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fsjpegWhen it comes to the sustainability of the Graphic Communications Value Chain, it’s important to separate verifiable facts from opinions and misleading information. Fortunately, Two Sides (www.twosides.us) has the resources that can help.

Two Sides has posted nine new 2-page Fact Sheets related to the sustainability of print and paper. Written in clear, easy-to-understand language and including citations to verifiable sources, these Fact Sheets make it easy to understand that print, paper, and packaging have a great environmental story to tell.

Below you’ll find a quick summary of each of the nine new Fact Sheets, plus a link leading to the fact sheet itself.  Please feel free to share these valuable resources with colleagues, customers, students and local media. You can be part of Two Sides’ efforts to end the harmful practice of “greenwashing” (using inflated, inaccurate, or misleading data to misrepresent environmental performance).  Check out the facts, then click through for the downloadable Fact Sheets:

FACT: “Go Green – Go Paperless” and “Save-a-Tree” claims are misleading and may not meet best practices for environmental marketing.  These marketing messages ignore the highly sustainable nature of print on paper – it comes from a renewable resource, is recyclable and recycled more than any other commodity in the U.S. and has great carbon characteristics. Learn More

FACT: Anti-paper environmental claims are often inaccurate and should be challenged. After research showed that more than half of America’s leading banks, utilities and telecommunications companies are using misleading anti-paper environmental marketing claims, Two Sides began its “myth-busting” campaign. To date, more than 40% of those contacted have eliminated unsubstantiated anti-paper claims from their marketing. Learn More

FACT: E-Media also have environmental impacts. A recent study estimates that developing countries will produce at least twice as much electronic waste (e-waste) as developed countries within the next six to eight years. Uncontrolled toxic emissions can result from the informal recycling practices often used in the developing world; these emissions can include dioxins, furans, and cyanide. Learn More

FACT: The carbon footprint of paper is not as high as you may think. The U.S. forest products industry is a leader in the production of renewable energy, with more than 65% of the on-site energy needed to produce paper products derived from carbon-neutral biomass. Learn More

FACT: Sustainable forest management benefits people and the planet. In addition to replenishing the supply of recycled fiber, the U.S. paper industry’s perpetual use of trees harvested from responsibly managed forests has a host of economic, social and environmental benefits. Learn More

FACT: Paper is one of the most recycled products in the world. In 2012, nearly 51 million tons or 65.1% of the paper used in the United States was recovered for recycling, up 76% since 1990. The industry’s new recovery goal is to exceed 70% by 2020. Learn More

FACT: Most of the energy used to make pulp and paper is renewable. The print and paper industry accounts for only 1% of global carbon dioxide emissions; at a global level, the greenhouse gas emissions from the forest products industry value chain are largely offset by sequestration in forests and forest products. Learn More

FACT: Paper is one of the few truly sustainable products. Paper is made from a natural resource that is renewable, recyclable and compostable; in the United States, paper is recycled more than any other commodity in the municipal solid waste stream, including plastics, glass and metals. Learn More

FACT: Paper supports sustainable forest management. The income U.S. landowners receive for products grown on their land—including wood for papermaking—encourages them to maintain, renew and manage this valuable resource sustainably, instead of converting forestland to non-forest uses. Learn More

Led by sustainable and responsible forestry, paper production and printing, the U.S. Graphic Communications Value Chain is working to ensure that, in a world of scarce resources, print and paper’s unique recyclable and renewable qualities can be enjoyed for generations to come. By sharing these Fact Sheets, you can help Two Sides U.S. and its member companies strengthen the paper, packaging, print, and related industries—and make an important contribution to real environmental sustainability. Find more resources, plus information on how to become a member company, at www.twosides.us.

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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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Any first-year marketing undergrad can tell you that successful selling comes from building trust and listening to customers.  So, why are many U.S. banks, telecom companies and utilities turning a deaf ear to the majority of consumers who say getting paper bills and statements is important to them?

