Brand owners’ are using false environmental claims to get customers to switch away from paper to digital communications, in a strategy that not only costs the UK paper, print and mailing sector £22m a year but also puts undue pressure on vulnerable consumers to turn off paper bills.
That is one of the key conclusions of a new study into so-called greenwashing by environmental print advocacy group Two Sides, which consumer lobby group Keep Me Posted has branded “shocking”.
The survey also discovered that over three-quarters (76%) of UK consumers want the right to choose paper statements and bills while wo-fifths (40%) do not want to be forcibly switched from paper to digital.
Created in 2008 as a not for profit, global initiative promoting the sustainable and attractive attributes of print, paper, and paper packaging, Two Sides says the encouragement to go digital is often accompanied by misleading and unsubstantiated messages to justify organisations’ cost-saving measures.
Statements such as “go green, go paperless” and “choose e-billing and help save trees” influence millions of consumers every year but are unfounded., the group insists.
As part of its decade long anti-greenwash campaign, Two Sides has successfully challenged more than 750 global organisations such as banks, utility companies and telecoms providers; preserving an estimated £11.2m of value for the print, paper, and paper packaging sector.
Keep Me Posted is a partnership of representatives of over 125 concerned organisations such as Age UK, Scope, Mencap, the Institute of Consumer Affairs and Moneysavingexpert.com.
It fights to ensure banks, councils, utility companies and telecoms providers give their customers a choice in how they receive communications.
The group’s chair, Judith Donovan CBE, said the paper, print and mailing industries employed around 116,000 people in more than 8.400 business in the UK. The work Two Sides was undertaking was playing a vital role in protecting jobs within the sector while ensuring consumers could continue to receive paper communications.
Donovan added: “In addition to proving costly to the industry, the misleading practice of greenwashing is also impacting on vulnerable consumers who lack the skills or technology to receive digital bills and statements.
“We applaud the work Two Sides has put into this report, which reveals the shocking cost of greenwashing both to the industry and to consumers. Many people simply do not believe what organisations who greenwash are telling them and can see it for what it is – a ploy to cut costs.”
Two Sides managing director Jonathan Tame concluded: “Greenwashing claims are not welcomed by consumers, are often in breach of established environmental marketing rules and are hugely damaging to an industry which has a solid and continually improving environmental record.
“A healthy market for forest products such as paper and paper packaging encourages the long-term growth of forests through sustainable forest management and the encouragement of biodiversity.”
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