Greenwashing is pervasive and often used in marketing communications to mis-represent products and services as environmentally friendly. For the paper, print and mailing industries involved in the production and mailing of household bills and statements, Greenwashing threatens the loss of £22 million from a market sector estimated to be worth £555 million annually.
With an increasing desire to save costs, service providers, customer facing organisations and even governmental departments are increasingly focused on switching consumers and citizens away from paper to digital services. All too often the encouragement to ‘go digital’ is accompanied by messages attempting to justify these cost-saving initiatives with misleading and unsubstantiated environmental marketing appeals such as “Go Green – Go Paperless” and “Choose e-billing and help save trees”. Unfounded Greenwashing messages such as these reach and influence millions of consumers every year.
Two Sides, a non-profit industry organisation which promotes the attractiveness and sustainability of print, paper and paper packaging, actively engages organisations making misleading and unsupported environmental claims against print and paper with an Anti-Greenwash campaign which, over the past 10 years, has successfully challenged over 750 global organisations; primarily service providers like banks, utilities and telecoms.
The importance of tackling and getting Greenwash removed is made clear when the financial cost to the paper, print and mailing industries which employ, in the UK, 116,000 people in more than 8,400 businesses, is better understood.
A research project conducted in May 2021 by Two Sides in partnership with consumer research organisation Censuswide reveals that, in the UK, Greenwashing risks the loss of £22 million of value for the paper, print and mailing industries.
But Greenwashing can be stopped and, so far, by engaging with major Greenwashers in the UK, the Two Sides campaign has:
• Preserved £11.2 million of value for the sector
• Stopped Greenwash messages being seen over 209 million times every year
Organisations who Greenwash also take the risk of harming their reputation with consumers. UK consumer research conducted by Two Sides 1 found that:
• 76% want the right to choose how they receive communications (digitally or printed) from organisations
• 67% understand that organisations who Greenwash want to save costs by switching to digital bills and statements
• 40% do not want to be forced to switch to digital bills and statements
• 38% disbelieve environmental messaging altogether.
Two Sides Managing Director Jonathan Tame, commenting on the anti-greenwash campaign, says:
“Greenwashing claims are not welcomed by consumers, are often in breach of established environmental marketing rules, and are hugely damaging to an industry which has a solid and continually improving environmental record. A healthy market for forest products such as paper and paper packaging encourages the long-term growth of forests through sustainable forest management and the encouragement of biodiversity.
Forests play a critical role in mitigating CO 2 and provide wider benefits for conservation and biodiversity and, it may be surprising to learn that, European forests have actually been growing by the equivalent area of 1,500 football pitches every day.2
We are grateful for the cooperation of the hundreds of organisations that have changed or eliminated greenwashing claims from their messaging and we are also thankful for the many industry stakeholders and members of the public who send Two Sides examples of greenwash,” Tame concludes.
Two Sides continues to actively challenge major organisations found to be misleading consumers by using environmental claims about the use of paper. Please send any instances of greenwash to [email protected].
Sources: 1. Two Sides & Toluna Research 2021.
2. FAO, 2020.