Two Sides reports improvements but incorrect public print perceptions remain

Max Goldbart
Monday, July 25, 2016

A survey by paper and print advocacy group Two Sides has found that in the past five years, consumers are responding more positively to print, but misconceptions remain over sustainability.

In a survey of more than 500 UK consumers and more than 7,000 consumers worldwide, none of whom are directly involved with the print or paper industry, findings showed many respondents prefer paper-based communications to digital.

However, it also found that more education is required to raise awareness about the industry’s positive environmental message related to recycling and forest management.

Results were collected over an 18-day period in June.

Two Sides events manager Tandy Wakeford, who analysed the data, said: “The key findings are specifically that more education is required to raise awareness about the industry. It is sustainable management for forestry and recycling.

“We’re the fifth largest industry in the UK and really are record-breaking in the sustainable efforts to be environmentally friendly and yet unfortunately we seem to repeatedly have one of the worst public perceptions of paper.

"So there really does need to be more effort, more education and somehow a way to persuade consumers that it’s alright to print and it’s okay to use paper.”

Referring to issues of forestry and recycling, Wakeford pointed to the finding that 65% of UK respondents believe European forests are shrinking, when in fact they have grown by 4.4m hectares in the past 10 years, and that only 18% of consumers believe the industry recycling rate is more than 60%, when in fact it is 72%.

These claims are debunked in Two Sides’ recently published ninth version of its Myths and Facts booklet.

49% of consumers believe the UK paper industry has an average or low record on recycling. 

Referring to advertisements promoting the environmental friendliness of print and paper, 86% said they found this information useful, backing up Wakeford’s conclusion that education is required.

In the age breakdown, the survey found very little difference between age groups of those who have a preference for print on paper.

Wakeford said: “You would hope that youth would be better aware of environmental issues. Whilst we all think millennials operate purely online, the fact is they actually love to receive post because it doesn’t happen so much any more.”

Certain positive trends were highlighted when comparing the results to the same survey carried out five years ago. The number of those who agree that print on paper is more pleasant to handle than other media has risen by 9% (from 70% to 79%), while 73% now agree that paper is based on a renewable resource, compared to 65% in 2011.

Two Sides is currently running its Anti-Greenwash campaign, to single out companies using 'green' claims as a cost-cutting exercise and negotiate with them to retract their misleading message. 83% of those surveyed believe claims from companies like 'Go Paperless-Go Green' are made by organisations seeking to save costs and 40% felt misled by these claims.

In the past year, Two Sides has negotiated with 21 companies to retract claims, including Barclays, the RAC and Yorkshire Bank.

Wakeford said: “Noticeably over the past three or four years the number of cases are reducing dramatically so we’re having some huge success, but these claims and communications are dreadfully damaging to the industry and are shaping consumer perceptions.”

Two Sides recently announced interior designer Wayne Hemingway MBE will be speaking at its annual Power of Print seminar, due to be held this November.

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