“Go Green – Go Paperless” messages are misleading and hugely damaging to our industry

“Go Green – Go Paperless” messages are misleading and hugely damaging to our industry

Since 2010, the Two Sides campaign has successfully influenced the change or removal of misleading environmental claims by more than 700 organisations, including many of the world’s largest corporations.

Consumers are increasingly aware of the impact their choices have on the environment and are highly influenced by environmental or green claims made by trusted organisations.

Many leading organisations, including banks, utility companies and telecommunications providers, are urging their customers to go paperless with claims that paperless bills, statements and other electronic communications save trees, are “greener” and better for the environment.

Most commonly, the driving reason for this move to digital communication is cost reduction and, whilst consumers may prefer it for convenience or efficiency, these statements are not just misleading but hugely damaging to an industry that employs in the UK alone, 116,000 people (1,096,000 EU), in more than 8,400 business (115,700 EU).

“49% of consumers believe organisations promoting digital as better for the environment is about saving cost” – Toluna survey of 8,800 European consumers 2021

Typically, these statements are not specific, not supported by competent reliable scientific evidence, lifecycle analysis, and are misleading because they imply that electronic communication always has less effect on the environment than printed materials. This contravenes advertising regulations in most European countries.

The reality is that electronic communication does have an impact on the environment. The ICT industry currently accounts for 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions and this is predicted to rise to 14% by 2040 (Belkir L & Elmeligi A, 2018). Worldwide, emissions generated by emails is estimated to be 300 million tonnes of CO2 a year – equivalent to the annual emissions of 63 million cars (Berners-Lee, M., 2010; Radicati Group, 2015; EPA, 2018).

In comparison, the paper, pulp and print sector is one of the lowest industrial emitters of greenhouse gasses, accounting for 1% of emissions (Ecofys, 2017). In addition, the CO2 emissions of the European pulp and paper industry reduced by 25% between 2005 and 2017.

Furthermore, consumers demand the right to choose. The latest research conducted by Two Sides found that 74% believe they should have the right to choose how they receive communications (printed or electronically) from financial organisations and service providers.

Defaulting people online without choice to save cost will impact those most vulnerable and most at risk in our communities. In the UK, 4.5 million adults have never used the internet. Often it is the most vulnerable members of society that depend on traditional, postal, transactional mail. The move to an online-only society risks leaving older people, the disabled, rural dwellers and those on low incomes disconnected.

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Two Sides continues to actively challenge major organisations found to be misleading consumers by using environmental claims about the use of paper. However, we can only do this with the support of the industry.

Become involved and help tell our great story

Printers, mailing houses and anyone involved in the creation of print, should support Two Sides and use the resources we have created to help tell the great sustainable story of paper, print and physical mail.
For more information visit: www.twosides.info/become-a-member/