335 companies have removed or changed their messaging since the inception of pro-paper campaign group Two Sides.
The organisation has investigated 921 businesses worldwide since it was established 10 years ago. Its anti-greenwash campaign found that two-thirds of these were using unsubstantiated claims regarding paper’s impact on the environment, usually in breach of local advertising regulations.
At the annual meeting of Two Sides’ country managers in London last Monday (5 November), representatives from Europe, the US, South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand determined to continue their efforts to stop organisations making misleading anti-print and paper messages in their customer communications.
In a joint statement, Two Sides’ country managers said: “The anti-greenwash campaign is such an important initiative because without Two Sides’ intervention there would be no other body holding these organisations to account.
“But despite the success of the campaign, as well as clear rules on unsubstantiated environmental claims, greenwash tactics are still commonplace.
“Every day, new claims are brought to the attention of Two Sides, from some of the world’s largest companies telling tens-of-millions of their customers that paper is bad for the environment.”
Two Sides events and membership manager Tandy Wakeford added: “We’ve also found that some companies we’ve approached in the past, and that have agreed [to change their messaging], have then been reoffending a couple of years down the line.
“If we’ve still got a contact within one of those companies then we will go back and gently remind them of their agreement. They shouldn’t be reoffending, but staff change, the work changes, and they are sometimes perhaps not aware of the agreements that their companies have made.”
Two Sides said common consumer misconceptions about print and paper are being reinforced by businesses as they increasingly encourage their customers to switch to electronic bills, statements and correspondence.
The incentive to switch is often based on unfounded environmental claims such as ‘go green – go paperless’ and ‘choose e-billing and help save a tree’.
As well as being misleading, Two Sides said the drive to digital is not without its own environmental impacts and is also not welcomed by many consumers.
In a survey commissioned by the organisation, more than 10,000 consumers worldwide were asked about their preferences for print.
The research found that 73% of consumers keep hard copies of important documents filed at home, as they believe this is the safest and most secure way of storing information, while 69% agreed that going 'paperless' is not really 'paperless' because they regularly have to print out documents at home.
Furthermore, 62% agreed that incentives to switch to digital because it is ‘better for the environment’ are actually because the sender wants to save money.
“We all know that their motivation is to save costs but I think some businesses see this as an easy win,” said Wakeford.
“But this is where we step in and say ‘what you’re saying is misleading, it is not true and if you continue to do it then we will take action’.”