441 companies remove misleading anti-paper messaging

By Richard Stuart-Turner, Monday 15 July 2019

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441 companies have now removed or changed their messaging since the inception of pro-paper campaign group Two Sides in 2008.

greenwash

441 companies have removed or changed their messaging since Two Sides was established

The organisation said common inaccuracies about print and paper are still a major issue for the industry.

Misconceptions are further reinforced by many financial organisations, utility companies and other service providers who increasingly encourage their customers to switch to electronic bills and statements by pushing unfounded environmental claims such as ‘go green – go paperless’ and ‘choose e-billing and help save a tree’.

In the first half of 2019, Two Sides researched the websites and communications of 102 organisations around the globe. Of these, 69 were found to be using unsubstantiated claims about print and paper’s impact on the environment.

So far, 38 of these organisations have removed or changed their messaging after being engaged by Two Sides.

Two Sides country manager Greg Selfe told PrintWeek: “In the last six to 12 months, the key to our success has been increased activity in other countries that Two Sides is active in, particularly Germany, Scandinavia and France where we’ve been doing extremely well with the anti-greenwash campaign, which has really helped to boost the numbers since November.”

The organisation said that out of the 441 companies it has successfully challenged about their use of misleading claims, this includes 100 UK companies who were communicating greenwash, bringing the overall UK success rate to 76%.

“Although we have ambitions to increase this number, at the same time it would be concerning as it would mean there are more companies making these claims,” said Selfe.

“But we are still seeing this information increasingly being used and I think that’s particularly because technology now is in a much different place to where it was 10 years ago.”

He added: “With smartphone penetration and the upcoming 5G, the infrastructure is there for digital communications, which is great, but it also means it’s so much easier to force their customers to go digital or to switch their customers to digital communications, and that incentive is often based on environmental claims rather than anything to do with speed, convenience or cost-saving initiatives.

“The combined impact of these almost subliminal messages have a huge impact on consumer perceptions of print and paper because they’re seeing them every day from trusted brands and service providers, and when they see some of the largest banks and telecoms providers in the country making these claims, why would they not believe or trust them.”

Industries with the highest number of greenwashers include telecoms providers, banks and financial institutions, utility providers and governmental organisations.

Two Sides added consumers feel strongly about their right to receive paper options from their banks, governments and other service providers and that efforts by these organisations to force their customers to digital, often citing misleading environmental claims, could backfire.

An international survey of 10,000 consumers carried out by Two Sides in spring 2019 found that more than half (53%) of respondents think that claims about the switch to digital being ‘better for the environment’ is really because the sender wants to save money.

Furthermore, 57% object to government, banks and other organisations persuading them to ‘go paperless’, as they regularly have to print out documents at home anyway if they want a hard copy, while 38% said they would consider switching service providers if they were forced to go paperless.

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