The letter below was sent to Minister Diane Finley (Public Works and Government Services) requesting that the Government of Canada stop the use of terms such as “saving trees” or “going green” in communications related to switching from paper-based to electronic transactions, due to the misleading nature of these terms, their non-compliance with Canadian marketing guidelines, and their negative impact on millions of people who work in the graphic communications industry throughout North America.
You can reach Minister Finley with your concerns at: Office of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, The Honourable Diane Finley, Place du Portage, Phase III, Room 18A1, 11 Laurier Street, Gatineau, Quebec, K1A 0S5
Dear Minister Finley,
Re: Misleading Environmental Claims Related to Federal Direct Deposit Payments
I read with disappointment a recent Globe and Mail article published April 1st, 2015 titled “Direct deposit payments: A government pitch that makes sense” encouraging people to switch from cheques to direct deposit for government payments. In this article it is stated that “Ottawa argues in its pitch that about 32,600 trees will ultimately be saved by direct deposits.” The source of this information is a Government of Canada infographic which also mentions “100% reduction in CO2 emissions.”
Two Sides and its membership of over 140 North American companies disagree with such misleading environmental messages related to print and paper products as they are damaging to the print and paper industries who are such an important part of Canada’s history.
Today, there are over 800,000 mail-related jobs in Canada, almost 5% of all jobs in the country. Revenues from this sector are estimated at $88 billion, or 5% of total GDP in Canada.[i] These jobs are held by Canadians in many organizations who make daily efforts to be responsible corporate citizens by continuously reducing their environmental impacts and ensuring the responsible manufacture of print and paper products that we all benefit from. The “go paperless – save trees” message is not well received and questioned by many people[ii], especially those who work in this value chain.
Your claims do not meet guidance published by the Competition Bureau of Canada and the Canadian Standards Association[iii] which state: “A self-declared environmental claim shall be specific as to the environmental aspect or environmental improvement which is claimed. An environmental claim that is vague or non-specific or which broadly implies that a product is environmentally beneficial or environmentally benign shall not be used. It is therefore not possible to use terms like environmentally safe, environmentally friendly, non-polluting, green, nature friendly or ozone friendly.” In addition, claims must be factual, verifiable and supported by credible scientific evidence.
Trees and working forests are a renewable resource that provides numerous social, environmental and economic benefits to Canada. The nation’s forest cover has remained stable over the last two decades and less than 0.5% of the forest resource is harvested each year. [iv] In addition Canada has the most third-party certified forests in the world (for sustainable management) – 150 million hectares, or 41% of all global certified forests. Finally, most trees in Canada are used to make lumber, not pulp and paper.[v]
The claim “100% reduction in CO2 emissions” is also false and misleading since it does not consider the life cycle and environmental impacts of our growing electronic infra-structure and the energy required to power it, nor does it consider the fact that well-managed forests and forest products have significant advantages over non-renewable materials such as electronics when it comes to mitigating climate change and recycling.
The direct impact of electronic products and services replacing paper is far from negligible, and the trade-offs between the two depends on how often we use the different technologies and how we dispose of the products.[vi] Both electronic and print media are important, and both have environmental impacts that must be taken into consideration. In fact, electronic communication has a significant and growing carbon footprint due to the energy requirements of a vast worldwide network of servers necessary to store information for immediate access.[vii] Electronic media also relies on significant amounts of fossil-fuel energy and non-renewable raw materials for processing and manufacturing.[viii] With electronic waste becoming the fastest growing waste stream in the world, and its related environmental and health concerns in many countries,[ix] promoting electronic communications as the sole environmental choice is unfounded.
In addition please consider the facts below:
- Avoiding the use of wood is not the way to protect forests for the long term. While saving trees and protecting forests is a widely shared goal, avoiding the use of wood is not necessarily the way to get there. It is precisely the areas of the world that consume the least wood that continue to experience the greatest forest loss. Continued use of paper and other wood products may be a key factor in maintaining a forested landscape for future generations. This realization is reflected in today’s third-party forest certification systems that aim to offer a market-based system for supporting the sustainable growth, harvesting, and consumption of forest products. [x]
- In the long term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fiber or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained [climate change] mitigation benefit.[xi]
Far from causing deforestation, the demand for sustainably sourced paper promotes responsibly managed forests. In areas of Canada with a high occurrence of privately-owned forest, the income landowners receive for trees grown on their land is an important incentive to maintain, sustainably manage and renew this valuable resource. This is especially important in areas facing economic pressure to convert forestland to non-forest uses.[xii] The fact is our working forests are an essential part of our environment and our economy.
We live in an increasingly digital world where electronic and paper-based communication will coexist. Each has environmental impacts, and consumers deserve an honest portrayal.
President, Two Sides North America, Inc.
[i] EMA and Robustion Technologies, 2014
[ii] Toluna and Two Sides US Consumer Survey, 2013
[iii] Canadian Standards Association, 2008
[iv] Natural Resources Canada, 2014
[v] Forest Products Association of Canada, 2012
[vi] Arnfalk, P., 2010
[vii] Gartner Consulting, 2007
[viii] Kruhr, R. & Williams, E., 2004; Computer Aid International, 2010; Jinglei, Y. et al., 2010
[ix] U.S. EPA, 2011; Hoang et al., 2010; UNEP, 2005
[x] Dovetail Partners, 2014
[xi] International Panel on Climate Change, 2007
[xii] UN FAO, 1995; WWF, 2010; WBCSD and NCASI, 2005
About Two Sides
Two Sides is an independent, non-profit organization created to promote the responsible production, use and sustainability of print and paper. Two Sides is active globally in North America, Europe, Australia, South Africa, Brazil and Colombia. Our members span the entire print and paper value chain, including forestry, pulp, paper, inks and chemicals, pre-press, press, finishing, publishing, printing, envelopes and postal operators. For more information about Two Sides North America, please contact us at 1-855-896-7433 or [email protected]. Visit the Two Sides website at www.twosidesna.org and follow Two Sides on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.