The direct mail industry is aiming to combat long-held criticism of its environmental record with a joint initiative designed to show how mail producers – both brands and their agencies – can use the medium more sustainably.
The print sector has long argued that it is one of the greenest sectors on the planet, with the European paper industry claiming to be a world leader when it comes to sustainably sourced raw materials, renewable energy and recycling rates.
In Europe, where almost all primary forests are protected, paper comes from sustainably managed forests where the cycle of planting, growing and logging is carefully controlled.
Despite this, research from industry body Two Sides shows most UK consumers vastly underestimate the paper recycling rate. Only 17% believe it exceeds 60%, when in fact it is 72%.
Now in an effort to reinforce these schemes, Royal Mail MarketReach has teamed up with industry body the Strategic Mailing Partnership to launch a step-by-step guide, with the aim of benefitting the planet and mail producers’ customers.
SMP members who contributed to the guide were Go Inspire communications and marketing director Paul Sumner, Paragon change and business integration director Angus Campbell, Webmart customer strategy director Tom Oldershaw and Metromail director of finance and operations Neil Hoban.
They argue that all marketing, even a basic customer email, carries a cost because the energy and materials used have a carbon footprint.
The guide aims to help mail users make informed decisions, across all areas of the process, to use mail more sustainably and cost effectively. From understanding business sustainability priorities, and choosing the right supplier, through to targeting accuracy, the production process, recycling and more.
Key learnings from the guide include the opportunities to make carbon conscious mail campaigns; what mail sustainability factors to consider, from design concept right through to recycling; how to assess sustainable paper options, inks, other materials and print processes; how effective data targeting can help to reduce the carbon impact of direct mail and other printed mailings; and finally ways to offset carbon emissions of mail campaigns.
The guide’s authors maintain that consumer attitudes are changing towards the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions, with four out of five people admitting they are more likely to choose a brand that considers a positive approach to environmental sustainability. Not only this, but customers are becoming wiser, as to how businesses behave, therefore, being sustainable is now essential rather than a choice, the guide’s authors maintain.
Royal Mail Wholesale commercial director Philip Ricketts said: “All media channels and marketing activity have an impact on the environment, particularly regarding carbon footprint.
“Protecting the planet by improving sustainability must be a major priority. This guide provides genuine guidance for mail users, including practical insights on ways to take, often simple steps within the mailing sector to becoming more sustainable.
“Following the steps in the guide is an extremely useful place to start for brands on the journey to becoming more sustainable; even if it simply helps them to know which questions to ask production partners and printers.
“We hope the guide gives organisations a better understanding of when and how they could reduce the carbon footprint of their mail campaigns, as every change we make today can lead to a more sustainably optimistic future within the mailing industry.”
A copy of the guide is available for download from the MarketReach website>
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