Two Sides North America Celebrates Record-Breaking Year

As we look toward the New Year, Two Sides North America has a lot to celebrate! With the help of our members and supporters who submitted greenwashing claims from their service providers, we’ve broken our all-time annual record with 30 additional wins in our Anti-greenwashing Campaign in 2023!

These wins collectively represent more than 200 million North American consumers who are no longer seeing unsubstantiated environmental claims about paper from their financial institutions, utilities, insurance companies, government agencies and other organizations.

But there’s more work to do!  As companies face inflationary pressures, they’re looking for ways to cut costs. In many cases, this means urging their customers to go paperless and using misleading environmental claims about paper to get them to make the switch. And we know this tactic works!

Two Sides North America research showed that 65% of U.S. consumers who’ve seen greenwashing claims are influenced to switch from paper to electronic communications.

You can help the Two Sides North America Anti-greenwashing Campaign achieve even greater success in 2024!

If you see greenwashing claims like “go green, go paperless” or “going paperless saves trees” from companies you do business with, or if you spot media stories promoting alternative types of packaging as environmentally superior to paper, send a pdf or jpg snip of the claims to the Two Sides North America Anti-Greenwashing Campaign at info@twosidesna.org.

If your company is not a member of Two Sides, you can support our efforts by joining today! Membership starts at just $250.  Click here for more information or give us a call at 971-288-6734.

Best Wishes for a Happy & Prosperous New Year from your Two Sides North America Team!

Unmasking Greenwashing: The Consequences and the Cure

In our increasingly environmentally conscious world, it’s common for companies to tout their green initiatives and environmentally friendly practices, and that’s just good business.  But all too often, companies claim benefits –  like the environmental superiority of “recyclable plastic” packaging or “going green” by switching from paper to electronic communications — as a way to cloak poor environmental performance or mask cost-cutting efforts. With no sound scientific evidence to back them up, these types of claims are textbook greenwashing.  

Some of the consequences of greenwashing are obvious.  Clearly, unsubstantiated environmental claims mislead consumers, often causing them to take actions they would not otherwise consider. As reported previously by Two Sides North America (TSNA), psychological research has shown that when people see and hear unsubstantiated claims over and over again, they start to believe them as true, and ultimately incorporate them into their decision making. A 2022 TSNA study confirmed this finding. The study showed that among Americans who had repeatedly seen “go green, go paperless” and similar claims from their banks, utility companies and other services providers, 65% were influenced to switch from paper to electronic bills and statements.

Greenwashing claims can also cause reputational harm, not only damaging the credibility of companies that make such claims, but also casting doubt over the valid claims of companies that are contributing to real environmental progress.  The U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s “Green Guides” provide very specific guidance related to environmental claims, stating that “claims must be truthful, not misleading and supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.” Unfortunately, this guidance is often ignored.

Hidden Consequences

One of the least discussed but most damaging consequences of paper-related greenwashing is economic in nature. When respected companies, media and producers of competing materials make unsubstantiated environmental claims, they negatively influence consumers’ perceptions of paper products and put at risk the livelihoods of workers across the print, paper, paper-based packaging and mail sector.  A recent study by the Envelope Manufacturers Association Foundation reported that this sector accounts for 7.9 million workers who make up 5% of the U.S. workforce and contribute nearly $2 trillion to the U.S. economy.  From papermakers, printers and converting equipment operators to graphic designers, paper industry suppliers and mail management and distribution employees, greenwashing creates economic vulnerabilities for many.  

The Greenwashing Cure: Accountability

The way to eliminate paper-related greenwashing by corporations, media and producers of competing materials is to hold them accountable for their bogus claims.  Two Sides North America is the only industry organization doing just that.

Two Sides directly challenges greenwashing companies to remove unsubstantiated environmental claims in a non-confrontational way, educating CEOs and other senior management with facts from credible, third-party sources that clearly demonstrate the unique sustainability characteristics of paper products and the solid and continually improving environmental record of the North American paper industry. So far this year, TSNA has persuaded 24 more companies and two state/provincial government agencies to remove unsubstantiated environmental claims about paper, which translates to roughly 239 million consumers who are no longer seeing anti-paper greenwashing claims from these service providers.  

Two Sides also defends the sustainability of paper and paper-based packaging in the media, most recently in our letters to the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times and Office Products International (OPI) News. 

