Two Sides Anti-Greenwashing Campaign Scores Big Wins, Builds Momentum for Strong Results in 2021

New Fact Sheet on Greenwashing Now Available

With pandemic lockdowns as a backdrop, banks, utilities, telecoms and other large service providers boosted their efforts to switch customers from paper to electronic communication over the last 15 months, and with those efforts came a new wave of misleading environmental claims about paper – greenwashing.

The Two Sides Anti-Greenwashing Campaign mobilized to push back against this tide of new claims in January after a 10-month pandemic-related interruption, and wins have been steadily increasing. Thanks to this renewed effort, 14 companies have changed or removed misleading environmental claims related to print and paper so far this year, including large banks, utilities and notably, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, whose communications reach 44 million Americans or 15% of the U.S. population. This is in addition to seven wins in 2020 on greenwashing cases that were already in progress.

“We know that consumers are increasingly aware of the impact their choices have on the environment, and that environmental claims made by companies they trust can influence their decision making,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “But those claims often are not based in fact. Many companies continue to encourage consumers to switch from paper to electronic communications using unsubstantiated claims that digital communication is green, saves trees and is better for the environment, and this activity has increased significantly during the pandemic.

“These are clear cases of greenwashing that damage consumer perceptions of paper and put at risk the livelihoods of more than 7 million people in the North American print, paper and mail sector,” Rowzie adds. “That’s why Two Sides Anti-Greenwashing Campaign is needed now more than ever.”

The campaign has achieved a total of 148 wins in the U.S. and Canada (more than 700 globally) since its inception in 2012, bringing the North American success rate to 68%.

The goal of the Anti-Greenwashing Campaign is to directly engage and encourage major North American corporations to adopt best practices for environmental marketing established by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC),  the Competition Bureau of Canada (CBC), and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 14021). These standards are quite detailed, but in a nutshell they say that environmental marketing claims should be accurate, substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence and should not suggest environmental benefits by using broad, vague terms like “green” and “environmentally friendly.”

“One of the distinguishing features of the Two Sides Anti-Greenwashing Campaign is that we don’t push a ‘pixels versus paper’ scenario but instead recognize that both print and electronic communications have attractive benefits and environmental consequences,” Rowzie explains. “It’s a straightforward approach that simply says, ‘Hey Corporate CEO, your company is making unsubstantiated marketing claims about the environmental attributes of print and paper. Here are the facts. We encourage you to follow best practices for environmental marketing from the FTC, CBC and others, and put an end to your misleading claims.’”

Not only are greenwashing claims unacceptable under established environmental marketing standards, but they can also harm the companies making them. “Greenwashing distracts from a company’s legitimate environmental initiatives and can damage corporate reputations when misleading claims are exposed,” Rowzie explains. “And some consumers are skeptical that a commitment to environmental improvement is the underlying motive for companies’ push to go paperless. In a recent Two Sides survey, just over half of consumers said that when a company encourages them to switch from paper to digital communication because “it’s better for the environment,” they know the real reason is that the company is trying to cut costs.”

To promote greater understanding of what greenwashing is and why it should be avoided, Two Sides has published a new four-page fact sheet titled Go Green, Go Paperless” Messages are Misleading: The Facts About Greenwashing. 

 “We use this fact sheet when we contact companies about their paper greenwashing claims, but it’s a great tool that anyone can download and share with employees, customers, investors and other stakeholders,” Rowzie explains. “It’s an effective tool to help explain what greenwashing is, the harm it causes and why paper is an inherently sustainable choice that contributes to a circular economy.”

If you see a greenwashing claim from one of your service provides – on a bill, statement, envelope, website or email – send a screenshot, scan or link to info@twosidesna.org.   

For more facts about the sustainability of print, paper and paper-based packaging, click here.

 

 

Has the Pandemic Changed the Way U.S. Consumers Access News and Information?

