Two Sides initiative aims to stop 'go green - go paperless' claims

Jez Abbott
Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Some of the world's biggest corporate names continue to flout rules to gull consumers with deceptive claims that they should ditch paper for electronic communications, experts warn.

Two Sides, which has launched a new global drive, insists many “go green - go paperless” environmental claims are downright “misleading”.

“New research reveals major global corporations are still flouting regulations put in place to protect consumers from misleading marketing claims,” said the lobby group's chairman Martyn Eustace.

“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 the advertising standards authorities to protect the consumer from being misled.”

The survey this February showed a “significant proportion” of UK financial-service organisations, energy, gas and water suppliers and telecoms businesses made false environmental claims. In the US, half of the leading Fortune 500 companies in the same sectors did the same.

“That marketers in some of the most high-profile corporations in the world still use unsubstantiated and misleading environmental claims to persuade consumers to switch is outrageous,” said Eustace.

“Many consumers still have a strong preference for paper but they are being manipulated by a lack of clear and accurate information.

“Paper, based on a natural, renewable and recyclable resource, should be considered as a highly sustainable way to communicate.”

Eustace warned his group was “going on the offensive” to educate by working with companies in Europe and abroad who either “reneged” on pledges to stop using misleading environmental claims or were again making environment claims without verifiable evidence.

UK research in 2012 found 70% of telecoms businesses, 43% of the major banks and 30% of utility companies made inaccurate claims. When challenged by Two Sides, 82% of these companies changed their marketing messages.

Eustace told PrintWeek: “The new campaign recognises that some companies have slipped back and are trying once again to make print and paper environmental whipping boys to save costs.

“We have never yet had to revert to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) but if we had to we believe we would win. Both ASA an Defra are quite clear on advertising.

“You cannot make statements in adverts that can't be backed up by hard evidence. I have no idea how much this misinformation could be costing print and paper.”

Eustace added: “Consumers should not be misled and encouraged to go paperless when in fact it may be the sustainable way to communicate.

“The majority of these claims are unsubstantiated and the term paperless is also disingenuous as many consumers resort to home printing to ensure a permanent hard copy.

“We are more than willing to engage in a meeting and provide these companies' marketing and legal departments with all the facts about the sustainability of print media.

“Reporting to authorities is a move of last resort. We seldom have to do this and find that working together with corporates is the best way to ensure that consumers remain protected from the increasing greenwash in our society.

“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.”

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