Verizon removes anti-paper (e-billing) green claims from its website

05/24/2016

Verizon deserves credit for heeding Two Sides advice and not misleading their customers

by Phil Riebel

Over the past three years Two Sides has been writing letters to Verizon encouraging them to change inaccurate and unsubstantiated environmental messaging used to promote electronic services over print and paper. (See our blog on this topic).

So it was great to see that Verizon made major changes to their website recently, removing each of the questionable green claims we had pointed out.  We hope this change in messaging will also spread to other channels, especially printed materials, and that Verizon will use the messaging reset to consider the sustainable features of print and paper.

Have a look at these before-and-after shots of the Verizon website.  It isn’t perfect, of course. We recommend that companies refer to “e-statements" or "online statements” instead of using language such as “paperless” or “paper-free." Someone switching from digital to paper statements would not say they were “going digital-less,” after all, and those kinds of messages can still carry the flawed connotation that paperless is always greener. So while we will continue to encourage Verizon to make further improvements, there can be no doubt that this represents a major upgrade in accuracy over previous messaging.

BEFORE

AFTER

More than 40 major corporations in the U.S., and more than 165 corporations around the world, have worked with Two Sides to change and improve their environmental messaging.

Our request is simple: remove or modify unsubstantiated claims that electronic communications are always “greener” than print and paper.  We recommend that companies:

  1. Follow marketing rules and best practices (ex: U.S. FTC Green Guides) that require claims to be substantiated, specific and science-based.
  2. Consider the sustainable features of print and paper, both environmental and social.
  3. Understand that electronic communication has many impacts and is not necessarily greener.
  4. Consider that many people (especially seniors) have no Internet access and rely on a paper copy – my parents being among those!
  5. Consider that many people prefer a paper copy as a reminder and for archiving, and will often print e-statements at home or in the office.
  6. Consider that many customers rely on the graphic communications industry for their livelihood (over 8 million people depend on the print, paper and mail value chain in the U.S. alone!) – I imagine that includes a few Verizon customers!

Verizon’s previous messaging ran afoul of many of these guiding principles, and they deserve credit for taking active steps to remedy the situation. Two Sides members are grateful, and we suspect Verizon customers will be too.