Is promoting e-Billing the same as Greenwashing?

March 7, 2011  |  Electronic Invoicing, Publications

Greenwashing sanctions for promoting e-billing? New research is making the case that major companies in the United Kingdom are flouting advertising regulations and risk reporting to the Advertising Standards Authority for promoting electronic billing as good for the environment.

Because similar greenwashing laws are also on the books in the United States, U. S. marketers should be aware of this development.

Two Sides, a European initiative to promote the responsible production and use of print and paper, is targeting companies who claim that switching to online communication is better for the environment without supplying verifiable supporting evidence.

In a released statement, Martyn Eustace, the organization’s director, says, “This is misleading to consumers and encourages them not to use paper when, in fact, it may be the sustainable way to communicate. Greenwash of this nature is creating a false impression about the sustainability of print and paper and has a detrimental effect on the print and paper industries.”

According to the study, 45% of major U.K. banks, 70% of telecoms, and 30% of utilities risk greenwash sanctions.

Green? Or Just Cost Savings?
Certainly, many corporations both in the U.K. and in the U.S. are making a heavy push to get customers to sign up for e-billing. But the switch saves corporations a lot of money. Is it really a “green” initiative or greenwashing used to support cost-saving measures? The question is starting to gain traction.

According to Two Sides’ research, the majority of the e-billing claims in the United Kingdom are unsubstantiated and misleading. Two Sides also contends that the term “paperless” is disingenuous as the paper currently used within organizations to generate traditional bills or statements has simply been replaced by home or office printing necessary for users who prefer and demand a permanent hard copy.

According to a Two Sides statement:
The linkage made between reducing the use of paper and helping the environment not only creates a misleading impression about the sustainability of print and paper but as these claims are also unsupported by facts they contravene the latest CAP code (Committee for Advertising Practice), which states that environmental “claims must be supported by a high level of substantiation”; and also flout the guidelines set by CSR Europe, the leading European business network for corporate social responsibility, who are clear that “green claims should be truthful, accurate and able to be substantiated and they should not make comparisons unless the comparison is relevant, clear and specific.”

The issue carries strong ramifications for U. S. marketers. If businesses want to encourage customers to switch to e-billing because they believe it offers efficiency, that’s one thing. But when you consider the environmental footprint of data centers and computer usage, the claim that e-billing is better for the environment is something you want to be increasingly careful about, especially as more people become familiar with the environmental impact of power-driven industries.

Source: Wausau Paper
By Heidi Tolliver-Nigro

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1 Comment

  1. I find it hard to believe that using both paper and computer is better for the environment, than only using the computer.
    Besides; the more E-billing is taken into use, the greater is the energy-efficiency. This is still only the dawn of the industry. Improved global standardization and interoperability will make the open e-procurement networks grow. I’m sure the impact will be notable, if it isn’t already!?