Just about anybody can tell you that the push to go paperless is really about cost savings. In fact, 84% of people in a recent Two Sides survey agreed that paperless bills and statements are being promoted to reduce costs.  But how much does cost cutting benefit the bottom line if companies are losing customers as a result?  In that same survey, 64% of consumers said that when they’re shopping for a new service provider, they would skip companies that don’t offer the option of a paper bill.   Nearly six in 10 also said they would refuse to switch to e-bills and statements or would not take any action if asked to do so.

Most consumers aren’t buying the companies’ “go paperless, go green” marketing claims either.  According to the survey, half of consumers do not believe, feel misled by or question the validity of such claims.   Nearly three quarters, 72%, believe that when print on paper is responsibly produced, used and recycled, it can be an environmentally sustainable way to communicate.   The survey also found that about a third of people who receive electronic bills and statements print them out at home, so the claim that e-billing is paperless isn’t really true in many cases.

Some may believe that a single survey doesn’t provide enough evidence to make the case for any particular point of view, but even the most skeptical observer can’t deny the growing body of research that shows consumers want a choice when it comes to paper versus electronic billing.  In a national survey conducted by Consumers for Paper Options, 80% of consumers said it’s not okay for companies to force electronic-only bills and statements on their customers.  87% agree the main reason companies want to shift customers to electronic delivery formats is to save money, not to be environmentally responsible.  Similar sentiments were expressed by Britons in surveys conducted by Two Sides U.K. and Keep Me Posted, a broad-based coalition of organizations whose members depend on postal mail.

To me, the decision to continue offering free, paper-based billing options is a no-brainer, especially in industries like telecommunications and banking where competition is fierce.  Consumers have made it pretty clear that paper bills and statements are an important option they want to keep.   When the research data show that even a majority of technology savvy under-25 year olds share the belief that paper options should be preserved, billing companies must ask themselves three important questions:

  1. Can we truly afford to ignore the majority of our customers?
  2. What will be the long-term reputational (and potential legal) implications if we willfully disenfranchise the nearly 30% of American households that don’t have regular internet access, including 45% of seniors who don’t own computers (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2011)? and,
  3. How long will it be before the U.S. Federal Trade Commission takes notice of the vague, unsubstantiated environmental claims we’re using to disguise our cost-saving efforts?

I’m certainly not suggesting that e-billing is a bad thing – it has a lot of positive benefits, including convenience.    But most consumers want and many need paper options.   Companies that dismiss this fact risk losing business.  And those that continue to use unverifiable claims like “go paperless, save trees” as a green cloak for cost cutting risk greater scrutiny by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

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

For information on the successful Two Sides educational campaign that is helping leading U.S. companies change their messaging to meet best practices for environmental marketing as outlined in the U.S. FTC Green Guides, click here.

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pharmHere’s one of those instances of political tinkering that’s ripe for the sage advice, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”   Congress is considering legislation to make our prescription drug supply chain more secure, and there are surely things we can do to make the U.S. prescription medication delivery system safer and more efficient.  But a specific provision in the House version of this proposed law (H.R. 1919, Section 8) would do just the opposite.

As currently written, this proposed law would eliminate the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) requirement that says printed information – on things like proper drug dosage, side effects, potential drug interactions and risks — must accompany all prescription medication, replacing it with a provision for electronic-only information.   You won’t get any argument from me that the internet is a valuable tool for disseminating this type information to those who dispense dangerous prescription drugs, but Congress really needs to summon up a little common sense before mandating electronic-only communication.    

Think about the diversity of settings where health care practitioners dispense prescription drugs.   From pharmacies and cruise ship infirmaries to EMT transports and rural nursing homes, internet access and reliability vary considerably.   Do we really want to legislate a system where vital patient information is available to almost every health care practitioner?  That’s just not good enough for me – especially if I happen to get sick in one of those undeserved locations and need a prescription!

We need a safe, reliable system where vital prescription drug information is available to all health care professionals and their patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week.   One of the most effective ways to make this happen is for important printed information to accompany a drug through the product distribution system from the manufacturer to the health care professional … just as it does today.   