“Paper is one of the few products on earth that already has an environmentally sustainable, circular life cycle,” says TSNA President Kathi Rowzie. “North American paper is made from an infinitely renewable natural resource – trees that are purpose-grown, harvested and regrown in sustainably managed forests. It’s manufactured using mostly renewable, carbon neutral bioenergy in a process that uses a lot of water, but actually consumes very little of it. And paper products are recycled more than any other material in the U.S. municipal solid waste stream. But many consumers believe paper is bad for the environment because corporations, the media and other organizations they trust are telling them so. The Two Sides Anti-greenwashing Campaign is working hard to change that.”

You Can Help!

If you see greenwashing claims like “go green, go paperless” from companies you do business with, or media stories promoting alternative types of packaging as environmentally superior to paper, send a pdf or jpg snip of the claims or forward the offending email to the Two Sides North America Anti-Greenwashing Campaign at info@twosidesna.org.

Paper vs. Plastic Packaging: Two Sides Responds to The Washington Times

The Washington Times recently featured an opinion piece by an advocate for the plastics industry that included multiple unsubstantiated environmental claims about paper-based packaging. Two Sides North America submitted the following letter to the editors in response.

To the editors:

Why is it that whenever someone wants to extoll the sustainability benefits of plastic packaging products, they feel compelled to claim that plastics have “a lower environmental impact” than paper-based packaging (America succumbs to plastic paranoia, September 26) instead of simply making a fact-based environmental case? Could it be because paper products are the gold standard for circularity and true sustainability?

In this case, the author makes gratuitous claims that plastic packaging “helps the planet” and “saves tens of millions of trees every year,” citing “real scientists” from Sweden and Denmark to back up his claims of plastic’s green superiority. In doing so, he invites comparisons that, of necessity, must also catalog the environmental consequences of plastic packaging, from the extraction of finite resources and energy use to the fate of final products.

To start with, the many different resins used to make plastics are derived from non-renewable fossil fuels, namely natural gas, feedstocks derived from natural gas processing, and feedstocks derived from crude oil refining (U.S. Energy Information Administration). And single-use plastics also are incredibly energy-intensive to produce. In fact, plastic production accounts for more than 3% of total U.S. energy consumption, using roughly the same amount of oil as the global aviation industry, which in turn generates significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (U.S. Department of Energy).

And while Americans toss millions of tons of plastic packaging into their recycling bins, not much of it actually gets recycled. A recycling PR campaign recently launched by the plastics industry says that 6 billion pounds (3 million tons) of plastic get recycled each year, but that’s only about 9% of the total plastic produced annually in the U.S. according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  There are just too many different types of plastic, each with different recycling requirements, so they can’t be combined and recycled together. Building out the infrastructure to effectively collect, sort and recycle them poses extremely difficult logistical and economic challenges – challenges that are not likely to be met any time soon, if ever.

Given the finite resources and large amounts of fossil fuel energy used to produce them along with their low recycling rate, it’s a bit of a stretch to imply that plastics meet the generally accepted definition of circularity: industrial processes and economic activities that are 1) restorative or regenerative by design, 2) enable resources used to maintain their highest value for as long as possible, and 3) aim to eliminate waste through the superior design of materials, products and systems.

Paper-based packaging, on the other hand, has a demonstrably circular life cycle.

Paper-based packaging is manufactured using an infinitely renewable natural resource – trees that are purpose-grown, harvested and re-grown in sustainably managed forests. And it is manufactured in a process that uses mostly (64% on average in the U.S.) renewable bioenergy. This fact, combined with investments in energy efficiency and process improvements helped the U.S. paper industry reduce GHG emissions per ton of production by more than 24% since 2005. (American Forest and Paper Association, AF&PA). According to the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory, the pulp and paper industry is not a major contributor to climate change, contributing less than 0.6% of total U.S. CO2e emissions.

While all of these unique environmental characteristics make paper arguably one of the most sustainable products on earth, it’s the paper industry’s investment in recycling infrastructure that makes the paper life cycle truly circular. Over the past 30 years, the U.S. industry has voluntarily bankrolled billions of dollars in recycling infrastructure, including $7 billion in completed or announced investments between 2019 and 2025. Today, 94% of Americans have access to a community paper recycling program, and 79% have access to residential/curbside recycling programs, this according to a comprehensive national study commissioned by AF&PA in 2021.

