1/1 Interview with Phil Riebel President of Two-Sides US, and Greenwashing Dragon Slayer

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I met Phil in January of 2012 at the NPTA Executive Meeting where I was an invited speaker, and we have been working together since.  PrintMediaCentr is an Allied Organization of Two-Sides US, and proud to be associated with all of their endeavors.

phil_riebel_printmediacentrDC:  What is Two Sides and how did it come about.

PR: Two Sides is a non-profit organization now present in over 12 countries, including presence in the US, Europe and Australia…and we are growing.  Our mission is to promote the sustainability of print media, dispel common misconceptions such as the many misleading “go green-go paperless” claims we see today, and promote the responsible production and use of print and paper.

It started in the UK where Martyn Eustace, one of my colleagues, founded the organization.  At the time, I was running UPM-Kymmene’s corporate environmental program and we were a strong supporter.  Martyn and I with support from several early adopter companies, including strong support from the NPTA, got Two Sides off the ground in the US.  We started operating in January 2012.

DC: What is the toughest challenge you face getting your message out to the masses?

PR: The biggest challenge is reaching the public at large.  We need to improve our social media platform and gradually invest more resources into marketing techniques that reach more people.  We are getting better at this every month.  Obviously, growing the organization with new members will provide the funding we need to do better and more effective marketing.  However, we have also found that some key targeted campaigns can give us very good “earned media coverage”, such as challenging some of the banks, utilities and telecoms on their paperless messaging.  I guess, it’s a combination of being a little clever about it and making the most of your funds.

DC: Why is it important to take a stand against GOOGLE’s “Go Paperless in 2013″ campaign?

PR: Because it is a misleading and damaging message for the following reasons:

  1. It is damaging to the paper, print and mail value chain which provides 8.7 million US jobs and $1.1 trillion in revenues.  I haven’t met one person in the industry who agrees with the go green-go paperless message, and most of them wish it could just stop.
  2. It does not meet best practices for environmental marketing. Claims should be based on sound and peer-reviewed scientific evidence and most of the claims I see are vague and just based on false perceptions.
  3. It typically ignores the environmental impact of switching to electronic, as if e-media has no environmental impacts
  4. It usually ignores the unique environmental features of print and paper such as renewability, recyclability, carbon storage, use of renewable energy in production, etc…
  5. The “saving trees” message creates a false impression that forests and trees are a finite resource that is being lost instead of a renewable resource being replenished based on sustainable forest management practices.
  6. It ignores the fact that the life-cycle of e-statements is not paperless because many people still print e-statements and other e-messages at home.

greenwashing-monsterOne of Two Sides’ key initiatives, started in mid-2012, is to educate companies about the sustainability of print media by challenging the “go green-go paperless” message.  We have written letters to over 50 of the top banks, utilities and telecoms in the country.  We are engaged in discussions with several of them and some have already removed their claims…so, we are starting to register some success stories.

Our goal is to work with corporations and educate them of the sustainable life cycle of print media.  Many of them who make the paperless claims don’t even realize they are doing something wrong and they appreciate working with us.  Our campaign will continue and we will update our stakeholders on progress.

Google was outside the scope of our campaign, but we need to respond to as many of these claims as we can.  Getting Google to change its view would obviously be a great success…so nothing ventured, nothing gained!

DC: Certainly we can agree there is paper waste around office printers and such. And even though paper is sustainable, it still takes non-sustainable energy and resources to recycle it. Alcohol and Gambling have responsibility campaigns. Following that model, why doesn’t the paper industry support “Print Responsibly?” Would that help change the public’s perception?

PR: Definitely! …and its already happening.  One of our key mission statements is “promote the responsible production and use of print and paper” and we have many resources on our web site that fall under this topic.  The one that comes to mind as a good one is the Print and Pixel Logic poster sponsored by some of our member companies (http://www.twosides.us/fact.asp?FactID=127) and the associated report by Natural Logic (http://www.twosides.info:8080/content/rsPDF_231.pdf), but there are many more available on our site.  In fact you can search our reports, facts and news databases with key words such as “environmental responsibility” or “responsible manufacturing”, and many other categories.  As an example see: http://www.twosides.us/facts

Our goal is to make sure people have access to information on responsible production and use, and we are continually improving that platform.

In the next 6 months Two Sides will have a dedicated webpage on Responsible Production and Use of Print & Paper, structured similar to our Myths and Facts pages, with many resources for all to see.

DC: How can the industry support the efforts of Two Sides?

PR: Join us as a Commercial Member, Allied Organization or Partner Member.  We need all those who make their livelihood from the graphic communication value chain to help send the message that Print and Paper Have a Great Environmental Story to Tell!

Just go to www.twosides.us or contact me directly at pnr@twosides.info

 

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