Submitted: The Two Sides Team November 5, 2019
Earlier in 2019, DocuSign, an electronic signature company, launched an email campaign that led to the most complaints ever received by Two Sides since our anti-greenwash campaign launched in early 2012. At issue were DocuSign claims about the company’s services being “naturally forest-friendly” and that “going digital will have you seeing green.”
For example, there are many references to electronic documents being environmentally preferable to paper documents at the following links:
After several attempts to reach the company, we still have not received a response or any evidence to substantiate these claims which send a misleading message about print and paper.
What are the facts? Consider the following information and links about paper, the forest industry, and a switch to digital-only communication:
The authority on the state of global forests, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, has specifically defined deforestation to EXCLUDE areas where trees have been removed as a result of harvesting or logging, and where the forest is expected to regenerate naturally or with the aid of silviculture (UNFAO, 2001). In addition, the US and Canada are leaders in sustainable forest management due to environmental regulations, the use of best forestry practices and forest certification programs. The main causes of deforestation in the US and Canada are urbanization, agriculture, oil and gas and other developments, not forestry activities for the production of forest products such lumber, pulp and paper.
2. Going paperless does not save trees or forests in North America
Just as eating fewer apples will result in fewer rather than more apple trees, decreased consumption of wood products will not yield more trees and forests. The development of markets for wood is essential to maintain forest lands as forest for the long term.
This white paper (link above) produced by forestry experts Dovetail Partners explains that in a declining market for printing and writing grades, using less paper does not mean that wood harvesting will be reduced. In fact, similar or rising volumes of wood are being harvested in key forest regions of North America for other uses including lumber, fuel pellets, and pulp for use in production of packaging, tissues, and textiles.
Private forest ownership and stable paper markets create a synergy that has long yielded tens of thousands of jobs, rural income, and strong incentives for continued investment in forests for the near and long term. However, if efforts to reduce wood markets succeed over an extended period, the result would likely be loss of forest lands rather than the reverse.
As global demand for resources continues to grow, a sustainable future will depend heavily on the use of products that are highly recyclable and based on renewable materials and energy. Paper is well positioned given its unique sustainable features.
Environmental claims cannot be vague and must consider the above points and others in the life-cycle of both digital and print products. The U.S. FTC’s Green Guides make clear that “Marketers should not make broad, unqualified general environmental benefits claims like ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly’. Broad claims are difficult to substantiate, if not impossible.” Without competent, scientific evidence supporting their claims it is easy for companies to fall short of the FTC’s requirements.
Our recent 2019 consumer research conducted by global polling company Toluna, showed that paper is considered the second most environmentally friendly material next to wood out of 8 common materials and products. Electronic devices ranked as the least environmentally-friendly, followed by plastic.
In an earlier 2016 survey, 91% of U.S. respondents agreed that when responsibly produced, used & recycled, print & paper can be a sustainable way to communicate. Furthermore, 88% agreed that when forests are responsibly managed, it is environmentally acceptable to use trees to produce products such as wood for construction & paper for printing.
Clearly this is a very different message than what we are seeing from corporations and digital service companies who are eager to benefit financially by switching consumers from paper-based communications to digital.
Two Sides continues to provide fact-based information about paper and printing to encourage companies like DocuSign to send the right message about sustainability. If you are a DocuSign customer, please consider sending them a letter to encourage them to join the hundreds of other companies who have changed their message about paper and printing.
You can contact us at [email protected] for a ready-made template to use. All you need to do is sign and mail the letter.
Over 440 companies globally lead the way in environmental marketing
As part of its anti-greenwash campaign launched in early 2012, Two Sides has now successfully collaborated with over 440 leading corporations globally (over 120 in North America), including many of the Fortune 500, to correct misleading and unsubstantiated environmental claims about print and paper. The campaign addresses vague marketing claims used by companies to promote digital services over paper-based communications in an effort to lower costs and shift printing costs to consumers.