Because paper recycling is accessible and easy, U.S. businesses and consumers have embraced it in a big way. With a recycling rate of 68% (~46 million tons annually), paper and paper-based packaging are the most recycled material in the U.S. municipal solid waste stream (EPA).  And that rate jumps to nearly 94% for cardboard packaging (AF&PA).

Kathi Rowzie, President

Two Sides North America

www.twosidesna.org

90 Million More Consumers Now Safeguarded from Anti-Paper Greenwashing

Two Sides North America Anti-Greenwashing Campaign Persuades 21 Leading Companies to Remove Unsubstantiated Environmental Claims in 1H23

Since its inception, the Two Sides North America Anti-greenwashing Campaign has eliminated literally billions of instances of paper-related greenwashing in the United States and Canada, and its engagement with large utilities, banks, insurers and other organizations during the first half of 2023 has added to this success.

During the first six months of 2023, 21 additional companies representing approximately 90 million customers have removed greenwashing messages such as “Go green, Go paperless” and  “Go paperless to help protect the environment” from their marketing communications.

“In addition to misleading consumers, these types of unsubstantiated environmental claims pose a serious threat to the economic security of the more than 7 million people whose livelihoods depend on a healthy North American paper, printing and mailing sector,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “Our recent research found that 65% of consumers who’ve seen anti-paper greenwashing are influenced to go paperless.”

That same research found that the Two Sides Anti-greenwashing Campaign has preserved more than $300 million in annual revenue for the paper, printing and mailing sector over the last decade.

Two Sides challenges greenwashing companies to remove unsubstantiated environmental claims in a non-confrontational way, educating CEOs and other senior management with facts from credible, third-party sources that clearly demonstrate the unique sustainability characteristics of paper products and the solid and continually improving environmental record of the North American paper industry.

“Paper is one of the few products on earth that already has an environmentally sustainable, circular life cycle,” Rowzie says. “North American paper is made from an infinitely renewable natural resource – trees that are purpose-grown, harvested and regrown in sustainably managed forests. It’s manufactured using mostly renewable, carbon neutral bioenergy in a process that uses water, but in reality consumes very little of it. And paper products are recycled more than any other material in the U.S. municipal solid waste stream. But many consumers believe paper is bad for the environment because corporations and other organizations they trust are telling them so. The Two Sides Anti-greenwashing Campaign is working hard to change that.”

You can help Two Sides in the fight to eliminate anti-paper greenwashing and protect North American jobs. If you see instances of greenwashing, please email them as a PDF, JPG file or link to info@twosidesna.org.

For more facts about the sustainability of print and paper products, please visit www.twosidesna.org/mythsandfacts.

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DOWNLOAD PRESS RELEASE HERE.

Media Contact:

Kathi Rowzie, President, Two Sides North America

E: info@twosidesna.org

P: 937-999-7729

 

Biomass Basics: Clearing the Air About Paper’s GHG Emissions

Have you heard that the earth is flat, literally flat? Yes, there are serious organizations making impressive-sounding arguments and throwing scientific jargon in every direction to disprove what real science and observation have taught us about our planet, but in the end the earth is still round. So it is with the claim that paper manufacturing is “a major contributor to climate change.”

Too many ENGOs and other self-interested parties have invested years trying to refute the findings of global scientific authorities like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the paper industry is largely greenhouse gas neutral.  But just like the Flat Earth argument, it takes only a little high school science, sound data and a bit of common sense to separate the truth from the blizzard of activist rhetoric posing as climate change “studies.”

Biomass in the Forest

In high school science class, we learned about photosynthesis, the process where trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, and with the help of radiant energy from the sun convert that CO2 into tree fiber called biomass. As trees grow, they continue to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it as biomass until they die, decay or are burned, at which time the CO2 simply returns to the atmosphere in a natural carbon cycle.  This “biogenic” carbon cycle remains in balance and no net carbon is added to the atmosphere as long as forest carbon stocks – the carbon stored in forest biomass – remain stable or increase.

The biogenic carbon cycle concept is central to globally recognized greenhouse gas inventory and accounting protocols, including the IPCC’s Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories. As stated in the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report, “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, wood fiber or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained [climate change] mitigation benefit.”

Are forest stocks in the United States growing? The answer is a resounding “yes,” thanks in great part to the sustainable forestry practices and forest certification advocated by the paper industry. The U.S. Forest Service reports that U.S forests grow approximately two times more tree volume than is harvested each year, with net average annual growing forest stock of about 25 billion cubic feet.

