The Real Environmental Impact of Printed Advertising

May 2021


Two Sides have launched an Anti-Greenwashing Campaign, to support the printed advertising industry in the truth behind some of the misleading statements and inaccuracies, often quoted around the enviromental impact of printed media

What is Greenwashing?

“Greenwashing is the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, service, technology or company practice.”

Common inaccuracies about print and paper are still a major issue for the print industry. With many companies encouraging switching to 'paper-less' channels for communication, the key focus is often on the green credentials. For example: Go Green – Go Paperless” and “Choose e-billing and help save a tree”. Instead of the potential cost savings and time-effeciencies, businesses can gain from these changes. These messages are unsubstantiated, misleading and can have a lasting effect on consumer perceptions of paper.

Download the Two Sides Greenwash Fact Sheet

Substantiation of Statements

These statements are not specific, not supported by reliable scientific evidence or relevant life cycle analyses and are misleading. Without evidence to support the claim being made such communication is Greenwashing and contravenes advertising regulations in most European countries.

These statements are not just misleading but hugely damaging to an industry that employs in the UK alone, 116,000 people (1,096,000 EU), in more than 8,400 business (115,700 EU). Most commonly, the driving reason for this move to digital communication is cost reduction. Greenwashing is costing the UK printing and postal industries an estimated £10 million per annum.

The True Environmental Impact of Printed Media 

  • Paper has a great sustainable story. Made from trees, it is a renewable and sustainable raw material and easy to recycle. 
  • The paper, pulp and print sector is one of the lowest industrial emitters of greenhouse gasses, accounting for 0.8% of emissions. 
  • Paper for recycling is an essential raw material for the paper industry and should not be classed as waste. Of the fibre used by the European pulp and paper industry, 55% comes from paper from recycling (Cepi, 2019)

The Consumers Right to Choose

A survey commission by Two Sides European consumers, undertaken by Toluna in 2021 showed:

  • 74% Believed they should have the right to choose how they receive communications (printed or electronically) from financial organisations and service providers/ 
  • 55% Are concerned with online security - that personal information held electronically is at risk of being hacked or stolen
  • 54% Believed they should not be charged for choosing a paper bill or statement
  • 59% Of UK consumers say they regularly print out documents at home to have a hard copy. 

To find out more about consumers right to choice visit Keepmeposted.org.uk

What to do if you find misleading environmental claims?

Two Sides continues to actively challenge major organisations found to be misleading consumers by using environmental claims about the use of paper. However, we need the help of our eagle-eyed supporters! If you would like to get involved and help remove the Greenwashing, please send examples and instances to greenwash@twosides.info

Posthub offer both the practical and analytical support to ensure your direct mail campaign is environmentally friendly. Including gudiance on data cleansing, print options and green delivery solutions. 

Speak to us to find out how we can help

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