Two Sides warns Australian banks: stop the greenwashing

Two Sides Australia has warned banks that anti-paper statements may be in breach of consumer law. Australia’s leading financial institutions have been notified by letter that it is wrong to encourage clients to switch to electronic billing for environmental reasons.

Two Sides is targeting companies that claim that switching to online communication is better for the environment without verifiable supporting evidence, arguing that this messaging is misleading to consumers and encourages them to not use paper.

The open letter said any link “between reducing the use of paper and helping the environment” was “unsupported by facts” and a violation of Australian Competition & Consumer Commission regulations.

The open letter said:

Dear…,

In recent years, the wider business community has evolved and developed an increased awareness of corporate responsibility and sustainability issues. Organisations have assumed their share of accountability for maintaining standards of ethical, social and environmental performance.

However, in the crucial area of marketing and communication, in seeking to gain environmental credibility, some organisations are using “green” marketing initiatives, which encourage customers to receive their bills or communications online, stating that this is “better for the environment”. There are also “go paperless” communications stating that, “paper and print are killing trees and damaging the planet.” 

The linkage made between reducing the use of paper and helping the environment not only creates a false impression about the sustainability of print and paper but, as these claims are also unsupported by facts, they contravene the ACCC: Green marketing and the Australian Consumer Law. 

Two Sides Australia, a not for profit organisation which represents the print and paper industries, are writing to all financial institutions and asking those who encourage customers to switch to e-billing or any other form of electronic communication, largely to reduce costs, to re-examine their messages to market.

It is certainly not proven that electronic communications provides a lower carbon footprint. In fact, with all the environmental costs of electronic communication and with many customers printing out their communications at home, at a higher environmental cost than a centrally produced and distributed communication, coupled with the significant impact of ewaste, print and paper may well be the only environmentally sustainable way to communicate.

Two Sides does recognise the efficiency of electronic communication and that initiatives to reduce waste are to be encouraged. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that electronic communication and, in particular the energy requirements of the increasing worldwide network of servers which are necessary to store all the information needed for immediate access, has a significant and growing carbon footprint.

Electronic document storage may be recognised as delivering efficiency but not sustainability. On average it takes 500kwh of electricity to produce 200kg of paper, the average amount of paper each of us consume each year. This is equivalent to powering one computer continuously for five months.

The term “Paperless” is also disingenuous. An online search emits 0.7g of COevery search made whereas a business card emits less than 0.12g of CO2 over the card’s entire lifetime.

I would be grateful if you would review any marketing communication your corporation is using, or intending to use, which may include misinformation on print and paper claims to ensure that in promoting your products and services you do not damage the Print and Paper industry and jeopardise the livelihood of the 350,000 people employed therein with misleading statements.

Please find included a Myths and Facts Booklet outlining the environmental credentials and effectiveness of paper and print as a communication vehicle, and I further encourage you to review the ACCC: Green marketing and the Australia Consumer Law, with regards to communications with environmental claims.

Two Sides Australia works successfully with many companies and we would welcome a meeting with your organisation where we can provide your team with all the facts about the sustainability of print media. 

Yours Sincerely,

Kellie Northwood

National Manager


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