Keeping the Carbon Cycle in Balance

It’s not unusual for anti-paper activist fundraising campaigns to include photos of a recently harvested plot of forestland, claiming that such harvests have “devastating climate impacts” because it takes decades for replanted or naturally regenerated trees to grow back and replace the carbon that was removed during harvest. While this type of chicanery may be successful in raising money from unwitting individuals and corporations, it completely ignores the science and economics of sustainable forest management.

In the real world, a balanced biogenic carbon cycle is measured across large spatial landscapes and averaged over time, not as a one-time snapshot of a single plot of land. In sustainably managed forests, a balanced carbon cycle is maintained by harvesting trees on some plots which are then regenerated by replanting or natural means, while trees on other plots continue to grow and absorb carbon. In fact, keeping growing forest eco-systems healthy and productive while regenerating areas that have been harvested for paper and other wood-based products (or damaged by forest fires or insects) is the very definition of sustainable forestry. And it takes little more than common sense to understand that sustainable forest management is critical to the paper industry’s long-term supply of raw materials, and thus its long-term economic health.

Biomass for Energy

Very little of the sustainably grown wood used in papermaking goes to waste. In addition to the fiber that eventually ends up in paper products, leftovers from the tree harvesting and papermaking processes – things like sawdust, small limbs, bark, and wood residuals from the pulping process – are used to generate renewable energy at U.S. paper mills.

Some in the activist community contend that burning biomass for energy at paper mills is a major contributor to climate change because doing so releases large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.  While CO2 is released, it is an inherent part of the biogenic carbon cycle and adds no net carbon to the environment. This is significantly different from burning fossil fuels. When fossil fuels are removed from geologic reserves in the ground and burned for energy, this adds carbon to the atmosphere that has been stored for millions of years – essentially new carbon that contributes to climate change.

How much biomass does the U.S. paper industry use to power its operations? The American Forest and Paper Association reports that nearly two-thirds of the energy needs at U.S. pulp and paper mills (64% on average) are met using renewable biofuels, mostly biomass. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), displacing fossil fuels with this sustainable bioenergy prevents about 181 million metric tons of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere each year. That’s roughly equal to removing 35 million cars from the road annually.

Papermaking, Biomass and Climate Change

So how does paper manufacturing fit into the overall picture when it comes to GHG emissions and their impact on climate change? The pulp and paper sector was among the first to take voluntary action to reduce GHGs, so it’s no surprise that U.S. paper mills and manufacturing facilities have a solid record of GHG reduction. According to the U.S. EPA’s most recent data, emissions from the sector have steadily declined in recent years, down 21% between 2011 and 2021. This reduction is attributed to the increasing use of carbon-neutral biomass fuel, the switch from coal and oil to less carbon-intensive fossil fuels such as natural gas, and technology enhancements that improved overall energy efficiency.

Is paper manufacturing a major contributor to climate change? Contrary to activist claims and pop culture headlines, the answer is clearly, “no,” and the data supports this finding.  According to the EPA, the U.S. pulp and paper industry is responsible for less than 0.6% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

For more facts about the sustainability of paper products, click here.

New Two Sides North America Survey Shows Improvement in Consumer Attitudes about Paper Products and the Environment

DAYTON, Ohio – April 27, 2023 – 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 – but the gap has narrowed over the past two years. Overall, 44% of consumers believe paper products are bad for the environment, down from 48% in 2021. This according to a new survey commissioned by Two Sides North America and conducted by global research firm Toluna.

“It’s great to see improvement in consumer attitudes about paper and the environment, but we need to accelerate this trend if paper products are to remain competitive in an ever-changing marketplace,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “More and more consumers are factoring environmental impacts into their purchasing decisions, but all too often those decisions are based on longstanding myths, pop culture headlines and corporate greenwashing rather than facts,” she explains. “Everyone whose livelihood depends on paper has a role in changing this. As the world moves toward a more sustainable, circular economy, the paper and paper-based packaging industry has a great, fact-based environmental story to tell: The life cycle of paper is already circular.”

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

Paper use is often blamed for forest loss, and 55% of those surveyed believe U.S. forests are shrinking, an improvement over 2021, when 60% of consumers said they believe U.S. forest area is decreasing. The facts: U.S. forest area grew by 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s most recent 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 millions of private landowners not only to manage and harvest their land responsibly, but also to keep it forested rather than converting it to non-forest use or selling it for development, the leading cause of deforestation in the United States according to the U.S. Forest Service.

