Submitted: Kathi Rowzie June 12, 2020
The potential consequences of misleading marketing claims – from negative public relations and customer dissatisfaction to legal action and financial penalties – make rigorous factual and legal scrutiny of product and service claims a fundamental step in today’s corporate marketing process. So why do so many otherwise diligent companies skip this step and shoot from the hip when it comes to making environmental claims about the use of print and paper?
In part, the answer lies in the fact that the “go paperless, save trees” mantra has been repeated so often over the years that it is accepted as gospel by many corporate gatekeepers. If paper comes from trees and we use less paper, we save trees and protect our forests, the reasoning goes. And since using less paper is good for the environment, the electronic bills, statements and other customer communications that replace it must be a better environmental choice, right? Wrong. But lots of big-name North American companies are making this unsubstantiated leap as they encourage their customers to switch from paper to electronic communications, ironically sidestepping best practices for environmental marketing under the banner of going green.
Two Sides set out to end the use of unsubstantiated claims about the sustainability of print and paper beginning back in 2012 when we initiated our Anti-greenwash Campaign to 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 14021:2016). These standards are quite detailed, but in a nutshell they say that environmental marketing claims should be accurate, substantiated by competent and reliable 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-greenwash Campaign is that it doesn’t try to establish a “pixels versus paper” scenario but instead recognizes that both print and electronic communications have attractive benefits and environmental consequences. 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.”
Citing facts from well-known, credible sources, Two Sides continues to make the case that paper is made from a natural resource that is renewable and recyclable and that these features, combined with the North America paper industry’s advocacy of responsible forestry practices and certification, use of renewable, carbon-neutral biofuels and advances in efficient papermaking technology, make paper one of the most sustainable products on earth. It’s a compelling argument founded in sound science. And we’re getting results!
The Two Sides Anti-greenwash Campaign has a 65% success rate. To date, 129 of the U.S. and Canadian companies we’ve contacted (and more than 500 across the global campaign) have either eliminated or changed their misleading claims. Over the last year alone, Two Sides worked with large, well-known companies to achieve significant changes in messaging, including Cigna, ComEd, Comcast, JP Morgan Asset Management, JP Morgan Chase, Principal, Selective Insurance and Starbucks, just to name a few. A big thanks goes out to our members and other stakeholders who play a big role in our success by sending us misleading claims, independently urging companies to change their greenwashing ways and expanding our reach by sharing our anti-greenwash posts on social media.
To learn more about the Anti-greenwash Campaign, our successes and additional resources, visit our webpage here. You can also keep up with our current anti-greenwash efforts and other Two Sides news by following us on Twitter, Facebook and Linked In.