As a Customer You Can Help Stop Anti-Paper Greenwashing

Submitted by: Phil Riebel 08/08/2015

Use the Two Sides letter template to let your service provider know that you disagree with their misleading environmental claims about print and paper

Over the past three years, Two Sides North America has been working with many Fortune 100 companies to encourage them to remove misleading and unsubstantiated environmental claims used to promote electronic services such as e-billing over paper-based communications.  For example, marketing claims like "go paperless – go green, save trees" are often used by banks, utilities, telecom providers, TV and internet providers, insurance companies and others, without sound scientific back-up or proper consideration of the sustainable features of print and paper or the growing daily environmental impact of electronic media.  As a result, most of the claims do not meet the environmental marketing guidelines of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

To date, over 30 companies, many major brand names, have collaborated with us to remove these claims and we are in discussions with many more.  But some companies are difficult to reach or refuse to change their ways, so we need your help!  As a customer, your voice is important and you have the right to complain if you are not satisfied with claims that your service providers make, especially if you work in the print, paper and mail value chain and these claims affect your livelihood.

Please make use of  our template letter below and send it to your service provider to remind them about the sustainability of print and paper and the use of proper environmental marketing practices.  We also have a Canadian version of the template letter available.

TEMPLATE LETTER

Dear [INSERT NAME],

Re:  [COMPANY NAME] environmental marketing claims related to electronic statements

I am extremely disappointed with the [EMAIL, LETTER, STATEMENT, ETC…] I received from [COMPANY NAME] on [DATE].  [COMPANY NAME] is encouraging customers to switch from paper bills and statements to online documents, claiming that online statements are better for the environment.  The following statement was included in the email:

[INSERT CLAIMS, FOR EXAMPLE: “It's good for the environment. You'll not only save time and effort, you'll also help save a tree.”]

I request that [COMPANY NAME] remove these statements from material sent to customers, as well as from your website.  As a customer of [COMPANY NAME], I object to these claims because I work in the print, paper and mail value chain and believe these claims are damaging to my livelihood.

You should be aware that the livelihood of many of your customers depends on profitable print, paper and mail sectors.  In fact, a total of 8.4 million jobs (6% of total U.S. jobs and $1.3 trillion in sales revenue) depend on the U.S. mailing industry, including production, distribution and handling of mail, paper production and printing.[i]  A U.S. consumer research survey has shown that the “go green – go paperless” message is questioned by many[ii] and not well received by people who depend on the graphic communications industry.

These types of claims about the environmental benefits of electronic communication over print and paper are also misleading to consumers and appear to fall short of the Green Guides published by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for environmental marketing that require claims be "truthful, clear and substantiated.”[iii] Without competent and reliable scientific evidence documenting the net environmental benefits of going paperless versus the alternative, these claims may be construed as “greenwashing.”

Print on paper has unique environmental features that many other products and materials do not.  Paper comes from a renewable resource that, when managed responsibly, is perpetually regenerated.[iv]  It is also recycled more than any other material in the U.S.[v],[vi] and is made with a high percentage of renewable energy.[vii],[viii]  The U.S. paper industry encourages and depends on sustainable forest management practices that regenerate billions of trees annually.  In fact, the volume of trees growing on U.S. forestland increased 58% over the last 60 years.[ix] 

Far from causing deforestation, the demand for sustainably sourced paper in the U.S. promotes responsibly managed forests that provide many environmental and social benefits.  The income landowners receive for trees grown on their land is an important incentive to maintain, sustainably manage and renew this valuable resource. This is especially important in areas facing economic pressure to convert forestland to non-forest uses.[x],[xi]  The fact is, our working forests are an essential part of the U.S. environment and the economy.

