U.S. consumers value paper over digital-only communications

twosidestoluna1-inA new survey commissioned by Two Sides North America and conducted by Toluna Incoporated reveals how U.S. consumers view corporate initiatives forcing people into digital-only communication by eliminating paper-based options. The survey also provides insight into consumer opinions on the environmental impacts of digital versus paper-based communications. Results indicate that many consumers want to retain the choice of receiving paper bills and statements at no additional cost. For example, 79% of respondents want the option to continue receiving printed information as it provides a more permanent record, and 77% would be unhappy if they were asked to pay a premium for paper bills and statements. Other key factors in retaining paper options were ease of reading on paper compared to a screen (79% prefer paper) and unreliable internet access (49%). Many respondents (85%) agreed that cost-saving is the main reason why companies use environmental claims such as, “Go Paperless – Go Green”, or “Go Paperless – Save Trees.” In addition, 57% of respondents reported that they question the validity of such claims.

Phil Riebel.
Phil Riebel.

“Our results suggest that the environmental acceptance for print and paper is improving,” said Phil Riebel, President of Two Sides North America. “For example, 88% of respondents agreed that when forests are responsibly managed, it’s environmentally acceptable to use trees to produce products such as wood for construction and paper for printing. This is good news for the graphic communications and forest products industries.” A large majority of respondents (91%) agreed that print and paper can be a sustainable way to communicate when responsibly produced and used. This is an increase of 19% when compared to results obtained in a 2013 Two Sides North America survey.

The organization added that more education is needed to raise awareness about the industry’s positive environmental activities, in particular its commitment to sustainable forest management and recycling. Despite U.S. forests growing dramatically in volume in the past 60 years (58% growth) and 3% in area, 55% of respondents believe that U.S. forests have decreased in size. The majority of respondents also did not know that paper is one of the most recycled products in the U.S. with recovery rates of over 66%.

Finally, compared to results obtained in 2013, almost three times more respondents reported seeing ads related to the effectiveness and sustainability of print and paper (35% in 2016 versus 12% in 2013), and the large majority rated the ads as credible and useful. The full U.S. survey report can be downloaded at: http://www.twosidesna.org/US/The-Attractiveness-and-Sustainability-of-Print-and-Paper–The-US.-Consumers-view.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Graph Expo’s recent communications have also underscored this. They’ve added at the end of their e-mails: “Go ahead, print this e-mail – U.S. paper companies plant far more trees than they harvest. Today in the U.S., there are 12 million more acres of forest than 20 years ago. Paper is renewable and recyclable.” My reaction: Good for them!)


Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.