“Go Paperless”, “Go Green” and “Save Trees” are common messages seen these days as many organisations encourage their customers to switch to electronic transactions and communications. But are these appeals based on fact?
These sort of messages give the impression that electronic communication is more environmentally friendly than traditional, paper-based communication. But it is very difficult to make such a statement without considering the full lifetime of those different mediums.
Paper is a uniquely renewable and sustainable product. The main raw material, wood, is grown and harvested in a carefully controlled and sustainable way – so sustainable, in fact, that European forests, where most of the raw material comes from, have grown by an area the size of Switzerland in just 10 years.1
The environmental impacts of our ever-increasing digital world cannot be ignored. The ICT industry accounts for around 2.5-3% of global greenhouse gas emissions and this is predicted to rise to 14% by 2040.2
Businesses and individuals are increasingly using ‘cloud’ services. These mega data-centres store almost everything we do online; including our web searches, our social media posts and our online statements.
By 2040, the ICT carbon footprint could account for as much as 14% of the total worldwide footprint at the 2016 level, and hence exceed the current relative footprint of the Agriculture sector (9%), and almost half of the current total footprint of the industrial sector (29%) in the United States.Journal of Cleaner Production, 2018
The electronic waste problem is colossal, and it’s growing. In 2016 alone, 44.7 million tonnes of e-waste were generated globally, of which 435 thousand tonnes were mobile phones, representing more than the mass of the Empire State Building.Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2018
When it comes to communication, whether it’s electronic or traditional mediums, consumers must be informed about the environmental impacts of those activities.
Two Sides advises businesses to be transparent about the carbon footprint of all their services.
To date, over 500 of the world’s largest organisations have been found to be using greenwash statements in their communications. Of those, around 70% have removed their misleading statements as a direct result of being challenged by Two Sides.
It is important to mention that not all greenwashing is due to purposely misleading customers. Often it is down to genuine and common misconceptions about Print and Paper. It is Two Sides’ role to educate both consumers and businesses alike.
1 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005 – 2015
2 Belkhir L & Elmeligi A, Journal of Cleaner Production: Assessing ICT global emissions footprint: Trends to 2040 & recommendations, 2018