The Two Sides campaign says it has seen an increase in greenwash over the past 12 months.
It believes that banks, telcos, utility companies and government organisations have increased their claims that paper bills and statements are bad for the environment. The claims include ‘Go Green – Go Paperless’ and ‘Choose e-billing, save a tree’. Two Sides says those claims are untrue. They are more about saving money than saving the environment.
Kellie Northwood, manager for Two Sides Australia New Zealand, says, “Greenwashing is hugely damaging to an industry which has a very strong environmental record. Paper is a renewable resource from working forests, which are planted and harvested. This encourages the long-term growth of forests through sustainable and biodiverse forest management.
“Many of the organisations we engage with are surprised to learn that our planted forests have doubled in size from one million to two million hectares. What’s more, this number is growing.”
Globally, Two Sides has engaged over 1,900 organisations making misleading statements about paper. Of those, 880 have removed greenwashing statements from their communications. They are located throughout Europe, North and South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand Two Sides continues to engage and inform the remaining organisations. It lobbies for a change in messaging. In addition, Two Sides calls on governments to monitor misrepresentation.
Northwood adds, “It remains vital that greenwash is challenged. In this way, we can ensure the industry’s great environmental record is represented accurately. Further, we can stop livelihoods being damaged by the spread of misleading marketing messages. Paper is renewable, recyclable and an important part of our social inclusivity in an increasingly digitally divided country.”
The reach of greenwashing organisations increases the detrimental effects of their unsubstantiated claims. Particularly, incorrect consumer perceptions of paper threaten this sector. In Australia, it employs 258,000 people across 4,728 companies, 94 per cent being small businesses.
An increase in greenwash is of major concern. The financial impact on the paper, print and mailing industry has the potential to be devastating. Recently, Two Sides and Toluna conducted research showing that greenwashing threatens the loss of $552m of value annually to the paper, print and mailing industry.
Two Sides plans to launch a broader consumer campaign promoting the societal and environmental credentials of paper and print.
Northwood says, “We are grateful for the cooperation of the hundreds of organisations that have changed or eliminated greenwashing claims from their messaging. We thank the many industry stakeholders and members of the public who send examples of greenwashing.”
She concludes, “We will continue to challenge the misrepresentation and call on any companies making these claims to reconsider their approach.”