What percentage of paper is recycled?

Paper recycling in the United States is a hands down environmental success story, but most consumers don’t know it. According to the survey, only 12% of consumers know the U.S. recycling rate exceeds 60%, up from 11% in 2021. Four in 10 consumers believe the paper recycling rate is less than 30%. The facts: More than two-thirds (68%) of all paper and paper-based packaging in the U.S. is recycled, and more than 91% of corrugated cardboard is recycled according to the American Forest and Paper Association. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that paper is the most recycled material in the country, compared to plastics at 9%, glass at 25% and metals at 34%.

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

As companies continue to resort to unsubstantiated “go green, go paperless” marketing claims to help them cut costs, 68% of consumers surveyed believe that electronic communication is more environmentally friendly than print on paper, up from 67% in 2021. Clearly, consumers want to do the right things when it comes to the environment, but are often misled by corporate greenwashing that fails to acknowledge the environmental impacts of digital communication.

The facts: The EPA reports that the pulp and paper industry accounts for only 0.6% of total U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – which isn’t surprising since 64% of the energy needs at U.S. pulp and paper mills are met using renewable, carbon neutral biofuels, mostly biomass. In contrast, the rapidly expanding information communication technology (ICT) industry has a growing carbon footprint arising from GHGs released during all stages of the electronics life cycle. A recent meta-analysis (Freitag, Berners-Lee, et al, 2022) estimates the ICT industry is responsible for up to 3.9% of global GHG emissions and that those emissions will continue to increase without both regulatory and industrial intervention. Unlike the recycling success story of paper products, only 15% of the approximately 7 million metric tons of e-waste generated in the United States each year gets recycled, according to the 2020 Global E-waste Monitor. The rest is landfilled, burned or dumped, causing harm to both the environment and human health.

“The life cycle of paper products is circular by nature,” Rowzie explains. “The raw material used to make them is perpetually regrown, the energy used to manufacture them is generated using mostly renewable, 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 is working to correct. We believe consumers have the right to make purchasing choices based on data and hard facts, free from pop mythology and greenwashing.”

The 2023 Two Sides Trend Tracker Survey queried 1,000 respondents over age 18 across the United States. It is the second of Two Sides’ biennial trend tracker studies designed to explore and better understand consumer perceptions, behaviors and preferences related to the sustainability of paper products.

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Download the press release here.

About Two Sides North America

Two Sides North America (www.twosidesna.org) is part of the non-profit Two Sides global network which includes more than 600 member companies across North America, South America, Latin America, Europe, Australia and South Africa. Our mission is to dispel common environmental misconceptions and to inspire and inform businesses and consumers with engaging, factual information about the inherent environmental sustainability and enduring value of print, paper and  paper-based packaging.

Media Contact:

Kathi Rowzie, President

Two Sides North America

P:  937-999-7729

E:  info@twosidesna.org

40 Million More Consumers Now Safeguarded from Anti-paper Greenwashing

Two Sides North America Anti-greenwashing Campaign Kicks off 2023 with Big Wins

Since its inception, the Two Sides North America Anti-greenwashing Campaign has eliminated literally billions of instances of paper-related greenwashing in the United States and Canada – and engagement with large utilities, banks and insurers in January and February has set the pace for millions more in 2023.

So far this year, seven additional companies representing 40 million customers have removed  “go green, go paperless,” “go paperless, protect the environment” and similar claims from their marketing communications.

“In addition to misleading consumers, these types of unsubstantiated environmental claims pose a serious threat to the economic security of the more than 7 million people whose livelihoods depend on a healthy North American paper, printing and mailing sector,” says Two Side North America President Kathi Rowzie. “Our recent research found that 65% of consumers who’ve seen anti-paper greenwashing are influenced to go paperless.”

That same research found that the Two Sides Anti-greenwashing Campaign has annually preserved more than $300 million in revenue for the paper, printing and mailing sector over the last decade.

Two Sides challenges greenwashing companies to remove unsubstantiated environmental claims in a non-confrontational way, educating CEOs and other senior management with facts from credible, third-party sources that clearly demonstrate the unique sustainability characteristics of paper products and the solid and continually improving environmental record of the North American paper industry.

