Battle to reposition print as an environmental champion

The greatest challenge for Two Sides Australia is helping buyers of print gain knowledge about the products printers sell. Awareness is fundamental 

to helping customers better understand the benefits of print. There’s a perception among everyone from government and corporates to environmental groups and mums and dads that paper and print is ‘bad’ for the environment and that printed communications aren’t effective. There is widespread confusion and misconceptions about what is the ‘right’ thing to do. 

Every day, I challenge the misleading environmental statements made by large corporates and I continue to provide support to those who are unsure about the effectiveness of printed communications over electronic.

I recently attended a meeting with a major corporate. On arrival, I handed over my business card only to be told, “Sorry I’m ‘business card free’” by the person I was meeting with. 

“Why?” I asked. 

“I’m doing my bit” she replied. 

I was taken aback. Is it really this bad? Do people really believe a business card is more harmful to the environment than Google? If it’s a business card today, what about marketing collateral? I met with a corporate head of sustainability, who told me that they wanted to cut their print by a third and suggested putting their marketing collateral into PDFs. This company was “excited to join the sustainability path” and this initiative would be better for their footprint. It wasn’t even a pricing decision masquerading as environmental strategy – they simply thought it was “a great idea”. This would take around $2 million of printed material out of the Australian market every year – and significantly increase their carbon footprint – all based on a misconception.

The tactile nature of paper and print material drives this mistaken perception that it is bad or wasteful. This is what we must challenge. So I find myself focusing on that word again: ‘awareness’.

For those customers considering a move to business card-free worlds, I offer the following awareness – one business card is equivalent to 0.12g of CO2. One Google search is 0.36g. Searching for and viewing a contact online emits three times more carbon than printing a business card.

To clients considering cutting print by a third to save the environment, I politely advise: one email, with a 400KB PDF attached, sent to 20 people, is equivalent to burning a 100w bulb for 30 minutes (and growing each time the file is distributed), while a printed brochure’s foot-print is static, measurable and recyclable. 

Spreading the word

The ADMA Forum this year was a wonderful opportunity for Two Sides Australia to raise awareness of the environmental benefits and effectiveness of paper and print among marketing professionals. 

Findings from the Two Sides Global Consumer Survey of 2011 were consistent with the Nielsen ‘The Future of Mailing’ and BPost Business surveys completed over the past 12 months. Two Sides found that 80% of people prefer reading from paper – rising to 83% in the 18-24 age group. In fact, the majority of findings over the three studies showed 16- to 24-year-olds prefer and place a higher value on paper-based communication than digital. This is a great message to tell your marketing customers who believe digital communications is the only way they can reach their customers.

The BPost Business survey found that more than 50% of respondents thought addressed and unaddressed communication was more credible, useful and trustworthy than digital communications split across TV, press, email, social networks and radio.

Awareness is critical. Challenging the misleading environmental claims through communication vehicles such as the Two Sides’ Myths and Facts booklet is one small step. Continuing to talk and pass on the facts about the effectiveness of print as a communication vehicle is another. 

Two Sides may not have the funds of the ‘Eat More Lamb’ or the Banana ‘Nature’s Energy Snack’ campaigns just yet, however we can all do our bit to raise awareness. Hop onto the website and get the facts or even better, join Two Sides and we’ll help you communicate with your customers with one industry united voice.

Kellie Northwood is national manager of Two Sides Australia. For more, go to

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