC have also greatly supported the cause by sometimes issuing their own letters and press releases to draw attention to this issue.

 Progress to Date

Number of U.S. companies who have received a first letter from Two Sides


Number of additional cases that Two Sides has referred to member companies and allies


Total cases to date


Number of companies who have removed their anti-paper environmental claims


Success rate


Number of companies who have responded to Two Sides


Number of companies that Two Sides has had (or is having) discussions with


Number of companies who have not yet responded


Our current success rate is only 13%…but the night is young!

First, we would like to thank to the companies who have taken the time to listen to us, those that are currently working with us, and those that have corrected their claims.

We are now in the process of sending a second letter to companies who have not responded and to those who have decided to keep their existing environmental claims.  The letter lists specific actions that Two Sides will take in the near future to draw attention to these companies.

Our view is that misleading environmental claims about print and paper products require a strong response due to the potential damage to the paper, print, publishing and mail value chain which supports 8.4 million U.S. jobs and generates $1.139 trillion in sales revenue (1).

Phil Riebel
President and COO
Two Sides US, Inc.

1 – Direct Communications Group, 2010.  The EMA Job Study. www.envelope.org

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The topic of using recycled fiber in printing papers is being discussed more actively within the Two Sides network these days due to the notion that “more recycled content in printing papers is better for the environment”.

I would add: “it depends on the situation”.  I say this because generalizing the benefits of recycled fiber use can be misleading due to the many environmental and economic factors at play in the life cycle of paper products.  In other words, wood-based paper grades can be equally or more sustainable if they are being produced responsibly.

We do need to talk about sustainability in this case because buying paper to make printed products involves both economic and environmental considerations. (1)

Recovering and recycling paper products is a good thing.  It reduces waste to landfill and extends the use of a valuable raw material.  In turn, recovered paper should be re-used as a raw material in products in the most sustainable way possible.  That may or may not include high-end printing papers (ex: catalogs and magazines).

There are industry arguments on both sides of the coin.  There are many who say that one of the most sustainable ways to use recovered paper is in lower quality grades of paper (ex: carton board, paperboard) where less processing and no de-inking is needed.  This typically also means less cost and less environmental concerns.  Others point out that high quality recovered paper (if available) should be re-used to make printing papers due to its high content of long (Kraft) fibers.  In either situation, the right conditions must be in place to make it environmentally and economically sustainable.

The environmental footprint of a grade of printing paper depends entirely on its specific life cycle (forestry practices, environmental performance of pulp and paper mills and suppliers, transportation, etc.).  In our industry, many of the environmental indicators associated with this life cycle are measured and reported in terms of emissions to air, water, soil and solid waste to landfill, among many others.  For companies committed to sustainability, tracking these indicators and improving performance is a key method used to reduce the overall environmental footprint of their paper products.

The environmental performance of the pulp and paper industry varies widely between countries, between companies and between manufacturing facilities.  This is because environmental performance depends on the use of best available technology and the commitment to sustainability of a given company or facility.

Each product life cycle is also associated with other elements such as forest biodiversity and the ecosystem services of a well-managed forest (water filtration, air purification and carbon sequestration), recreational benefits, jobs created and community spin-offs from forestry and manufacturing, the cost of de-inked pulp, paper quality considerations, the distance needed to transport recovered paper and de-inked pulp for processing, and more.

Although Life-cycle Assessment (LCA) studies can be useful tools to help understand the environmental footprint of paper products, they have limitations and they cannot consider many of the environmental and economic considerations listed above.  Results should be communicated with caution across product categories and they should not be seen as an indication of overall “sustainability”.

The two graphs below show the variability in solid waste generation from two different types of integrated printing paper mills: ones using wood-based mechanical pulp (left) and ones using de-inked pulp (right).  Each data point (squares and circles) represents a pulp and paper mill site.


The range, from low to high, is similar in both cases and it is very possible to have an integrated mechanical pulp and paper mill site with better performance than an integrated recycled mill site.  Based on industry benchmarking studies I have participated in, the same is true for other environmental indicators as well.

