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More Than 20 Leading U.S. Companies Remove Anti-Paper Green Claims

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Two Sides U.S. Inc., Chicago, Ill., USA, this past week announced that more than 20 leading U.S. companies have removed their "anti-paper" green claims being used to promote electronic billing and other e-services as a more environmentally-friendly solution than paper. These companies are primarily top Fortune 500 organizations in the banking, utilities, and telecommunications sectors.

"We are very pleased with the success of our campaign to date because most companies are responding positively to our concerns and our offer to work with them in developing messaging that meets the U.S. FTC Green Guides for environmental marketing," said Two Sides President Phil Riebel. "The goal is to put an end to unsubstantiated and misleading claims that electronic communications are more environmentally friendly than print and paper. We have no desire to cause unnecessary negative publicity for companies or to undermine their reasons for driving customers toward e-billing, but claims that print and paper are environmentally unfriendly need to stop. Rather than call these respected companies out publicly with greenwashing complaints, we are working with them one-on-one to achieve a resolution."

Two Sides lists the main reasons for challenging the claims as follows:

  • Unsubstantiated marketing claims like "Go green, Go Paperless," and "Go Paperless, Save Trees" do not meet guidelines for environmental marketing established by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  • Print on paper made in the U.S. has many unique environmental characteristics compared with other products. It originates from a renewable resource – trees grown in responsibly managed forests, is recyclable, and is the most recycled commodity in the U.S. with a recovery rate of more than 65% in 2012 (AF&PA, 2013).
  • Marketing messages like "save trees" create a false impression that forests are a finite resource that is being destroyed instead of a renewable resource that is continuously replenished using sustainable forest management practices. In the U.S., we grow more trees than we harvest. Over the past 50 years, the volume of trees growing on U.S. forestland increased 49% (Society of American Foresters, 2007).
  • The full impact of switching to e-media is often not properly considered and sometimes completely ignored. The direct impact of information and communication technology (ICT) products and services replacing paper is far from negligible, and the trade‐off between the two "technologies" depends on conditions such as use frequency, source of energy, and end‐of‐life management of the products (Arnfalk, P. 2010).
  • The claims are damaging to the U.S. economy and threaten U.S. jobs. A total of 8.4 million jobs (6% of total U.S. jobs) that generate $1.3 trillion in sales revenue (8.6% of U.S. gross domestic product) depend on the U.S. mailing industry, which includes paper production, printing production, related suppliers, graphic design, and the handling and distribution of mail (EMA Job Study, 2012).
  • The life cycle of e-statements is often not paperless because many people print e-statements at home or at the office for record keeping and other uses (Two Sides & Toluna, 2013).

"It’s clear that U.S. consumers like paper bills and statements and don’t want to be pushed into electronic-only communications," said Riebel. "Our research shows that more than eight in ten believe that cost savings are the driving force behind the ‘go paperless’ marketing hype, and many are suspicious of marketing claims that going paperless will ‘save trees’ or ‘protect the environment.’ In fact, 50% of those surveyed said they either did not believe such claims, felt misled by them, or questioned their validity.

"We fully understand the advantages of electronic billing," Riebel continued. "We just want companies to stop misleading consumers by using vague and unsubstantiated environmental claims and to continue offering no-cost paper options to people who say they want and need them."

 

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