European print and paper industry counter digital only laws

Two developments from Europe. Two Sides’ anti-greenwash campaign has 1,075 companies who have removed or changed misleading “no paper” messaging since the campaign began in 2010. Also, European social partners representing companies and workers in the printing and paper sectors have expressed their concerns about the increasing promotion of digital documents and communications as the default option in European legislation.

22 Sep 2023 | By Charmiane Alexander

Various studies have demonstrated that reading in print benefits reading performance

Intergraf, Cepi, UNI Europa Graphical, FEPE, and IndustriAll Europe have now issued a statement that ‘digital by default’ or ‘digital only’ approaches are not neutral.

The statement argued that print is indispensable for an inclusive digital transition which respects the fundamental rights of access to information for everyone, while print also positively contributes to inclusion and education.

"The promotion of digital technologies to the detriment of printed paper also has significant social effects and can contribute to exclusion, including those who may already face other disadvantages – such as older people, persons with disabilities, people on limited incomes, people experiencing poverty, and the over 34% of people in Europe without basic digital skills – many of whom rely on paper-based information and are numerous across every country in Europe," the statement said.

Moreover, various studies have demonstrated that reading in print benefits reading performance. The COST Action E-READ initiative proved decisively (with a meta-study of 54 experiments including more than 170,000 participants) that comprehension is stronger when reading on paper than on a screen.

In their statement, the partners also underlined the sustainability and circularity of paper and print, emphasising their role in the European circular economy, i.e. that paper is based on renewable raw materials, manufactured using primarily renewable energy, and has a recycling rate of 71.4%.

Also, EU legislation should take into account the ecological and recyclable value of paper products in the context of the current climate change crisis; and EU legislation should take everything relevant into account, including (in particular) circularity, inclusion, and freedom of choice.

Meanwhile Two Sides, the print and paper advocacy group said it had challenged companies that subject their customers to repeated greenwashing messages. These messages are damaging to the paper, print, and mailing industries.

The organisation said customer communications often attempt to mask these cost-saving efforts by justifying the switch with unfounded environmental marketing appeals such as ‘Go Green – Go Paperless’ and ‘Choose eBilling and help save a tree’.

Recent consumer survey results from Two Sides 2023 ‘Trend Tracker’ report revealed that 55% of European consumers believe environmental arguments from companies to switch to digital communications are misleading and are about reducing costs.

Globally, Two Sides has engaged over 2,100 organisations making misleading statements about paper. To date, it said that over 1,075 of them have now removed such statements from their communications, and that Two Sides continues to engage and inform the remaining organisations.

The businesses in question were located in Europe, North and South America, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.