Phone Book Publishers Lag in Environmental Responsibility, PSI Says
Fifteen of the nation’s largest publishers of Yellow Pages telephone directories have earned either failing or poor grades for their efforts to be more environmentally responsible, while a 16th received a mediocre grade, according to a new report card issued by the nonprofit Product Stewardship Institute (PSI).
The Sustainability Report Card for Telephone Directory Publishers: Yellow Pages shows that the industry still has much work to do to reduce its environmental, social and economic footprint.
Publishers’ grades are subject to change if PSI receives additional performance data.
PSI evaluated each publisher in three key performance areas:
- Acceptance of consumer opt-out requests: PSI graded publishers based on how easy it is for consumers to find and use opt-out information, and on whether the publishers honor opt-out requests that come from sources other than their own industry-run program.
- Support for recycling: Every year, US taxpayers pay roughly $60 million to collect, recycle and manage their unwanted phone books. PSI graded publishers based on their actions to reduce this financial and managerial burden on local governments, as well their efforts to educate consumers about where and how to recycle their phone books.
- Sustainable production: The production of phone books uses an estimated 4.7 million trees annually. PSI graded publishers based on whether they used post-consumer recycled paper, sustainably sourced paper, plant-based inks, glues, and dyes, and other environmentally responsible methods of production.
Five of the 17 publishers earned overall grades in the C-range: Dallas, Texas-based Dex Media (C+); Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Hibu/Yellowbook (C); Dallas, Texas-based SuperMedia (C); and Dayton, Ohio-based YP (C+).
Only one publisher — the Dayton, Ohio-based The Berry Company — earned higher, with a final grade of B-.
Ten publishers received grades of “Fail/Incomplete,” as they ignored PSI’s repeated requests for data and because public information about their practices was unavailable. These include Choice Directory, Great Lakes Community Directories, Haines Publishing, LocalEdge, Mueller Publishing, Sunshine Media, SureWest Directories, USA Northland Directories, User Friendly Media and Valley Yellow Pages.
Only one publisher — the Houston, Texas-based Best Media, which earned an overall grade of C — responded to PSI’s request for information. For the rest, PSI collected data by polling its nationwide network of members and partners, asking them to find a copy of their local telephone directory and answer a series of questions about it. Fifty people (each representing a PSI member or partner) from 20 states across the country responded, providing detailed information about their local directories. While this approach yielded a narrower set of data than what PSI could have obtained from the directory publishers themselves, PSI was nevertheless able to gather enough information to produce a report card for five of the 17 directory publishers.
The report card, which also aims to help guide publishers along their sustainability journey, provides a series of recommendations for the telephone directory industry, including:
- Being transparent about sustainability efforts;
- Accepting third party opt-out requests;
- Taking financial and managerial responsibility for directory recycling;
- Committing to using more than 40 percent of post-consumer recycled paper; and
- Achieving third-party certification or validation of their sustainability claims, including those related to paper sourcing, ink use, and recycled content.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said DAC Group received a fail/incomplete grade due to a PSI press release error. DAC Group is a digital marketing agency, not responsible for Yellow Pages print and production.
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