Another example would be an increased carbon footprint of an office paper grade due to switching from a low-carbon Kraft pulp supply to a de-inked recycled pulp supplier that relies heavily on fossil fuels.  Kraft pulp can have a relatively low carbon footprint due to low reliance on fossil fuels and use of renewable, carbon-neutral energy (biomass and black liquor).  Sappi’s most recent eQ Journal, Rethinking Recycling, also discusses this topic.

The above examples illustrate the potential risks of generalizing the benefits of using recycled fiber without looking into the environmental performance of specific paper products and manufacturers. For certain grades of paper, it can lead to over-stating the environmental benefits of one raw material (recycled fiber) over another (wood fiber) and this appears to contravene the US Federal Trade Commission Green Guides.

My point is that wood-based paper grades can have a lower environmental footprint than grades containing recycled content just because of the specific situation and life cycle that surrounds each paper grade, and vice-versa. One can also be more economical to produce than the other depending on the situation (ex: proximity and cost of fiber).

Recycled fiber and wood fiber from well-managed forests can be equally sustainable raw materials for papermaking.  If we want to evaluate environmental performance, we should be spending less time debating about which fiber type to use and more time measuring real product-specific environmental performance indicators.  Several tools, such as environmental scorecards and declarations, are available to collect specific data on companies, mill sites and paper grades (ex: Environmental Paper Assessment Tool, Paper Profile, WWF Paper Scorecard or customized scorecards).

(1) Sustainability involves three pillars: economic, environmental and social demands.  The simple definition is: “sustainability is improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems” (Wikipedia).

Additional recommended reading:

Phil Riebel
President and COO
Two Sides US, Inc.

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If you are a Two Sides follower, you may recall our open letter (and press release) to Google Chairman urging him and Google to re-consider their participation in the Paperless2013 initiative, and especially to consider removing or changing the negative environmental claims being made related to paper.  By this we mean the reference to “saving trees” and promoting the perception that switching from paper-based to electronic communications will help protect the environment without having any verifiable or factual information to support the claims.

Challenging and correcting misleading environmental claims related to print and paper has been a focus of Two Sides in Europe for a number of years and more recently in the US after we launched our campaign in July 2012.  Since then, we have approached over 50 US companies to engage with them and discuss best practices for environmental marketing related to print and paper.  Although Google was not on our list, the start of Paperless 2013 in January this year required our quick response.

What followed was unexpected.  Our letter received a lot of coverage, perhaps in part because it was addressed to the Chairman of Google.  Others also became engaged with their views regarding Paperless2013, including PIA who also sent a letterPrintMediaCentr was very active on social media and this had a major impact in engaging people to the point where the Twitter feed for Paperless2013 was dominated with tweets in favor of paper!

The good news is: changes have been made.  There are no longer any environmental claims on the Paperless2103 site or Twitter home page and all pictures of trees or forests have been removed.  The main tag line now is “Take the paper out of paperwork”, instead of “Save money. Save time. Save trees”.   The screenshots before and after are shown below and in more detail here.

Paperless.org website on Jan. 3, 2013Paperless2013.org  website on March 15, 2013

For this we would like to thank the Paperless 2013 coalition.  It is all we were expecting and we appreciate the positive actions taken.

The “paperless” message may never go away because it is a fact that paper, in some cases, can be replaced with electronic media.  Depending on the situation digital can be more practical, faster and cheaper.  But it is not always more sustainable, when considering the life-cycle of both forms of communication, including their environmental and social pros and cons.  The temptation of marketing departments to include environmental claims to promote digital services is often misleading and unnecessarily damaging to the print, paper and mail value chain.

The term  ‘Paperless’ is also  deceptive. Our own recent pilot survey of consumers reveals that more than 55% of people print some of their e-bills at home or at the office, and about 25% of people print more than 30% of their e-bills.  Other research tells us that print on paper is still the medium of trust and 70% of consumers prefer to read from paper instead of  from a screen. So, instead of encouraging users to ‘go paperless’, organizations should  be enabling a choice of outputs – if they really want to consider their customers preferences.