New Two Sides survey shows U.S. consumer reading habits have changed, but print on paper remains a valued and sustainable part of everyday life

CHICAGO – May 25, 2021 – Print media has seen significant disruption during the coronavirus pandemic, with lockdowns changing the way we access and consume news and information. But even as familiarity with and use of online media has increased, print on paper remains a widely used and highly valued resource. This according to a new survey, “Paper’s Place in a Post-Pandemic World,” commissioned by non-profit organization Two Sides North America and conducted by global research firm Toluna.

“Print and digital communications are often compared as an either/or proposition to suggest one is better than the other,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie, “but our research shows that both play an important part in today’s information-driven economy. Rather than adopt a one-size-fits all digital communications strategy, savvy news organizations and other businesses will continue to offer consumers a choice and in doing so, help to assure that those who are unwilling or unable to access digital information are not disadvantaged.”

As a result of pandemic-related lockdowns, traditional news brands have successfully developed or enhanced their digital platforms, leading many to turn to online media as a primary source of news and information. But it cannot be assumed that everyone who moved online for news did so by choice or that all who moved online will remain there as restrictions on work, travel and leisure are lifted. While the Two Sides survey showed that 58% of consumers intend to read more news online in the future, this percentage has not changed since 2019.  And although print newspaper readership has taken a hit during the pandemic, 49% of consumers say they would be concerned if printed news were to disappear.

It’s important to note that for many Americans, printed communication is not a choice – it’s a necessity.  The U.S. Federal Communications Commission estimates that some 21 million Americans do not have access to broadband internet service,1 but other organizations, including Microsoft,2 report estimates as high as 157 million. In addition, many who have access to internet service cannot afford it. Consumers in rural areas without broadband infrastructure and many among our most vulnerable populations – older Americans, those with disabilities and low-income individuals –  depend solely on printed newspapers, magazines, books, bills and statements.

In addition, digital communication is not universally welcomed. Nearly three in 10 consumers (29%) prefer to read newspapers in print, and that number jumps to more than four in 10 for those over age 55.  44% of consumers say they gain a better understanding of a story when reading news in print versus online. When it comes to magazines, 38% of consumers prefer to read in print, with percentages climbing to 49% for those over 55 and 63% for those over 65. When all age groups are included, 44% prefer to read books in print.

As might be expected, the survey shows that younger adults, those aged 18 to 24 in particular, prefer to read all types of media online. But even among these younger consumers, 28% prefer to receive and read  personal information from doctors and hospitals in print, 27% prefer to read books in print and 23% prefer to receive bills and statements from service providers in print.

“It’s clear that digital communication is changing the way we receive news and information,” Rowzie says, “but Americans’ growing dependence on digital communication brings its own concerns, which in turn presents opportunities for print media to hold and potentially reclaim a  bigger slice of the consumer media pie. Our survey reveals that 52% of consumers believe they spend too much time on their electronic devices, and just over half are concerned that the overuse of digital devices may be damaging their health. And as headlines about online security breaches become a common occurrence, 64% say they are increasingly concerned that their personal information held electronically is at risk of being hacked, stolen, lost or damaged.”

Consumers also are increasingly concerned about the environmental impacts of their communication choices, but there are a lot of misconceptions in the marketplace about the sustainability of both digital communication and print on paper.  “Our survey shows that 67% of consumers believe electronic communication is better for the environment that print on paper,” Rowzie says.  “But the miniaturization of today’s electronic devices and the ‘invisible’ nature of digital infrastructure and cloud-based services cause many to vastly underestimate the environmental footprint of electronic communication, which includes the mining of raw materials like iron, copper and rare earth minerals to produce electronic devices, the massive amounts of predominately fossil fuel energy used to manufacture and operate those devices and the server farms that support them, and the enormous and growing amount of e-waste generated.

“Like all manufactured products, paper has an environmental footprint, too,” Rowzie explains. “But in the U.S., it is a material whose industry grows and regrows its own raw material (wood fiber from trees), derives two-thirds of the power to drive its processes from renewable, carbon-neutral biofuel, cleans and returns more than 90% of the water it uses to the environment and recycles more than 95% of the chemicals it uses to turn trees into pulp. In addition, with a 66% recovery rate, paper is the most recycled material in the country, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  That’s a powerful sustainability story the electronics industry cannot match.”