“Paper is one of the few products on earth that already has an environmentally sustainable, circular life cycle,” Rowzie says. “North American paper is made from an infinitely renewable natural resource – trees that are purpose-grown, harvested and regrown in sustainably managed forests. It’s manufactured using mostly renewable, carbon neutral bioenergy in a process that uses water, but in reality consumes very little of it. And paper products are recycled more than any other material. But many consumers believe paper is bad for the environment because corporations and other organizations they trust are telling them so. Two Sides is working hard to change that.”

You can help Two Sides in the fight to eliminate anti-paper greenwashing and protect North American jobs. If you see instances of greenwashing, please email them as a PDF, JPG file or link to info@twosidesna.org.

 

 

Two Sides Submits Comments to FTC

The Need for the Green Guides is as Urgent as Ever

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission recently announced its intent to review its Green Guides (Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims), asking for public comment to determine if the Guides should be retained and, if so, how they can be improved. Two Sides responded, telling the FTC that the Guides are needed now more than ever, and provided several recommendations for improvement.

First published in 1992 and most recently revised in 2012, The Green Guides were developed to help marketers avoid using unsubstantiated environmental claims that mislead consumers. They have been an invaluable tool in Two Sides’ Anti-Greenwashing Campaign to persuade major corporations and other organizations to eliminate anti-paper “Go Green, Go Paperless” claims from their customer communications.

Research conducted by Two Sides last year found that 65% of U.S. consumers who have seen anti-paper greenwashing claims from their service providers are influenced to switch from paper to electronic communications. The study also showed that the Two Sides North America Anti-greenwashing Campaign is having a powerful impact, preserving more than $308 million in revenue for the print, paper and mailing sector each year.

You can help Two Sides put an end to deceptive greenwashing claims that ultimately damage every business in the print and paper industry. If you see anti-paper greenwashing claims from your service providers, please scan or snip a copy and send it to info@twosidesna.org.

Download a copy of Two Sides’ comments to the FTC here.

The deadline for submitting comments on the FTC Green Guides has been extended from February 21 to April 24.  If your company or organization wishes to submit comments on the Guides, you may do so here.

The Illusion of Truth: How Greenwashing is Hurting your Business

By Kathi Rowzie, President, Two Sides North America

Sustainability has gone mainstream, with more people than ever before concerned about the environmental impacts of the products and services they buy and use. They understandably want to do the right things for the planet, but the explosion of greenwashing is causing consumers and businesses to use – or in the case of paper, not use – products without any basis in fact.

The Oxford Dictionary defines greenwashing as “Disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.” And you don’t have to look far to understand the scope of the problem. In a recent survey conducted by The Harris Poll for Google Cloud, 72% of CEOs and C-suite leaders in North America admitted that their companies are guilty of greenwashing, even as most gave their companies an “above-average” rating for environmental sustainability. Greenwashing investigations of ESG (environmental, social, governance) investment funds are becoming commonplace. And, as reported in the Harvard Business Review, studies show that companies that tout their environmental credentials often have poor environmental compliance records.

As major companies, service providers and government agencies attempt to disguise their cost-saving efforts as environmental responsibility, unsubstantiated claims that encourage people to go paperless are among the most often repeated greenwashing ploys. Going paperless is green, saves trees, eliminates waste and reduces your carbon footprint, they say. The evidence is clear that greenwashing works. But why do messages that are so contrary to fact resonate so well with consumers and business decision makers?

Psychological research has shown that when people see and hear unsubstantiated claims over and over again, they start to believe them as true, and ultimately incorporate them into their decision making. This phenomenon, called the “illusory truth effect,” was first identified in a 1977 study (Hasher, et al.) which found that repeated statements are easier to process, and subsequently perceived to be more truthful. This conclusion, that misconceptions become part of our knowledge base and inform our choices as a result of repetition, has since been repeated dozens of times by cognitive, social and consumer psychologists. Evidence of the robustness of this effect comes from studies showing that the illusory truth effect occurs even when the repeated statements are highly implausible (Fazio et al. 2019) or when the repeated statements directly contradict a person’s prior knowledge (Fazio et al. 2015).

