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Paper Industry Convinced Companies to Ax Environmental Claims; Now Targeting US Firms

Print and paper trade group Two Sides says it has convinced UK companies British Telecom, Barclaycard, Vodafone and EON Energy, among others, to withdraw their environmental claims about print and paper. Now the organization, whose 60 members include Eastman Kodak Company, Boise Inc. and Midland Paper, Packaging + Supplies, is targeting US companies in what it calls a nationwide initiative to help them in correcting “factually incorrect environmental claims” related to online billing and communication.

The trade group says its research on 94 leading companies found that 50 percent of them are using unsubstantiated environmental claims to encourage consumers to switch to lower-cost electronic billing and services. Two Sides, which represents companies across the graphic communications supply chain, says these claims damage the industry, which provides more than 8 million US jobs.

Two Sides conducted a similar UK marketing campaign, which it calls a “great success.” Two Sides says that more than 80 percent of the companies approached agreed to change or kill their messaging about the environmental costs of printing and paper.

Two Sides president and COO Phil Riebel says paper comes from a renewable resource — responsibly forested trees — and the volume of growing trees in US forests has increased about 50 percent over the last 50 years.

The campaign carries echoes of Toshiba America Business Solutions’ recent announcement that it will cancel its National No-Print Day campaign in response to protests from the commercial paper and print industries. Michael Makin, president and CEO of the Printing Industries of America, said Toshiba had assured him that it was taking the campaign back to the drawing board.

Printing Industries of America is a member of the Two Sides group.

Two Sides didn’t say which US companies it will target. But in recent years, many big names have encouraged growing numbers of customers to use online billing, and reduced internal paper use. In 2011, AT&T increased the number of its customers using paperless billing, from 14.4 million in 2010 to 17.2 million.

Four years ago, Verizon moved more than 3 million customers to paperless billing, saving $8 million in paper and administrative costs. It also saved another $2.7 million by moving its payroll, training and HR systems online.

And in 2010, Allstate cut its internal paper use 41 percent.

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7 thoughts on “Paper Industry Convinced Companies to Ax Environmental Claims; Now Targeting US Firms

  1. Trees are renewable. However, the paper manufacturing process is reasonably labor intensive and a huge water user. There should be honesty about the GHG emissions of electronic applications, and full disclosure on all sides of the environmental footprint, not just GHG. I do worry whether this is an indication that paper associations are putting their profit above all, and would welcome a much more complete disclosure of their logic.

  2. It makes sense for an industry association like Two Sides to protect its industry. But making the case that paper production has no negative environmental impact and its all created equally is complete farce. Secondly, if they are making the case that cost and convenience is driving the vast majority of change to e-billing, then why spend millions defending the status quo instead of focusing in on where paper has advantage in cost and user experience and evolving to compete in the 21st century economy. Meeting our essential paper needs can be done responsibly if we invest in solutions and collaborate to bring them quickly to scale. We aren’t going back to fax machines and beepers and we aren’t going back to the days of printing our emails to read them either. Let’s look forward.

  3. another victim of technology. robots (and wage demands) killed autoworkers, email and text messaging (and cost of paper) will kill this industry too. everyone has the technology already, this isn’t about EROEI anymore, we are past that point.

    Sorry paper industry. I prefer paper too, but alas, we are victims of the world we create when we focus on profits, not function or people.

  4. The educational effort underway by TwoSides is not a battle in a perceived war of paper versus pixels. It is understood by most readers of the Environmental Leader that everything we do has an environmental impact. Collectively (and individually) we must work to better understand and to minimize that impact – whether it’s on paper or online. At Sappi (and as a member of TwoSides) we are working hard to make sure that people get their facts straight about the paper industry. When paper is the right solution, we want people to procure it, use it, and dispose of it responsibly.
    As pointed out by other readers, evaluating environmental impact can be challenging and goes beyond single attributes. Paper should be sourced with fiber from well managed forests, produced in a mill with high levels of renewable energy and a focus on water and waste reduction, and ultimately recycled. One should not be made to feel guilty about using paper – but nor should anyone use it wastefully.

  5. I would have prefered if the original press was used here, instead of a blog that chooses select parts of the original press release. This can often mislead readers because it doesn’t give the full picture. The campaign is focused on promoting best practices for environmental marketing related to print and paper. We are simply saying that when companies make environmental claims related to print and paper, they need to be factual and verifable. As a result of very productive dicussions with many corporations, environmental claims have been removed because they were not factual and not verifiable. We do strongly support responsible production and use of print and paper, and our approach is based on science and facts from well-know and reputable organizations.

  6. The paper industry should focus on working with the food industry which overuses plastic. At least paper is compostable.

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