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Print and paper valued, but misunderstandings persist

Kellie Northwood, executive director Two Sides Australia

Results of a new survey conducted by Two Sides and Toluna Inc. show that a majority of Australians want to retain a choice for paper optionsrather than be forced into ‘digital-only’ communications.
The survey also provides insight into how consumers view the environmentalimpacts of digital versus paper-based communications and how they perceive anduse paper in their everyday lives. 

For example, 69% of respondents want the option to continue receiving printedinformation as it provides a more permanent record and 88% agreed that, whenresponsibly produced, used and recycled, print and paper can be a sustainableway to communicate.

Carried out by international researchcompany Toluna in June 2016, the survey questioned more than 7000 consumersworldwide (532 of them in Australia). Among its findings, the survey revealsthat many consumers want to retain the choice of using print and paper, at noadditional cost, and that many question or feel misled by ‘go paperless – gogreen’ and similar ‘greenwash’ claims – believing cost savings to be theprimary driver for organisations looking to phase out paper-basedcommunications.

Despite some concern over environmentalimpacts, many respondents preferred paper-based communications to digitalalternatives, with ease of reading and a lack of internet access among the manyreasons given

A lack of awareness of the industry’spositive environmental activities (especially sustainable forest management andrecycling) persists. Despite Australian forests growing in size by 308,000hectares in the last five years, consumers are concerned about the effect onforests by the production of print and paper.

“Educating consumers on practices withinthe paper industry is required, as consumers are unaware that 82% of paperconsumed is from planted forests,” says Kellie Northwood, executive director ofTwo Sides Australia. The majority of respondents were also unaware that paperis one of the most recycled products with recovery rates of 87% in Australia.

“Although further education on the positiveenvironmental credentials of print and paper is required, the survey findingshighlight a notable preference for print on paper over digital in all agegroups, with consumers appreciating the tactile and engaging nature of paper.Findings also suggest that overall, consumers fundamentally believe that whensourced from sustainably managed forests, print and paper is a sustainable wayto communicate,” adds Northwood.

KeyFindings from Australian respondents:

‘GoPaperless-Go Green’ claims are questioned by many

  • 83% of respondents receiving environmentalclaims like; “Go Paperless – Go Green”, or “Go Paperless – Save trees”, or “Getyour bills online - it’s better for the environment” believe such companies areseeking to save costs.

  • 56% question the validity of these claims

  • 42% feel misled by these claims

Manypeople need a paper option and don’t want to be forced into ‘digital only’

  • 76% are unhappy if asked to pay a premiumfor paper bills and statements

  • 69% want the option to continue receivingprinted information as it provides a permanent record for important documents

  • 58% are unhappy that the responsibility toprint valuable documents is being passed to consumers

  • 44% would consider changing provider ifasked or forced to move to paperless communication 

  • 43% don’t have a reliable internetconnection and want paper records

Consumerssee print and paper as sustainable – but concerns about forestry persist

  • 94% feel recyclability is an importantcharacteristic for environmentally responsible products

  • 89% believe new forests are neccesary tocounteract global warming

  • 88% agreed that, when responsibly produced,used and recycled, print and paper can be a sustainable way to communicate

  • 85% believe that when forests areresponsibly managed it is environmmetally acceptable to use trees to produceproducts such as wood for construction and paper for printing

  • 74% still prefer reading print on paperthan from a screen

  • 71% of consumers enjoy the tactileexperience of paper and print

  • 77% are concerned about the effect onforests by the production of print and paper

  • 66% consider that paper is based on arenewable resource

  • 43% believe paper records are moreenvironmentally sustainable than electronic storage of information

Thegreat recycling story of print and paper is not well known

  • 73% believe that less than 50% of wastepaper is recovered for recycling

  • Only 7% of consumers believe that theindustry recycling rate is more than 60%

  • Only 24% believe the industry recyclingrate is higher than average, whereas (at 87%) the paper industry has one of thehighest recycling rates of all

Click here for a full version of the survey 

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