The Envelope Manufacturers Association held its Fall Meeting in the Twin Cities last week. We were pleased to welcome our friends and join them in discovering the many culinary options Minneapolis has to offer, and despite deep concerns about early season snow from our colleagues from the South, we were even able to deliver very pleasant, albeit chilly, Midwestern fall weather.
The theme of the event was “Increasing the Value and Volume of Mail Worldwide by Transforming Your Business.” We covered a wide range of topics including environmental issues, technical updates, regulatory concerns, and of course, postal.
Our keynote speaker was Donna Harman, president and CEO of the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA). The AF&PA’s primary efforts are currently focused on finding long-term solutions to postal reform, supporting consumer choice for paper-based communications options and countering unsubstantiated environmental claims attacking the sustainability of paper. Ms. Harman described the Better Practices/Better Planet 2020 campaign, which is designed to tell the story of paper’s sustainability and ensure that there is a consistently improving story to tell. More information about the campaign is available in this video.
We also heard from Bart Mongoven of Keyframe Policy Consulting, who discussed the changing focus of environmentalists and other policy groups’ changing approach to paper consumption and recycling. He brought a positive message of how environmental groups are working together with those of us involved in paper-based communications toward common goals of sustainable paper use and sound forest management.
On the technical side we had an update from the EMA inserting task force, a group bringing together members of the envelope and lettershop industries to ensure smooth operations with today’s high-speed inserting equipment. We heard from Barbara Fisher of the Organic and Printed Electronics Association on recent developments in printed electronics that can add value to envelopes and make mail more interactive. We also learned about new inline enveloping technologies and the latest trends in high-speed industrial inkjet for envelopes.
Our regulatory overview included a look at the latest efforts by Consumers for Paper Options. These efforts are geared to protect Americans from being forced into electronic communications they don’t want or have the ability to use. We also learned that a Canadian Consumers for Paper Options organization will be launched by the end of this year. In addition, Tom Howard of Domtar provided a great primer on how companies can make their voices heard on a wide variety of regulatory issues.
Our postal speakers included Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe and Jim Cochrane, acting CIO & EVP. Donahoe provided an overview of the current financial state of the postal service (challenging), and Cochrane offered a look into how the Postal Service is using the data available from Intelligent Mail Full-Service to drive enhanced service performance and better visibility for mail moving through the postal network.
Most of the postal discussion focused on two topics: the exigent rate increase proposal and the prospects for comprehensive postal reform legislation. The dialog regarding the exigent price increase emphasized how we can draw attention to the inverse relationship between postal prices and postal volumes. As for postal reform legislation, things seem to be starting to move again in Congress now that we have a temporary fix for the budget and debt ceiling issues. Although bills are moving forward in both houses of Congress, it is unlikely that a final agreement will be reached before early next year.
This was another valuable conference, emphasizing the future of the envelope industry, put together by EMA. We look forward to shedding our winter coats and getting together again next spring in Arizona.