So what does this mean for your business? Two Sides North America (TSNA) research illustrates the damaging effects that repeated greenwashing claims are having on the U.S. paper, printing and mailing sector, finding that 65% of consumers who have seen anti-paper greenwashing claims from their service providers are influenced to switch from paper bills and statements to digital versions. The study, conducted in partnership with global research firm Censuswide, also found that the TSNA Anti-greenwashing Campaign has preserved more than $300 million in annual revenue for the sector. But the results of this study, while telling, represent just a small slice of the broader anti-paper greenwashing epidemic.

Anti-paper greenwashing is accelerating as inflationary pressures drive large corporations and other service providers to implement deeper cost cuts. But greenwashing is not exclusive to the service sector, and printing papers are not the only products at risk. Even as interest in paper-based packaging as a sustainable solution to plastics pollution gains momentum, unsubstantiated claims portraying paper as less environmentally sustainable than plastics are on the rise. So too are misleading claims used to promote packaging made with alternative fibers and non-fiber materials. And the media’s repetition of environmental myths about paper only serve to reinforce the illusion of truth.

TSNA’s Anti-greenwashing Campaign is the only industry effort to directly challenge these anti-paper greenwashing claims at their source, and with great success. Working with major corporations, government agencies and the media, the campaign has eliminated literally billions of instances of unsubstantiated “go paperless” environmental claims over the last decade.

But there’s much more work to do as the growing chorus of anti-paper voices continues to repeat the same opportunistic greenwashing claims, threatening the financial future of paper-focused businesses and the livelihoods of people who work for them.

You can help by reporting greenwashing claims to Two Sides at info@twosidesna.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inflation Accelerates Anti-paper Greenwashing As Companies Look to Cut Costs

Two Sides North America Anti-greenwashing Campaign Responds With Record-breaking Success

CHICAGO – July 27, 2022 – For years, major corporations, service providers and government agencies have surrendered to the temptation to cloak their cost saving efforts in a veneer of environmental virtue by claiming – without evidence – that going paperless is better for the environment. Two Sides North America (TSNA), the only industry organization to directly challenge this greenwashing, has been highly effective in stemming the tide of misleading declarations, persuading 170 major organizations to remove anti-paper environmental claims.

However, as rising inflationary pressures drive cost cutting, greenwashing is once again on the rise. To help reverse this trend, TSNA has doubled down on its anti-greenwashing efforts, and with unprecedented success. So far this year, TSNA has already broken its full-year record for the number of corporations and other organizations it has persuaded to eliminate anti-paper greenwashing claims.

“Since its inception, the Two Sides Anti-greenwashing Campaign has eliminated literally billions of instances of greenwashing in the United States and Canada, and the 24 large organizations that removed misleading claims from January through July represent millions more,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “These type of claims pose a serious threat to the economic security of the more than 7 million people whose livelihoods depend on a healthy North American paper, printing and mailing sector. Our recent research found that 65% of consumers who’ve seen anti-paper greenwashing are influenced to go paperless.”

That same research found that the Two Sides Anti-greenwashing Campaign has annually preserved more than $300 million in revenue for the paper, printing and mailing sector over the last decade.

Two Sides challenges greenwashing companies and other organizations to remove unsubstantiated environmental claims in a non-confrontational way, educating CEOs and other senior management with facts from credible, third-party sources that clearly demonstrate the unique sustainability characteristics of paper products and the solid and continually improving environmental record of the North American paper industry.

“Paper is one of the few products on earth that already has an environmentally sustainable, circular life cycle,” Rowzie says. “North American paper is made from an infinitely renewable natural resource – trees that are purpose-grown, harvested and regrown in sustainably managed forests. It’s manufactured using mostly renewable, carbon neutral bioenergy in a process that uses water, but in reality consumes very little of it. And paper products are recycled more than any other material. But many consumers believe paper is bad for the environment because corporations and other organizations they trust are telling them so. Two Sides is working hard to change that.”

You can help Two Sides in the fight to eliminate greenwashing and protect North American jobs. If you see instances of anti-paper greenwashing, please send them in a PDF, JPG file or link to info@twosidesna.org.

Media Contact:

Kathi Rowzie, President

Two Sides North America

info@twosidesna.org

937-999-7729

About Two Sides

Two Sides is a global, member-funded non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the uniquely sustainable attributes of print, paper and paper-based packaging. Two Sides’ members span the entire print, paper and paper-based packaging value chain, including forestry, pulp, paper, packaging, inks and chemicals, finishing, publishing, printing, envelopes and mail operators.  For more information, visit www.twosidesna.org.

 

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