Digital only – not a solution to save trees

Uday Kotak, managing director of Kotak Mahindra thinks going digital saves trees. But does it? Not really, say leaders in paper and paperboard industry

25 Jun 2019 | By PrintWeek India

Kotak’s tweet – 17 million sheets of paper, 2,000 trees saved annually. Kotak Mahindra Bank implements digital-only for certain reports at our 1,500 branches in India. Below is the two week paper saving at one branch. Small steps – elicited some strong responses.

One user pointed out Kotak’s ignorance about the reality of how the paper industry works. The user, Radheshyam Bhura, rebutted, “Sir, paper industry is an agro-based industry not a forest-based industry, all the trees are planted and cut by the paper mills. So all the paper you think you saved in reality you made the paper mills plant those many less trees. Use more paper, so that we can plant more trees!”

Another tweeted, “Paper is biodegradable, recyclable, renewable. Paper industry uses wood from agroforestry to manufacture paper, which has increased green cover in the country and provides employment to lakhs of farmers.”

Jay Raj Fine Paper Company’s Hiren Karia, who is also a member of the Federation of Paper Traders Association, also responded to Kotak’s tweet with a short video highlighting the facts and figures associated with the paper industry.

According to a report by UK-based Two Sides, the ‘Go green, go paperless’ messages are said to be misleading. The report stated, “The truth is that both electronic and paper communications have environmental consequences and we should continue to look for ways to reduce the footprint of both rather than using unsubstantiated environmental marketing claims to promote one over the other.”

PrintWeek India’s view: It is important to have an all-India initiative that busts the digital-only myths. Simultaneously, it is important to set out the facts about print media's attractiveness and sustainability. Innumerable industries are masking cost-saving measures with pretences of eco-activism – cutting paper budgets to ease cashflow but claiming green-altruism.

The Anti Print Lobby

There is so much negative campaigning about companies wanting to save money and use environmental impact as an excuse. The public is being misinformed. 

The one way to counter it is, the industry needs to highlight that paper is renewable and remains one of the best ways to communicate. Bodies such as the FPTA and INS (Indian Newspaper Society) and Indian Paper Manufacturers Association (IPMA) are spreading the message that it is simply not the case. And yet, we have suppliers switch to electronic invoicing and it makes things more difficult with passwords, downloads and vital information getting lost in cyberspace.

From the print and packaging industry's point of view, lay persons who are not aware of the process behind paper manufacturing and recycling will choose to reduce run lengths as they have been misinformed that storing something on their smartphone is greener than printing. But it is simply not true.

Order reductions and print run reductions hang forebodingly over printers across India due to the disingenuous nature of greenwash. Some pioneering printers who put their green credentials front-and-centre are pushing back against the tide.

Many top print firms in India have managed to pull customers considering going paperless back from the cliff edge with a focus on green messaging and stating the scientific fact about what print really means for the planet.

As P Narendra of Hyderabad-based Pragati says, "Print is not wasteful, and the digital footprint is far worse."

  The point is, the message has to be hammered home. There is so much unscientific nonsense out there about ink on paper and obviously if you want to get the message to people, you have to go high-profile – there isn’t much more high-profile than government and big industry.

Remember: Print is environmentally friendly.

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