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The Final Word by Chuck Swann

In case you haven't heard or have forgotten, Two Sides is a nonprofit organization created to promote the sustainability of print and paper. Two Sides likes publicizing good news about the pulp, paper and printing industries. And it does not hesitate to go after companies that say things it doesn't like about paper and printing.

One of Two Sides' pet peeves is American companies that make what it considers false or misleading "go green" claims in advertising that aims to switch consumers from printed materials and mailing to digital dealings. In other words, "don't mail us a check; pay electronically through your computer." Such advertising asserts--or at the least, broadly hints--that payers who skip the checks, envelopes and stamps will be doing the environment a great favor, saving countless trees, and so forth.

Two Sides calls such claims "greenwashing," when the advertiser's real objective is to save money by processing your payment electronically, untouched by human hands, and relieving themselves of millions of dollars in clerical expenses. Phil Riebel, president of Two Sides North America, said, "The claims don't consider the renewability of paper or the numerous social, environmental and economic benefits of well-managed North American forests, which in the U.S. have grown by over 1.3 million acres per year between 2005 and 2015."

According to a survey commissioned by Two Sides, US consumers also are skeptical about green claims made by corporations. The survey found that 72% of US respondents agree that claims about the switch to digital being better for the environment are made because the claimant wants to save money. Further, 73% agree that where government, banks, and other organizations that want to persuade them to "go paperless," the switch is not paperless because consumers still have to print out documents if they want a hard copy.

Two Sides reports that more than 100 leading North American companies have removed or changed anti-paper claims as a result of its efforts. The organization urges companies to avoid greenwashing by using marketing practices established by the US Federal Trade Commission and the Competition Bureau of Canada. Environmental claims cannot be vague and unsubstantiated; they must be specific, verifiable and based on credible facts. Riebel said, "Our experience is that many companies are so focused on reducing costs that they are ignoring marketing rules, the needs of their customers and the environmental and social impacts of switching from paper to digital."

Chuck Swann is Senior Editor of Paperitalo Publications.


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