Going electronic is not necessarily “greener” than print and paper.  The direct impact of electronic products and services replacing paper is far from negligible, and the trade-off between the two depends on how often we use them, the source of energy and how we dispose of the products.[xii] 

Many people, including myself, value paper-based communications and the majority of people want a choice when it comes to paper versus electronic billing. Studies have shown that 80 percent did not think it was appropriate for companies to cite environmentalism when cost savings is the real motive; 50 percent do not believe, feel misled by or question the validity of “go paperless, go green” marketing claims; and that 72 percent believe that when print on paper is responsibly produced, used and recycled, it can be an environmentally sustainable way to communicate.[xiii],[xiv],[xv],[xvi]

The term ‘paperless’ is also disingenuous because a significant number of people prefer a printed record and are being forced to print at home or in offices at a higher cost than an efficiently and centrally produced document. 

I am hopeful that you will consider my request.  My only other option, if these claims remain, is to discontinue using your services.

Thank you for your attention and I look forward to hearing from you.

[YOUR NAME]

Sources:

[i] EMA Foundation Institute of Postal Studies. 2013.  2012 EMA Mailing Industry Job Study. http://www.twosidesna.org/US/2013-Mailing-Industry-Job-Study

[ii] Two Sides US. 2013. Most U.S. Consumers Want the Option to Receive Paper Bills and Statements (Press Release).  http://www.twosidesna.org/US/Most-US-Consumers-Want-the-Option-to-Receive-Paper-Bills-and-Statements

[iii] U.S. FTC Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, 2012. https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/rules/rulemaking-regulatory-reform-proceedings/guides-use-environmental-marketing-claims

[iv] World Wildlife Fund, 2010. WWF Guide to Buying Paper. http://www.twosidesna.org/US/WWF-Guide-to-Buying-Paper-2010

[v] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2010.  Municipal solid waste generation, recycling, and disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2009.   http://www.twosidesna.org/US/U-S-EPA-Municipal-Solid-Waste-Generation-Recycling-and-Disposal-in-the-United-States-Facts-and-Figures-for-2009-

[vi] American Forest and Paper Association - http://www.paperrecycles.org

[vii] Agenda 20/20 Technology Alliance, 2010. Forest Products Industry Technology Roadmap 2010.  http://www.twosidesna.org/US/Agenda-20-20-Technology-Alliance-U-S-Department-of-Energy-et-al---Forest-Products-Industry-Technology-Roadmap-2010

[viii]  American Forest and Paper Association.  2014 AF&PA Sustainability Report. http://www.twosidesna.org/US/2014-AFPA-Sustainability-Report

[ix] U.S. Department of Agriculture (Forest Service), 2012.  Forest Inventory Analysis. http://www.fia.fs.fed.us/

[x] World Wildlife Fund, 2012. WWF Living Forests Report: Chapter 4 - Forest and Wood Products.  http://www.twosidesna.org/US/Living-Forests-Report-Chapter-4-Forests-and-Wood-Products 

[xi] World Business Council for Sustainable Development and National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, 2007.  The Sustainable Forest Products Industry, Carbon and Climate Change.  Key Messages for Policy Makers.  http://www.twosidesna.org/US/WBCSD-NCASI---The-Sustainable-Forest-Products-Industry-Carbon-and-Climate-Change-2007

[xii] Arnfalk, P. 2010. Analyzing the ICT-paper interplay and its environmental implications. http://www.twosidesna.org/US/Arnfalk-P-Analyzing-the-ICT---Paper-Interplay-and-its-Environmental-Applications

[xiii] Two Sides US. 2013. Most U.S. Consumers Want the Option to Receive Paper Bills and Statements (Press Release).  http://www.twosidesna.org/US/Most-US-Consumers-Want-the-Option-to-Receive-Paper-Bills-and-Statements

[xiv] Envelope Manufacturers Association, 2013.  Highlighting consumer preferences for paper bills and statements. http://www.twosidesna.org/download/EMA-Fact-Sheets.pdf

[xv] Two Sides, 2015.  Reading from paper or reading from screens. What do consumers prefer?  http://www.twosidesna.org/US/Two-Sides-releases-results-of-new-US.-survey.---Reading-from-Paper-or-Reading-from-Screens.--What-do-Consumers-Prefer

[xvi] Two Sides UK, 2013.  Paper bills and statements: a real necessity in a digital world. http://www.twosides.info/UK/Paper-Bills-and-Statements-A-Real-Necessity-In-A-Digital-World