For more facts about the environmental sustainability of print and paper products, visit https://twosidesna.org/two-sides-fact-sheet

About Two Sides North America, Inc.

Two Side North America is an independent, non-profit organization that promotes the sustainability of print, paper and paper-based packaging, and dispels common environmental misconceptions about paper products.  We are part of the Two Sides global network which operates across North America, South America, Europe, Australia and South Africa.

Media Contact:

Kathi Rowzie, President

Two Sides North America, Inc.

P:  937-999-7729

E:  info@twosidesna.org

  Federal Communications Commission, “2019 Broadband Deployment Report,” 2019, https://www.fcc.gov/reports-research/reports/broadband-progress-reports/2019-broadband-deployment-report
 Microsoft, “Microsoft Airband: An Update on Connecting Rural America,” 2019, https://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2020/03/05/update-connecting-rural-america/

What Consumers Don’t Know About the Sustainability of Paper Products

New Two Sides Survey Shows U.S. Consumers Underestimate Print and Paper Products’ Unique Contributions to a Circular Economy 

Download the press release here.

CHICAGO – April 22, 2021 – As U.S. consumers become increasingly aware of the environmental impacts of the products they use every day, there remains a wide gap between perception and reality when it comes to the sustainability of paper products. This according to a new survey commissioned by Two Sides North America and conducted by global research firm Toluna.  The survey, “Paper’s Place in a Post-Pandemic World,” sought to explore and better understand consumer perceptions, behaviors and preferences related to the sustainability of paper products.

“More and more consumers are factoring environmental impacts into their purchasing decisions, but all too often those decisions are based on pop culture myths and sensational, headline-driven journalism rather than fact,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “As attention turns to developing a more sustainable, circular economy, the paper and paper-based packaging industry has a great, fact-based environmental story to tell: Paper is one the few products that can already claim to have a truly circular life cycle.”

What’s happening to the size of U.S. forest area?

Paper use is often blamed for forest loss, and 60% of those surveyed believe U.S. forests are shrinking. The fact: U.S. forest area grew by 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2020 Global Forest Resources Assessment. That’s an area equivalent to 1,200 NFL football fields every day. Contrary to the popular belief that manufacturing and using paper destroys forests, the demand for sustainably sourced paper and paper-based packaging creates a powerful financial incentive for landowners not only to manage and harvest their land responsibly, but also to keep it forested rather than converting it to non-forest uses, one of the real documented causes of forest loss.

What percentage of paper is recycled?

Paper recycling in the United States is a hands down environmental success story. But according to the survey, only 11% of consumers believe the U.S. recycling rate exceeds 60% and nearly a quarter believe it’s less that 20%.  The fact: More than two-thirds of all paper and paper-based packaging in the U.S. is recycled, and more than 90% of corrugated cardboard boxes is recycled according to the American Forest and Paper Association. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that paper is the most recycled material in the country, compared to plastics at 8.4%, glass at 26.6% and metals at 33.3%.

Is electronic communication more environmentally friendly than paper-based communication?

As the pandemic forced meetings, events and day-to-day business to online communication and consumers increasingly relied on the internet for news and information, 67% of those surveyed believe that electronic communication is more environmentally friendly than paper-based communication. While consumers enjoy the convenience and the ability to work from home that electronic communication affords, they overlook the environmental impact of digital communication.

The facts: The EPA reports that the pulp and paper industry accounts for only 1.2% of U.S. industrial greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and only 0.5% of total U.S. GHG emissions – which shouldn’t be surprising since two-thirds of the energy used to power U.S. paper industry operations is generated using renewable, carbon neutral biomass. In contrast, the energy consumption required for digital technologies is increasing 9% each year, and the share of digital technology in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions could rise to 8% by 2025 according to The Shift Project, a carbon transition think tank.  And compared to paper’s recycling success story, the United States generates approximately 7 million metric tons of e-waste annually, but only 15% of that waste is recycled, according to the 2020 Global E-waste Monitor.

