The Two Sides Anti-Greenwashing Campaign
Two Sides North America has engaged with more than 300 companies to change or remove misleading environmental claims used to promote electronic services over paper-based communications.
What is Greenwashing?
Greenwashing is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as, “Disinformation disseminated by an organization to present an environmentally responsible public image.”
Environmentally conscious consumers rely on messages from corporations, government agencies and other organizations to inform their communication choices. Yet it is not uncommon for these organizations to make unsubstantiated and misleading environmental claims that promote switching from paper to electronic communication as better for the environment, e.g., “go paperless – go green’ and ‘go paperless, save trees.”
In a recent Two Sides survey, 65% of Americans who had seen anti-paper greenwashing claims said they were influenced to switch to paperless communications.
What are the rules on environmental claims?
Many go paperless marketing slogans fail to meet the requirements of established environmental marketing standards, such as those of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Competition Bureau of Canada, International Organization for Standardization (ISO 14021), the United National Environment Program and the World Federation of Advertisers. All of these standards disallow the use of broad environmental claims and require that all environmental claims are supported by sound scientific evidence.
Marketers should not make broad, unqualified general environmental benefit claims like ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly.’ Broad claims are difficult to substantiate, if not impossible. It is deceptive to misrepresent, directly or by implication, that a product, package or service offers a general environmental benefit. -U.S. Federal Trade Commission
What do consumers think about these claims?
From banks to utilities, government agencies to internet-based companies, organizations across North America are increasingly encouraging consumers to go paperless. But switching to digital is not always welcome. Many consumers value paper-based communication.
A survey conducted by Two Sides in 2021 found that 78% of U.S. consumers believe they should have the right to choose how they receive communications (printed or electronically) from their service providers. 67% believe they should not be charged more for choosing paper bills or statements and 41% would consider changing providers if forced to go digital-only.
What to do if you find misleading claims
Two Sides is the only organization that directly challenges major corporations, government agencies and other organizations that mislead consumers by making unsubstantiated environmental claims about the production and use of paper. If you see misleading environmental claims about paper products, please send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org