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Industry Insight

One Little Victory

By Richard Romano
Published: July 17, 2012

Several months ago, I went to the doctor for my annual physical, and he had me sign a number of forms related to electronic medical records, and it was curious and kind of quaint in a way how he felt he had to explain to me what electronic medical records are (I have been using computers longer than he has been alive—argh! I hate that I can now say things like that!). Anyway, one of the forms had a legend at the top saying words to the effect that, “To help protect the environment, we are replacing your paper records with electronic medical records...” blah blah blah. So, of course—and knowing full well he had access to various needles and other medieval-looking implements—I began my usual spiel about paper is not necessarily more environmentally unsustainable than electronic media...blah blah blah. And he stopped me and said, with remarkable candor, “Actually, I know that. But we’re just trying to get patients to agree to this, so whatever we need to tell them, we do.” Makes me wonder what else he was obfuscating... Anyway, I was reminded of this conversation while reading a post at Environmental Leader about a recent Two Sides UK victory in which they
convinced UK companies British Telecom, Barclaycard, Vodafone and EON Energy, among others, to withdraw their environmental claims about print and paper. The trade group says its research on 94 leading companies found that 50 percent of them are using unsubstantiated environmental claims to encourage consumers to switch to lower-cost electronic billing and services.
Two Sides—WhatTheyThink Going Green is a Two Sides affiliate, I hasten to add—is now seeking to target U.S. companies who make these sorts of claims. We’ve had this discussion many times here in the Going Greenosphere, but no one is suggesting that telecoms and other companies forgo electronic billing, just as no one is insisting that we return to the days of carbon copies and button shoes. (Though it has perplexed me a bit that industry experts and vendors have been bullish on the idea of transactional and transpromotional printing, when increasingly that printing has borne the message “go paperless.” Hmm...) Companies may have legitimate reasons to eschew printing—to save costs, communicate more quickly/conveniently with customers, etc.—and it’s hard to argue with those reasons. (Which is why it is up to us as an industry to communicate the value of print.) But, unlike my doctor, they should be more up front about their true motives without bringing in the environment, which unfairly pillories an industry as unsustainable when that is far from the truth.

Please offer your feedback to Richard. He can be reached at richard@whattheythink.com.



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