“The life cycle of paper products is circular by nature,” Rowzie explains. “The raw material used to make it is perpetually regrown, the energy used to manufacture it is generated using mostly carbon-neutral biofuel, and the circle is completed as used paper is recycled into new products at a higher rate than any other material.  Even so, our survey shows that misconceptions about the sustainability of paper products are commonplace. It’s just these types of misconceptions that Two Sides was created to correct.  We believe consumers have the right to make purchasing choices based on data and hard facts, free from pop mythology and misinformation.”

For more facts about the environmental sustainability of paper and paper-based packaging, visit www.twosidesna.org.

About Two Sides North America, Inc.

Two Side North America is an independent, non-profit organization that promotes the sustainability of print, paper and paper-based packaging, and dispels common environmental misconceptions about paper products.  We are part of the Two Sides global network which operates across North America, South America, Europe, Australia and South Africa.

Media Contact:

Kathi Rowzie, President

Two Sides North America, Inc.

P:  937-999-7729

E:  info@twosidesna.org

 

Is Going Paperless Really Better for the Environment?

Many banks, utilities, telecoms and other service providers continue to encourage (and sometimes force) their customers to switch from paper to electronic communications, using claims that electronic communication is “greener,” “saves trees” or “protects the planet” as justification. One can only conclude that the CEOs of these companies are either 1) misinformed about the inherent sustainability of print and paper, the rapidly expanding environmental footprint of digital communication or both, 2) trusting marketing teams who don’t bother to validate environmental claims or 3) seeking to save costs by ignoring established environmental marketing rules from the U.S. FTC and Canadian Standards Association that say marketers “should not make broad, unqualified environmental benefit claims like “green” and that “claims should be clear, prominent and specific.”

Growth of electronic devices and e-waste

There’s no arguing that the use of electronic devices has exploded over the last decade. According to a 2019 study by the Pew Research Center, the vast majority of Americans (81%) now own smartphones, up from just 35% in 2011.  Nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults now own desktop or laptop computers, and roughly half now own tablets and e-readers.  This boom has resulted in many advances that make our lives more efficient, productive and enjoyable. But it has also brought with it serious and increasing environmental, health and economic consequences.

According to the recently released Global E-waste Monitor (GEM) 2020, a record 53.6 million metric tons (Mt) of electronic waste was generated in 2019, up 21% in just five years. For perspective, last year’s e-waste weighed as much as 350 cruise ships the size of the Queen Mary 2, enough to form a line 76 miles long. The GEM describes e-waste as discarded products with a battery or plug. Small electronic equipment, screens and monitors, small IT and telecommunication equipment comprised more than half of global e-waste last year. The U.S. and Canada collectively generated 7.7 Mt of electronic waste in 2019. That’s 46 lbs. per person, and nearly three times the worldwide per capita generation of 16 lbs.

The report also predicts global e-waste, will reach 74 Mt by 2030, almost a doubling of e-waste in just 16 years. This makes e-waste the world’s fastest-growing waste stream, fueled by higher consumption rates of electric and electronic devices, short device life cycles and few options for repair.  Many people now see devices and appliances as ultimately disposable, simply discarding them when it’s time for an upgrade. Others may hold on to them, but are unable to find a cost-effective way to repair them.

Little e-waste is recycled

The GEM found that only 17.4% of e-waste was collected and recycled globally in 2019, with only 15% of e-waste in North America recycled. Most e-waste was either dumped or burned rather than being collected for recycling and reuse.

Numerous toxic and hazardous substances are found in electronic equipment and pose severe risk to the environment and human health when not handled in an environmentally sound manner. Recent research cited in the GEM found that unregulated e-waste is associated with increasing numbers of adverse health effects, from birth defects and altered neurodevelopment to DNA damage, adverse cardiovascular and respiratory effects and cancer.

