Why education is key for sustainable development in print


The majority of respondents do not know that paper is one of the most recycled products in Europe with recovery rates of 72%

A survey by Two Sides has found that in the past five years, consumers are responding more positively to print, but misconceptions remain over sustainability.
Organisations and governments are increasingly driving communications online and either withdrawing paper-based documents such as bills and statements, charging consumers who wish to receive them, or making paper more difficult to access.

Carried out by international research company Toluna in June 2016, the survey questioned more than 7,000 consumers worldwide.

Among the findings, the survey reveals that many consumers want to retain the choice of using print and paper, at no additional cost, and that many question or feel misled by "go paperless - go green" and similar greenwash claims - believing cost savings to be the primary driver for organisations looking to phase out paper-based communications.

Although there are concerns about the environmental impacts of print and paper, many respondents prefer paper-based communications to digital options for a variety of reasons including ease of reading and a lack of internet access.

A large majority recognise that paper-based communications can be a sustainable way to communicate when produced and used responsibly, including recycling.

More education is needed to raise awareness about the industry's positive environmental message related to sustainable forest management and recycling.

For example, despite European forests growing in size (44,000 square kilometres - an area bigger than Switzerland in the past 10 years or the equivalent of 1,500 football pitches a day), 65% of UK respondents perceive that European forests are shrinking. The majority of respondents do not know that paper is one of the most recycled products in Europe with recovery rates of 72%.

There is a preference for print on paper in all age groups, indicating a more fundamental and more human way that we react to the physicality of print on paper.

Compared to the 2011 Two Sides surveys, the following positive trends are apparent showing that messages from the industry are gaining traction:
  • 79% agreed that print on paper is more pleasant to handle and touch when compared to other media (compared to 70% in 2011)
  • 73% agreed that paper is based on a renewable resource (65% in 2011)
  • 16% believe that our forests have either stayed the same or increased in size (vs. 10% in 2011)
  • 31% believe that the paper industry has a higher than average recycling rate (25% in 2011)
  • 14% have seen adverts related to the effectiveness and sustainability of print and paper (vs. 8% in 2011), and a large majority rated the ads as credible and useful.
Two Sides events manager Tandy Wakeford, who analysed the data, said to PrintWeek: "The key findings are specifically that more education is required to raise awareness about the industry. It is sustainable management for forestry and recycling."

"We're the fifth largest industry in the UK and really are record-breaking in the sustainable efforts to be environmentally friendly and yet unfortunately, we seem to repeatedly have one of the worst public perceptions of paper."

"So there really does need to be more effort, more education and somehow a way to persuade consumers that it's alright to print and it's okay to use paper."

FESPA recently relaunched its Planet Friendly Printing Guides to provide screen and digital printers with everything they need to know about printing sustainably

Referring to advertisements promoting the environmental friendliness of print and paper, 86% said they found this information useful, backing up Wakeford's conclusion that education is required.

In the age breakdown, the survey found very little difference between age groups of those who have a preference for print on paper. Wakeford said: "You would hope that youth would be better aware of environmental issues. Whilst we all think millennials operate purely online, the fact is they actually love to receive post because it doesn't happen so much any more."

Certain positive trends were highlighted when comparing the results to the same survey carried out five years ago. The number of those who agree that print on paper is more pleasant to handle than other media has risen by 9% (from 70% to 79%), while 73% now agree that paper is based on a renewable resource, compared to 65% in 2011.

Two Sides is currently running its Anti-Greenwash campaign, to single out companies using 'green' claims as a cost-cutting exercise and negotiate with them to retract their misleading message. 83% of those surveyed believe claims from companies like 'Go Paperless-Go Green' are made by organisations seeking to save costs and 40% felt misled by these claims.

Wakeford said: "Noticeably over the past three or four years the number of cases are reducing dramatically so we're having some huge success, but these claims and communications are dreadfully damaging to the industry and are shaping consumer perceptions."

Other latest news