Furthermore,  let’s not forget that 20% of US adults and 20% of UK households do not have access to the Internet.  In fact, 45% of Americans over the age of 65 don’t own a computer. Mail and paper-based communication is a vital service for this segment of the population.

Two Sides will continue its initiative to engage with companies regarding environmental claims. Our approach to date has been to engage 1-on-1 and encourage open discussion.  Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.  Some ignore us or don’t respond…so other tactics may be needed.

Phil Riebel
President and COO
Two Sides US, Inc.

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The idea of using alternative fibers to make paper isn’t new, but it has regained media attention of late with actor Woody Harrelson promoting Prairie Pulp and Paper, a Canadian venture he co-founded to make paper using wheat straw (the waste from wheat harvests that typically is burned) instead of wood.  See http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2012/10/25/woody-harrelson-paper-plan.html.

Finding an innovative, economical way to convert waste to new, usable products is terrific, and Mr. Harrelson and his partners are to be commended for their Step Forward Paper™.    But please Woody, save the marketing hyperbole for Hollywood.   Calling logging “barbaric” and wishing we would “get to the point where we never use trees to make paper” is a naïve view of papermaking that ignores the science of sustainable forest management and the economic drivers that make paper made from trees one of the most sustainable products on earth.

Mr. Harrelson is quoted as saying that “much of the paper used” is from “threatened and endangered forests.”  That’s simply not true.   Sure, there are a few bad actors in less developed parts of the world, but U.S. paper companies require their wood suppliers – including millions of small, family owned tree farms – to manage their land responsibly.    And the demand for sustainably sourced paper provides an important financial incentive for tree farmers to manage their forestland responsibly rather than selling it off for development – the number one cause of forest loss in the United States according to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).

The U.S. paper industry plays a key role, not only in helping landowners learn and implement sustainable harvesting and best management practices, but also in encouraging certification to credible sustainable forest management standards.  In its 2010 Report on Sustainable Forests, the USFS says it’s the “loss of an active forest management focus and the revenue streams that accompany it” – not the paper industry’s sustainable forest management – that “threatens the survival of U.S. forests and their associated ecosystem services.”

Given that more U.S. trees are regenerated than harvested each year, the whole “tree-free paper protects forests” argument just doesn’t hold water.  Besides being made with a renewable resource, wood-based paper is the most recycled commodity in the country – more than plastics, metals and glass – according to the U.S. EPA.    In 2011, some 66.8% of U.S. paper produced was recovered for recycling.   And U.S. paper mills generate about 65% of the energy they use from renewable, carbon-neutral biomass.

To substantiate its claim that “Step Forward™ paper is significantly more sustainable, from an environmental perspective, than the typical North American virgin tree fiber paper types,”  Prairie P&P released the results  of a life cycle assessment (LCA) conducted by Canadian carbon management firm Offsetters.   The wheat-based paper was reported to consume half the energy of North American 100% virgin wood copy papers and released 40% less greenhouse gas emissions.   This is because wheat straw, like most alternative fibers, contains less lignin, the natural glue-like substance that holds the fiber together.   Less lignin, less energy needed to break it down.

There are many issues of concern related to the use of agricultural crop alternatives to wood fiber (the fact that they are monocultures, deplete soil quality, and require intensive management to eliminate competing plants and pests, for example) and about this study in particular.  Instead of using current data on specific paper products, the Offsetters LCA includes secondary data on “typical North American virgin tree fiber paper” from a well-known tool called the Paper Calculator.  This data uses paper industry averages to make generalizations about environmental performance.

In a January 2012 white paper, Effect of Methodology on the Life Cycle Analysis of Paper Products, Professor Richard Venditti of North Carolina State University reviewed several paper LCAs including the conclusions of the Paper Calculator (The Paper Task Force Study) used by Prairie P&P.  He correctly concluded that, “Industry average data are useful for an industry to benchmark its overall performance, but the use of industrial averages of environmental impacts to promote a specific paper product relative to other similar paper products is not reasonable.”   His conclusion is based on the fact that there are very large ranges of environmental performance for one type of paper product from manufacturing site to site.  Due to this large range, “It’s imperative to base environmental claims on site- and product-specific LCAs using established protocols like ISO 14040:2006,” Venditti says.

