Archive for the ‘survey’ Category

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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Infotrends study commissioned by Consumer for Paper Options

Infotrends study commissioned by Consumer for Paper Options

As banks, utilities and other types of companies push paperless bills saying electronic communications are “greener” and “protect the environment,” results of a new nationwide poll  show consumers just don’t buy those claims.  In fact, an overwhelming majority — 87% — believe the main reason companies want to shift customers to electronic delivery formats is to save money, not to be environmentally responsible.

The poll, conducted for Consumers for Paper Options (CPO) to determine American attitudes toward government mandates and private sector programs that require electronic-only communications, also found that 84% of consumers think companies should not be able to force the shift to electronic bills, statements and other documents.   (The Executive Summary of the poll, Access for All: American Attitudes Regarding Paper & Digital Information, is available here.)

It’s clear that just about everybody thinks “go paperless, go green” marketing is ultimately about cost savings – a perfectly legitimate corporate goal – so why not just say that?   Does is make good business sense to continue making unfounded claims about the sustainability of paper (aka greenwashing) if most consumers don’t believe them? 

Companies that continue to use unsubstantiated environmental marketing claims about print and paper not only risk eroding trust in their brands, but also may invite attention from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  The FTC’s Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, better known as the Green Guides,  are very clear that environmental claims should be based on “competent and reliable scientific evidence” which they further define as “tests, analyses, research, or studies that have been conducted and evaluated in an objective manner by qualified persons and are generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate and reliable results.”

But even without the full scientific scrutiny of a complete life-cycle assessment, three basic comparisons of print on paper vs. pixels serve up a pretty compelling case for paper’s environmental sustainability and for keeping it as a communications option for consumers. 

  1. Paper is made from a renewable resource, wood fiber from trees. Computers and the data center infrastructure that supports them are made primarily from finite resources – petroleum-based plastics, metals and rare earth minerals.
  2. More than 65% of the energy used to manufacture paper in the United States comes from renewable, carbon-neutral biomass.  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. 
  3. In 2012, 65.1% of paper produced 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), and e-waste is the fastest growing municipal waste stream in the United States.  

Whether or not they always follow through, I think most people want to be environmentally responsible in their choice of products and services.   Companies that play fast and loose with environmental marketing claims like “go paperless, go green” only serve to make it more difficult for people to make valid choices and to erode trust in all green marketing claims – including those that represent real environmental value.

It’s time to wise up corporate America!  Show your customers a little respect and pull back the green veil that covers the real intent of your anti-paper marketing messages.   They’ll appreciate your honesty … and so will the FTC.

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

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Paper bills or e-bills. What do you prefer?

What does your billing company want you to receive?

We want to find out how consumers are reacting to the increasing requests to receive bills and statements on line.

Is this convenient for you? Is it better for the environment?

We’re asking these questions and others in our multi-country survey issued last week.

If you work or are planning a career in the printing, paper, or other allied industries, you may be biased in your answers, but please complete the survey and then SEND TO FRIENDS AND FAMILY. We want the views of as many people as possible.

We would greatly appreciate if you took 5 minutes to COMPLETE THE QUICK SURVEY HERE.


Phil Riebel
President and COO, Two Sides U.S., Inc.

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When we launched Two Sides U.S. earlier this year we made a commitment to provide top service to our members.  As part of this commitment we decided to prepare and distribute an annual Member Satisfaction Survey.  Although we have only been operating officially for about 7 months, we issued our first survey in June this year.

The survey was sent to 590 participants in our various U.S. member companies and allied organizations.  A total of 86 participants responded, which is almost a 15% response rate.  This is a good start.

Here is a summary of the results based on the questions we asked:

  • How do you rate the value that Two Sides brings to your company?  94% answered good to very good
  • Do you agree with the Myths and Facts message? 97% answered yes to very much
  • How often do you use the Two Sides website? 63% answered “occasionally”, 27% often, 6% regularly
  • How easy is it to navigate the website? 25% answered “somewhat”, 73% easy to very easy

When we asked participants to rank upcoming initiatives in order of importance:

  •  56% said the upcoming ad campaign was very important and 36% said somewhat important
  • 77% said the ongoing environmental claims campaign (engaging with companies making anti-paper and print claims) was very important and 16% said somewhat important.

For the full survey report, go to our Member Page.

Our very simple conclusion is: we are on the right track!

Our plan is now to continue doing what has worked well, such as member services and messaging (face-to-face meetings, webinars, etc…), keep on updating our Myths & Facts, our detailed fact sheets & web resources, and carry-on with our environmental claims campaign and our new ad campaign.

There are always opportunities for improvement.  For example, we plan to get better at spreading the word via social media.  So you can expect more tweets, blogs and discussions in the coming year.  We will gradually make the website easier to navigate , and we will be introducing a new user-friendly consumer website to support our ad campaign.  Stay tuned.

So once again…thanks for your feedback!

Phil Riebel

President and COO

Two Sides U.S., Inc.

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There is good news coming from our recent Two Sides U.S. consumer survey on the environmental perceptions of print and paper. Paper is still the preferred information medium for reading for Americans of all ages. In fact, 70% of respondents prefer reading from paper, including 69% of 18 to 24 year olds.  Most of those surveyed also believe that paper records are more sustainable than electronic record storage (68 percent) and that paper is more pleasant to handle and touch than other media (67 percent).

Unfortunately, paper is seen as an environmentally unfriendly way to read because there are lots of misconceptions about its sustainability. The survey showed that 71% of respondents believe that there is a connection between paper manufacture and loss of tropical rainforest (85% of 18-24 year olds). Overall, 69% are concerned about paper’s effect on all forests (76% of 18-24 year olds). Most people still equate paper with forest destruction, instead of sustainable forest management.

Two Sides is helping set the record straight:

  •  Paper is not a cause of deforestation in the U.S.
  •  Deforestation in the U.S. is caused by development.
  •  The main cause of global deforestation is agriculture.
  •  In the U.S., paper production helps promote sustainable forest management.

In the Myths and Facts section of the Two Side U.S. website, you’ll find pages of facts to support these statements, all from well-know, authoritative sources with links to original source documents. I encourage you to take a look. And if you have additional facts to add, let us know! Working together, we can correct the misperceptions and let people know that Print and Paper have a Great Environmental Story to tell!

Phil Riebel

President and COO, Two Sides U.S., Inc.

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