On Friday, November 3 (November 4 in the print edition), the Wall Street Journal published an article titled Citi to Cardholders: Go Paperless or Else about Citigroup’s decision to cut off all online and app communications with their customers who refuse to go paperless. Two Sides North America sent the following letter to the editors of the WSJ the same day.
Citigroup’s Paperless Mistake
Recent survey data validates the backlash shown on the WSJ website in response to Citigroup’s decision to cut off all electronic communications to consumers who refuse to go paperless. Commissioned by Two Sides North America and conducted by international research firm Toluna, the survey showed that 81% of Americans, including more than half of 18- to 24-year-olds, believe they should have the right to choose between paper and electronic communications from their banks and other service providers, and 73% believe they should not be charged extra for receiving a paper bill or statement. 46% of consumers said they would consider switching to an alternate provider if their current one forced them to go paperless, up from 41% in 2021.
As the WSJ story mentions, other financial institutions succumb to the temptation to wrap similar paperless initiatives in scientifically dubious greenwashing claims, but credit Citigroup at least for not going down that worn out road. Too often we see other banks claiming they’re “improving the environment” by shifting customers to electronic delivery while scrupulously avoiding any mention of the enormous energy and other environmental costs of electronic communication. By comparison, paper is made from an infinitely renewable natural resource (trees grown in sustainably managed forests) in a process that in the U.S. uses mostly renewable bioenergy and consumes very little water. And with a recovery rate of 68%, paper is recycled more than any other material in the U.S. municipal solid waste stream.
Kathi Rowzie, President
Two Sides North America
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 in the print and paper products supply chain 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.
The Two Sides North America 2023 Trend Tracker Survey queried 1,000 U.S. consumers aged 18 and older in January 2023.
CHICAGO – May 18, 2022 – Anti-paper greenwashing works, unfairly costing the U.S. paper, printing and mailing sector huge sums in lost revenue each year. But Two Sides North America’s (TSNA) Anti-greenwashing Campaign is succeeding in eliminating many of these misleading claims, clawing back hundreds of millions for these businesses, according to the results of the latest TSNA study.
In their efforts to cut costs, many leading U.S. financial institutions, utilities, telecom companies and other service providers are using unsubstantiated environmental marketing claims – greenwashing – to persuade consumers to switch from paper to digital bills and statements, suggesting that going paperless is “green,” “saves trees” or is “better for the environment.”
The new TSNA research results illustrate the damaging effects these greenwashing claims have on the U.S. paper, printing and mailing sector, finding that 65% of those who have seen anti-paper greenwashing claims are influenced to switch from paper to electronic bills and statements. The study, conducted in partnership with global research firm Censuswide, also showed that the Two Sides North America Anti-greenwashing Campaign is having a powerful impact, preserving more than $308 million in annual revenue for the sector.
The Two Sides study surveyed 2000 U.S. consumers and evaluated data on major U.S. companies that have eliminated unsubstantiated and misleading environmental claims as a result of the TSNA Anti-greenwashing Campaign. These companies represent approximately 9.5 billion annual bills and statements.
“This study not only confirms the remarkable success of Two Sides’ Anti-greenwashing Campaign, but also drives home the serious financial risk that greenwashing among service providers poses to the paper, printing and mailing sector, threatening the economic security of more than 7 million Americans whose livelihoods depend on paper,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie.
In its most recent report (2020) on transactional mail, the U.S. Postal Service reported that U.S. households annually receive more than 15 billion bills and statements in the mail, representing 41% of total First Class mail. Bills are primarily from credit card companies, utilities, telephone/cable companies and insurance companies, while statements are predominantly sent from the financial/banking sector.
“The Two Sides Anti-greenwashing Campaign has been highly successful, but there’s much more work to do as service providers continue to distort the paper industry’s great environmental record and threaten paper, print and mail volumes with opportunistic greenwashing claims,” Rowzie says.
“And it’s important to note that banks, utilities and telecoms are not the only ones using unsubstantiated environmental claims to promote going paperless,” she adds. “Two Sides is also challenging entities like government agencies and large digital document management firms that are greenwashing to encourage both individual consumers and businesses to switch all paper communication to digital versions in the cloud, at the same time failing to recognize the vast and growing environmental footprint of electronic communication.”
Two Sides challenges greenwashing companies and other organizations 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 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 organizations seeking to cut costs or promote their own digital business objectives are telling them so. Two Sides is working hard to change that.”
For more information about the Two Sides North America Anti-greenwashing Campaign, visit www.twosidesna.org/anti-greenwash-campaign/.
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.
Kathi Rowzie, President
Two Sides North America