Furthermore, globally accepted life cycle accounting standards, including the World Resources Institute Greenhouse Gas Protocol Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard cited in the Step Forward™ study, admonish those who conduct even the strictest of life cycle assessments not to use results to make generalizations across broad product categories.

My intent here is not to offer a point-counterpoint review of the Step Forward™ study or to in any way suggest that Step Forward™ paper is not a welcome addition in a world that must pursue sustainable, economically viable solutions to meet the needs of a growing population.    If companies like Prairie Pulp and Paper, and more recently Eco-Paper, want to give consumers a wider choice of sustainably produced paper products, that’s great.  But don’t portray the U.S. wood-based paper industry as the great destroyer of the world’s forests in the process.   The facts just don’t support it.

For a good, concise overview of how sustainable forest-based products like paper are encouraging global economic, environmental and social sustainability, take a look at this short video from last year’s Rio+20 conference.  It describes how the sustainable production and consumption of forest-based bio-products “will be a game changer in moving us toward a greener economy.”

Kathi Rowzie is a Two Sides guest blogger and a sustainability communications consultant with The Gagliardi Group in Memphis, Tennessee.

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As many of you may know we issued a letter to Google on January 8, urging the company to re-consider its participation in the paperless2013 campaign and reminding them that using vague and unsubstantiated environmental claims and images (i.e. save a tree) to promote electronic media over paper is a form of greenwashing.

Many of you liked the letter and decided to cover it as a news item, distribute it or even write your own letter.  On behalf of Two Sides I would like to thank everyone who helped raise awareness on this important topic.  Special thanks go to the PrintMediaCentr  for their engagement and assistance in reaching a much wider audience.

This was another great example of many of us in the graphic communications value chain standing up to defend the sustainable features of print and paper.

The economic value of our combined sectors is something that corporations and groups such as the Paperless2013 Coalition should not forget.  In summary:

  1.  8.7 million Americans rely on the print, paper and mail value chain for their livelihood (1.1 trillion dollars in revenue).
  2. In the US there are over 10 million US family forest owners, many of whom rely on income from their forestland to continue managing it sustainably.
  3. Most of us are customers of Google and their “paperless 2013” allies and we don’t appreciate the “anti-paper” messaging.  It is damaging to our industry and our livelihood.
  4. The money we spend on their services and products comes from the print, paper and mail value chain.
  5. There are thousands of US college students who are studying paper science and engineering, graphic communications and other programs where print and paper is essential to their future careers.

Switching from paper to electronic products or services doesn’t necessarily result in a more sustainable outcome from an environmental, social and economic point of view.  It depends on many factors and product lifecycle aspects that many companies are failing to consider when they make environmental claims related to going paperless.

Electronic gadgets rely on a growing supply of non-renewable and often rare materials, and the recycling rate of electronic is low compared to paper.  E-waste is growing at an alarming rate and becoming an environmental and social problem in many developing countries.   Online communications may not be as effective as print on paper for “deep reading” and understanding concepts.

For many applications, print and paper is hard to beat.

Two Sides believes that many, even Google, recognize the value of print and paper.  In fact, they just won a USA today print advertising competition.  To quote Robert Wong, Chief Creative Officer at the Google Creative Lab in New York:

“Every medium has its strengths, and for print, they include immediacy in that a newspaper is good for news…a full-page ad in a newspaper says the ad is important.”

Ironic isn’t it.

All we ask is that companies stop spouting negative environmental messages about print on paper to promote electronic media and services which also have pros and cons.    Both media can co-exist and have great synergies.  In many ways they complement each other.  Rather that creating us vs. them scenarios, we need to focus on responsible production and use of all products and services. It’s not just good for the environment and for the U.S. economy… it’s the right thing to do.

Phil Riebel, President, Two Sides U.S.

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