Are the claims that electronic billing and other e-services greener than paper really true?
According to the FTC Green Guides for Marketing, many of the anti-green marketing messages out there not only can’t be substantiated, but are misleading to consumers.
In fact, it’s been announced that “over 20 leading U.S. companies have removed their ‘anti-paper’ green claims being used to promote electronic billing and other e-services as a more environmentally-friendly solution than paper. These companies are primarily top Fortune 500 organizations in the banking, utilities and telecommunications sectors,” according to an article in Printing Impressions.
“We are very pleased with the success of our campaign to date because most companies are responding positively to our concerns and our offer to work with them in developing messaging that meets the U.S. FTC Green Guides for environmental marketing,” said Two Sides President Phil Riebel in the article.
The goal of Two Sides’ campaign is “to put an end to unsubstantiated and misleading claims that electronic communications are more environmentally friendly than print and paper,” Riebel continues.
“We have no desire to cause unnecessary negative publicity for companies or to undermine their reasons for driving customers toward e-billing, but claims that print and paper are environmentally unfriendly need to stop.”
It’s a confusing situation for consumers, to be sure. And in the midst of the anti-paper claims, the massive carbon footprint of electronic communications is often overlooked or understated.
What the FTC in particular objects to are unsubstantiated claims like “Go green, go paperless” that consumers are often subjected to in the bid to get them to switch from paper to electronic billing statements. These kinds of statements do not meet the FTC’s guidelines.
For many print and paper industry advocates, they also imply a limited and non-renewable resource situation that is no longer true, as the paper and printing industries embrace renewable and sustainable practices.
No matter what side of the “green” debate you fall on, there are costs and benefits associated with any given type of communication. We are glad to see Two Sides working with the electronic services industry to clarify their messaging. Consumers deserve to make their choices based on facts, not marketing hype.