New research commissioned by the international non-profit organization Two Sides, has revealed that major global corporations are still using inaccurate and misleading environmental claims to encourage consumers to ‘go paperless’ and switch from paper-based to digital communications. This is despite legislation being introduced by advertising standards authorities to protect the consumer from being misled. The survey, undertaken in February of this year, showed that in the U.K. there are still a significant proportion of banks, utilities and telecoms making false environmental claims. Research in the U.S. shows a similar picture with half of the leading Fortune 500 companies in the same sectors doing exactly the same.
“This is extremely frustrating and unacceptable,” said Martyn Eustace, Founder of the Two Sides initiative. “The fact that marketers in some of the most high-profile corporations in the world are still using unsubstantiated and misleading environmental claims to persuade consumers to switch from paper-based to cheaper electronic communication is outrageous. Many consumers want a paper option, but they are being manipulated by a lack of clear and accurate information. Paper is based on a natural, highly renewable and recyclable resource and can be a sustainable way to communicate, especially when compared to electronic media. This behaviour must be tackled and we are therefore going on the offensive once again to educate and inform.”
Two Sides will be engaging with companies in Canada, Europe, the USA, South America, South Africa and Australia, who have either reneged on undertakings to stop using misleading environmental claims or are now again claiming that switching to online communications is better for the environment without supplying verifiable supporting evidence. These unsupported claims also contravene the latest U.K. CAP (Committee for Advertising Practice) Code, guidelines by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and CSR Europe (the leading European business network for corporate social responsibility), and the U.K. Government department DEFRA.
In North America, Two Sides has been successful in converting 30 of the Fortune 500 companies in the same sectors and is in discussion with a further 25 organizations who have yet to comply. “Over the past two years our campaign has successfully changed over 50% of the misleading marketing claims we have uncovered – but there is much more education to do because the majority of corporate marketers are unaware of the life cycle and sustainable features of print and paper products – they are marketing based on perception instead of science-based facts,” added Phil Riebel, President of Two Sides North America. “In America, the latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that net forest land area has increased by 3% in the past 60 years, and wood volume on timberland (number of trees) has increased 58% during the same time period.”
Two Sides is an independent, non-profit organization created to promote the responsible production, use and sustainability of print and paper. It’s active globally in North America, Europe, Australia, South Africa, Brazil and Colombia. Its members span the entire print and paper value chain – including forestry, pulp, paper, inks and chemicals, pre-press, press, finishing, publishing, printing, envelopes and postal operators.