 H.R. 1919 passed the House of Representatives on June 3.  A similar bill is coming up for consideration  in the Senate, but without the paperless provision.   The two measures will then go to a Conference Committee as legislators work to merge them into what may eventually be voted into law. 

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

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Dear Blog Followers,

This matter has been addressed and is no longer an issue.  Thank you all for your support and attention.

 

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We don’t hear much talk about the societal effects of going paperless, but the federal government is pushing the conversation to the forefront as it moves to eliminate paper-based payment options for a host of federal benefits, including Social Security.   In an effort to save money, Uncle Sam will require all Social Security recipients to use direct deposit or pre-paid debit cards to receive their benefits effective March 1.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) makes the case that most seniors, around 80 percent, already receive their benefits via direct deposit, so this policy change is really nothing new.  But what’s good for most isn’t necessarily good for all.

I’ve been blessed to have many older people in my life.  Some are computer savvy and have no problem with electronic banking.  But others are not.  Asking them to tackle a completely foreign way of getting the money they depend on each month is disconcerting at this point in their lives and in the case of the debit cards is potentially costly.    What the government fails to take into account is that some seniors don’t have bank accounts [1] and 45 percent of Americans over age 65 don’t own a computer.[2]  Those who don’t have no way to check each month to be sure their Social Security check has been deposited.

While cyber-security is a concern for everyone, data on those already receiving government benefits electronically show that seniors are prime targets for cybercrime.   The Social Security Administration’s Inspector General reports an increase in fraud since the start of the paperless benefits program, perpetrated primarily on elderly beneficiaries.  In most cases, criminals obtained sensitive personal information and were able to redirect the victims’ direct-deposited benefits to a fraudulent account. According to the Inspector General, thousands of reports of this type of fraud have been filed with an average of 50 reports each day.

Seniors who don’t have bank accounts and must use the debit card option may face even greater risks.  Unlike paper checks, stolen debit cards can be used with little identity verification required.   Thieves are already exploiting this reality by taking advantage of Americans who receive tax returns in the form of debit cards.  The New York Times reported [3] that this type of crime is so simple and lucrative that violent criminals are giving up their guns for laptops.   Florida, with its large senior population tops the list of those hit by what the U.S. attorney for Florida’s Southern District calls an “epidemic” of identity theft.

Add in the fact that seniors uncomfortable with the digital world must remember PINs and that many places they shop don’t accept debit cards for payment, and lives are further complicated.   In addition, Social Security debit cards carry a variety of fees, including ATM cash withdrawal fees after one free withdrawal, charges for a monthly paper statement and others, taking money from people on fixed incomes who can least afford it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for programs that save taxpayers money.  But why cause unnecessary upheaval and hardship for some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens by forcing them into this one-size-fits-all paperless world?  The number of paper Social Security checks issued is declining naturally over time as more computer-literate people retire, so what’s the rush?

A new coalition called Consumers for Paper Options has organized to provide a voice for millions of Americans who are being left behind by the federal government’s efforts to go paperless. To put a stop to these ill-conceived government efforts, the coalition is currently working with members of Congress to craft a resolution that reinforces the value of paper-based communications, especially for vulnerable populations, and directs federal agencies to ensure  that citizens continue to be provided with paper-based information while providing, where  appropriate,  the  ability  for  all  citizens  to  opt-in  to  electronic delivery if they so choose.  This resolution is a first step to enacting policies that address both the digital divide and rapidly growing cyber-security threats that make paper-based communications a must for many Americans.

While all this is getting sorted out, you might want to take some time to check in with your older family members, friends and neighbors to make sure they’re prepared for the coming changes.  Any Social Security recipient who does not sign up for direct deposit by March 1 will automatically begin receiving benefits on a prepaid Direct Express debit MasterCard.   Folks need to be careful not to mistake this card for a credit card solicitation and mistakenly throw it away.

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


  1. National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, 2011
  2. Exploring the Digital Nation: Computer and Internet Use at Home, Economic and Statistics Administration, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Department of Commerce, 2011
  3. With Personal Data in Hand, Thieves File Early and Often,” New York Times, May 2012.

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