3 Things You Can Do Now to Make an ‘Earthly’ Difference

Readers of my blog know my distaste for financial service companies, utilities and other brands that admonish me in my mailbox to switch to digital statements “to help save the environment,” “save trees,” “pay it green” and other marketing hyperbole with absolutely no scientific backing. I’m waiting for three things

Readers of my blog know my distaste for financial service companies, utilities and other brands that admonish me in my mailbox to switch to digital statements “to help save the environment,” “save trees,” “pay it green” and other marketing hyperbole with absolutely no scientific backing.

I’m waiting for three things.

First, I’d love some examples—and you may post them in the comments section—of brands that are more honest and forthcoming about why they want their customers to switch to digital. It saves the organizations behind these brands money—money that either gets returned to the customer in lower prices or better service (right?), or (more likely) goes to the bottom line to improve margins. (Sorry if I’m too cynical here; it must be the prolonged winter-like weather.)

Second, I look forward to the Federal Trade Commission presenting an enforcement action that helps to educate businesses (and consumers) that the “print vs. digital” positioning of “being green” is misleading, if not deceptive or untruthful. Such a case would underscore the latest version (2012) of the FTC Green Guides and its substantiation requirement for any and all environmental marketing claims.

Third, I look forward to an independent apples-to-apples, cross-channel, life-cycle analysis of your “average” mail and digital communication in the United States. It may yet happen, but until then, we are left with helpful, but limited, research on paper, print, mail and electronics life-cycle inventories and analyses. Each of them have their own sets of assumptions, scopes and qualifications.

We don’t need the third event to happen, however, to take some helpful action on the mail side of the equation … right now. Here are three steps to consider:

  1. Educate yourself and follow the DMA “Green 15.” These 15 principles and practices apply to data hygiene and management, mail design and production, paper procurement, packaging and fulfillment, and recycling collection. I understand from contacts that a “digital” version may be in the works! Stay tuned.
  2. Label mail, catalogs, inserts and paper packaging to encourage recycling collection. That “junk mail” moniker is so yesterday. Discarded mail—after the consumer has used it—should be recycled. Close to two-thirds of municipalities in the United States now offer local recycling options for “mixed paper”—a threshold that FTC allows for recycling collection labels and “recyclable” claims. By using the DMA’s “Recycle Please” logo, mail marketers can help consumers increase awareness and participate in these programs without hurting response. Visit www.recycleplease.org for more information, and to download the latest version of the logo (which is available to DMA-member agencies, brands and organizations only).
  3. Use the FTC Green Guides—2012 version anew—to guide any environmental claims you may make.
  4. Extra Credit! Enter the 2013 DMA International ECHO Awards competition and its Green Marketing Award. The campaign does not need to be about an environmental product or cause—it only needs to demonstrate adherence to the DMA Green 15 in business action! The DMA Green 15 and Green ECHO are not about Earth Day and environmentalism—they’re about everyday marketing planning and decision-making that show efficiency and effectiveness in marketing: strategy, creative and response. The deadline is May 3—and agencies and brands may enter here: http://dma-echo.org/enter.jsp.

Now, if I only knew the carbon footprint of my blog. Hopefully, some of the information conveyed here will help mitigate the impact!

Consumer Reports Nets DMA ECHO Green Marketing Award 2011: Lessons for Every Marketer

One of the highlights of the Direct Marketing Association’s 2011 annual conference was the awarding of a special ECHO award to Consumer Reports, the organization behind the magazine of the same name. As a member of DMA’s Committee on the Environment and Social Responsibility (CESR), I was one of the judges of this year’s competition, which looks to honor one marketing organization that has demonstrated environmental performance and sustainable practices in the design and execution of an advertising campaign.

One of the highlights of the Direct Marketing Association’s 2011 annual conference was the awarding of a special ECHO award—the ECHO Green Marketing Award—to Consumer Reports, the organization behind the magazine of the same name. As a member of DMA’s Committee on the Environment and Social Responsibility (CESR), I was one of the judges of this year’s competition, which looks to honor one marketing organization that has demonstrated environmental performance and sustainable practices in the design and execution of an advertising campaign.

What makes the Consumer Reports entry remarkable is its demonstrated adherence to a set of environmental principles and practices known as the DMA “Green 15.” Established by DMA in 2009, the DMA Green 15 provides guidance to marketers on list hygiene and data management, paper procurement, printing and production, and recycling and workplace operations—all in an effort to support the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.

The campaign itself was a recent subscription offer for Consumer Reports and ShopSmart magazines. The campaign did not sell an environmental product. It did not tout environmental claims. It did not involve environmental causes. Yet it won our discipline’s highest environmental marketing honor. Why? Because the campaign incorporated environmental sensitivity, efficiencies, and cross-company and supply chain engagement into everyday marketing planning and decision-making.

In short, the Consumer Reports effort is a blueprint that all marketers—commercial and non-profit—can replicate in their own everyday marketing.

Consider this excerpt from the entry:

We produced the Winter 2010/11 direct marketing campaign with the goal of strategically supporting the sustainability objectives of meeting our acquisition targets, serving the ongoing needs of consumers, and of being good stewards of the resources we use. Direct Marketing and Publishing Operations departments worked collaboratively guided by our internal Environmental Policy & Vision Statement to identify, implement, and track meaningful environmental choices made throughout the life cycle of the campaign season.

The overall environmental benefits of the choices we made included less energy and materials consumption, more benign manufacturing, and reduced emissions. Additionally, we promoted recycling of direct marketing packages that are recyclable, saved money, upheld response rates, and met our objectives.

The full entry incorporated actions that the Consumer Reports vendors undertook to increase efficiencies and environmental performance, as well as documented gains in paper procurement and use, mail design and production, and recycling and pollution reduction—all with measurements that document positive environmental impacts while achieving financial objectives.

I encourage all marketers to look to the example of Consumer Reports and its adherence to the DMA Green 15. In fact, the long-term sustainability of direct marketing depends on it.

Resources:
Direct Marketing Association’s Green 15 Toolkit for Marketers

With Special Permission, This Year’s DMA International ECHO Green Marketing Award Winner, Consumer Reports.

Editor’s Note: As of Autumn 2011, ConsumersUnion is newly rebranded as Consumer Reports.