E-waste also represents a huge economic loss. When electronic devices are simply thrown away, high-value, recoverable materials such as iron, copper and gold are thrown away with them. “If we cannot recycle electronic waste, we’re not taking back materials into the loop, which means we have to extract new raw materials,” says Vanessa Forti, the lead author of the GEM.  It’s estimated that the value of raw materials in all global e-waste generated in 2019 equaled a staggering $57 billion US, more than the gross domestic product of most countries.

Electronic communication, energy consumption and climate change

The miniaturization of equipment and the “invisibility” of the infrastructures used leads many to underestimate the environmental footprint of digital technology. This phenomenon is reinforced by the widespread availability of services on the “cloud,” which makes the physical reality of use all the more imperceptible and leads to underestimating the direct environmental impacts of digital technology.

By 2023, global tech giant Cisco estimates that North America will have 345 million internet users (up from 328 million in 2018), and 5 billion networked devices/connections (up from 3 billion in 2018).  The U.S. Department of Energy reports that U.S. data centers consumed an estimated 70 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2014, representing about 1.8% of total U.S. electricity consumption. Based on current trend estimates, U.S. data centers are projected to consume approximately 73 billion kWh in 2020. This energy consumption does not include the energy required to build, power or recharge the devices.

 According to The Shift Project, a carbon transition think tank, the energy consumption required for digital technologies is increasing 9% each year and the share of digital technology in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions could double to 8% by 2025. The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory analyzed 113 information technology companies in 2014 and found that only 14% of the energy consumed was from renewable sources.

The contrasts between electronic and paper communications are well-defined

The magnitude of the negative impacts resulting from the use of electronic communication should be cause enough for companies to abandon their unverifiable greenwashing claims that going digital is better for the environment, but the comparison with paper-based communication should seal the deal for those that are committed to responsible marketing practices.

  • Paper is made from a renewable resource – trees from sustainably managed forests.
  • With a recovery rate of 66% in the U.S. and 70% in Canada, paper is recycled more than any other material in North America.
  • Most of the energy used to manufacture paper in North America comes from carbon-neutral biomass and other renewable sources.
  • The U.S. pulp and paper industry emitted 35.7 Mt of GHG emissions in 2018, which was only 1.2% of total direct U.S. industrial emissions.
  • More than 90% of the water used to manufacture paper in North America is cleaned and returned to the source. Most of the remainder evaporates or remains in paper products.
  • The North American paper industry has shown continuous environmental performance improvement which is well documented.

Since its inception, Two Sides has been working to end corporate greenwashing of digital communication.  For more information about Two Sides’ Anti-greenwash Campaign, click here.

For more facts on electronic communication and other paper sustainability topics, click here.

Get the Facts on Renewable Energy, Carbon Footprint and Electronic Communication – Two Sides Releases New Fact Sheets

Get informed about the sustainability of print and paper! We’ve added our latest two fact sheets to our website, addressing key environmental topics.  Download them by clicking the links below.

Electronic Communication (click to download)

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, as opposed to non-renewable materials produced with fossil fuel energy. Paper is well positioned given its unique sustainable features. “Go paperless, go green” is a common claim that encourages us to switch to electronic transactions and communications. But are appeals to help the environment by eliminating paper based on sound science or on marketing strategies?

The responsible manufacture, use and recycling of print and paper contribute to long-term, sustainable forest management in North America and help mitigate climate change. Print and paper will remain an important element in our media mix, and will also continue to provide social and economic benefits that contribute significantly to the well-being of North American businesses and citizens alike.

Renewable Energy and Carbon Footprint (click to download)

When looking at the life cycle of paper, the carbon footprint can be divided into three basic elements: greenhouse gas emission reduction, carbon sequestration, and avoided emissions. Because paper is made from a renewable resource that stores carbon, it’s manufactured using mostly renewable energy and it’s recyclable, paper’s carbon footprint is smaller than might be expected.

To access all Two Sides Facts Sheets, click here.

Did you know? Two Sides members can personalize our Fact Sheets! For more information, please contact us at info@twosidesna.org

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