Two Sides, the global initiative to promote the sustainability of print and paper, has today announced an 88% success in its latest campaign to tackle the use of greenwash among UK corporations. Since May this year, Two Sides has identified and challenged 25 well known organisations for making inaccurate and misleading environmental statements to their customers to encourage them to go paperless. To date, 22 of those companies approached by Two Sides have agreed to remove their offending claims.
The latest results build on an earlier campaign in 2012 when 68 out of 83 organisations changed their marketing messages after being similarly contacted by Two Sides.
“It is important, when organisations promote their products and services, that they don’t use misleading environmental statements about paper-use as a means of achieving their own internal cost-cutting objectives. These claims can severely damage the Print and Paper industries and jeopardise the livelihoods of the many thousands of people employed therein.” says Martyn Eustace, Two Sides Director. “We are extremely encouraged by the outstanding results that our anti-greenwash campaign has achieved so far and are committed to tackling the remaining intransigent three organisations to prevent them flouting advertising standards and misleading their most important asset….their customers.”
Two Sides has been requesting that companies carefully consider their messaging and the potentially misleading anti-print and paper statements they are making. The most common statements used include; ‘go paper-free and do your bit for the environment’ and ‘e-billing is more environmentally friendly than the traditional paper bill’.
Through continuous monitoring, Two Sides regularly witnesses a lack of adherence to CSR guidelines. CSR Europe is the leading European business network for corporate social responsibility and its Sustainable Marketing Guide states that ‘Green’ claims should be truthful, accurate and substantiated, and not make comparisons unless the comparison is relevant, clear and specific.
Continues Eustace, “It is clearly wrong to claim that a product or service, for example, or a switch to online communication, is ‘better for the environment’ or ‘uses less energy’, without supporting evidence.”
The link between reducing the use of print and paper and helping the environment creates a false impression about its sustainability. Paper is a renewable and recyclable product that, when responsibly managed, is an environmentally sustainable media. In Europe, the area of forest cover has grown by 30% since 1950 and has been increasing at a rate of 1.5 million football pitches every year.
The belief that e-communication is more environmentally-friendly than print is generally unproven, with a distinct lack of life cycle data to support such claims, especially in light of the increasing energy requirements needed to support the growing network of worldwide digital servers.
While recognised as efficient, digital communication and data storage is not necessarily more sustainable. In the UK alone, it has been suggested that PC’s and servers could consume up to 50% of the country’s energy requirements over the next 10 years.
As Eustace explains, “Whilst all the benefits of electronic communication are clear, and initiatives to reduce waste are to be encouraged, Two Sides is concerned that incorrect and damaging impressions are being made as digital communications channels are promoted as the greener alternative to printed media. All channels have an environmental impact and print remains a vital and effective part of the modern marketing and communication mix. We are asking all those who allude to the environment as a means to encourage customers to switch from print to e-communication, largely to reduce costs, to re-examine their messages as it is certainly not proven that this results in a lower carbon footprint.”
Eustace concludes, “Considering all the environmental costs of electronic communication, print and paper may well be the most environmentally sustainable way to communicate.”