New research, commissioned by the international non-profit organization Two Sides, has revealed that major global corporations are still using inaccurate and misleading environmental claims to encourage consumers to ‘go paperless’ and switch from paper-based to digital communication. This is despite legislation being introduced by advertising standards authorities to protect the consumer from being misled.
The survey, undertaken in February 2015, showed that in the UK, there is still a significant proportion of banks, utilities and telecoms making false environmental claims. Research in the US shows a similar picture with half of the leading Fortune 500 companies in the same sectors doing the same.
“This is extremely frustrating and unacceptable,” says Martyn Eustace, Founder of the Two Sides initiative. “The fact that marketers in some of the most high profile corporations in the world are still using unsubstantiated and misleading environmental claims to persuade consumers to switch from paper-based to cheaper electronic communication is outrageous. Many consumers want a paper option but they are being manipulated by a lack of clear and accurate information. Paper is based on a natural, highly renewable and recyclable resource and can be a sustainable way to communicate, especially when compared to electronic media.”
He continues, “This behaviour must be tackled and we are therefore going on the offensive once again to educate and inform those responsible of their misconduct and to ensure that such organizations don’t continue to ignore the law and mislead their most important asset…their customers.”
Two Sides will be engaging with companies in Europe, the USA, Canada, South America, South Africa and Australia, who have either reneged on undertakings to stop using misleading environmental claims or are now again claiming that switching to online billing and communication is better for the environment without supplying verifiable supporting evidence.
Original UK research completed in 2012 revealed that 70 percent of telecoms businesses, 43 percent of the major banks and 30 percent of utility companies were all making inaccurate claims about the environmental benefits of switching from paper to digital communication. However, when challenged by Two Sides, 82 percent of these companies changed their marketing messages.
In North America, Two Sides has been successful in converting 30 of the Fortune 500 companies in the same sectors and is in discussion with a further 25 organizations who have yet to comply.
Two Sides maintains that the linkage made between switching from paper to electronic services and helping the environment not only creates a misleading impression about the sustainability of print and paper but, as these claims are also unsupported by facts, they contravene the latest UK CAP code, (Committee for Advertising Practice), guidelines by the US Federal Trade Commission and CSR Europe (the leading European business network for corporate social responsibility), and the UK Government department DEFRA.
Phil Riebel, President of Two Sides North America, comments, “Over the past 2 years our campaign has successfully changed over 50 percent of the misleading marketing claims we have uncovered, but there is much more education to do because the majority of corporate marketers are unaware of the life-cycle and sustainable features of print and paper products – they are marketing based on perception instead of science-based facts.”
Eustace emphasizes that, “we are more than willing to engage in a meeting and provide these companies’ marketing departments with all the facts about the sustainability of print media to help ensure that the messages they are sending out to the public and their customers are both factually and environmentally correct. Reporting to authorities is a move of last resort. In fact, we seldom have to do this and find that, working together with corporations is the best way to ensure that consumers remain protected from the increasing greenwash in our society.
The true picture of the excellent environmental benefits of paper is being overlooked by these false messages. In Europe, 44 percent of the land area is covered by forests and 93 percent of our paper comes from Europe where the area of forest has grown by 30 percent since 1950 and has been increasing at a rate of 1.5 million football pitches every year.”
“In the US, the latest statistics from the US Department of Agriculture show that net forest land area has increased by 3 percent in the past 60 years, and wood volume on timberland (number of trees) has increased 58 percent during the same time period,” adds Riebel.
Eustace concludes: “Paper is a renewable and recyclable product that, if responsibly produced and used, can be a sustainable way to communicate. The forest and paper industries rely on sustainable forests and they are major guardians of this precious and growing resource.”
About Two Sides
Two Sides is an independent, non-profit organization created to promote the responsible production, use and sustainability of print and paper. Two Sides is active globally in North America, Europe, Australia, South Africa, Brazil and Colombia. Our members span the entire print and paper value chain, including forestry, pulp, paper, inks and chemicals, pre-press, press, finishing, publishing, printing, envelopes and postal operators. For more information about Two Sides North America, please contact us at 1-855-896-7433 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Two Sides website at www.twosidesna.org and follow Two Sides on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.