Marketreach study assesses full carbon lifecycle of mail

The Life Cycle Assessment is claimed to be an industry first
The Life Cycle Assessment is claimed to be an industry first

Royal Mail Marketreach has unveiled a new study into the environmental impact of commercial mail.

The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), which is claimed to be an industry first, is an in-depth look at every element and is supported by a new creative campaign focusing on the ‘Circular Advantage of Mail’ and how it can contribute to a circular, regenerative economy.

The research was carried out by environmental specialist WSP and commissioned by Marketreach. It is the first time Marketreach has looked in-depth at every element, from forest source to end-of-life, via the processing, design, production, and delivery stages.

To support the research, a creative campaign for Marketreach by MSQ/Sustain launched on Wednesday (26 April) with bright and bold creative across direct mail, OOH, social, email, search, display, YouTube, and trade media.

Throughout the planning and delivery of the campaign Marketreach said the team were considerate of the environment, from shooting in a studio and using stock footage rather than outdoor location settings, to being mindful of website functionality by limiting the use of high impact assets such as multiple videos and animations.

All of the direct mail used as part of the campaign has been created sustainably, from using sustainably sourced paper and biodegradable inks, while also encouraging end user behaviour change through messaging.

Campaign materials, like this recyclable paper desk plant sent to Printweek, have been created sustainably

Marketreach has also launched an interactive online tool using data from the LCA that provides data on the carbon footprint of each stage in the supply chain of 10 of the most commonly used commercial mail formats.

The tool allows users to compare the average carbon emissions of formats across the lifecycle of mail and compares it to everyday products to provide context for the understanding of its impact.

For example, the current overall carbon impact for one standard postcard is 43.61 gCO2e, which is less than an email with a large attachment, that could have a carbon footprint of 50 gCO2e according to Climate Care, and also less than the impact of an orange.

The overall impact of an A4 or C5 large catalogue is 445.29 gCO2e, which Marketreach said is only slightly more than the impact of one 15g cup of coffee.

The tool is complemented by a checklist of points to consider when planning a mail campaign and an online film.

Philip Ricketts, commercial director at Marketreach, said: “Working with LCA experts and the entire mail supply chain, WSP helped us to understand and identify driving factors that will enable us to build on the industry’s substantial progress in terms of sustainability and enable future change.

“But carbon is only part of the story. Understanding the broader environmental credentials of mail is equally as important. Our campaign demonstrates how mail can be part of a circular economy.

“Our focus is simple. We want to empower mail users to make informed choices and decisions, so we have developed a range of resources with the support of the print industry to help them, including a best practice guide and our new LCA tool.

“There’s still so much more to be done across the supply chain to lower the environmental impact of mail, but our journey is well underway. Along with our customers and the print industry, we are determined to continue to make a positive impact in this important area.”

Richard Armstrong, partner at MSQ/Sustain, added he hoped the campaign would challenge some of the myths and misperceptions about the sustainability of mail.

“By widening the ‘aperture’ to see the whole of the life cycle of mail, from sustainable forest management to its eventual recycling, the campaign uses the facts to prompt a reappraisal of what mail can be if the right sustainable decisions are made at the right time.”

He added: “We want it to be more than just informative, however – we want this campaign to be useful. We want those who use or are thinking about using commercial mail to have the information they need to make good decisions – so they can continue to invest in a highly effective and creative medium, but to do so knowing they are also minimising the carbon impact of those choices and contributing to a more circular economy.”