It might be time for Google to search “definition of greenwashing.” As the latest digital company to launch a marketing campaign based on trees being somehow in danger and printing being an unsustainable practice, Google has drawn swift attention from the print industry at large for its “Paperless 2013” campaign.
Much like Toshiba’s National No Print Day that was announced (and quickly called off) last June, Google’s effort to “remove the need for ‘paper work’ from paperwork” has prompted highly-publicized responses from the Printing Industries of America and Two Sides – both of which called out Google’s obvious attempt at “using an environmentally-focused marketing campaign to promote its services while ignoring its own impact upon the environment.” Many call this tactic greenwashing – a practice getting more attention in the wake of Toshiba’s recent sustainability debacle.
We know that printing is sustainable. Only a small fraction of the world’s forests are used for paper. Paper is created from renewable resources and responsible choices are being made to ensure they continue to be renewed. In fact, paper recovery for recycling has increased by 77% since 1990 (The American Forest and Paper Association). We also know that the environmental impact of electronic communication is on the rise. E-waste is the fastest growing component of the municipal solid waste system and now accounts for 5% worldwide (Greenpeace).
Unfortunately the issue isn’t which form of communication is more sustainable than the other. To foster sustainability, it’s important for all industries to do their part. Perhaps more importantly, all industries must be honest about the environmental impact of their products and services. As we’ve said in the past, sustainability is an important conversation to have – but it shouldn’t be had around misleading calls to “Go Paperless in 2013.”
As a reader of SpeakingDIRECT, paper-based communication likely plays an important role in your job and for your company. We all must do our part to correct any misconceptions our employers, colleagues, supply partners and those in our network have about the renewable nature of paper. Printing Industries of America makes a Value of Print flip-book available with facts about paper-based communication and its continued effectiveness as an environmentally-friendly marketing tool. I encourage you to review it and use the information to help us advocate for the print industry and its sustainable practices.
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