The potential consequences of misleading marketing claims – from negative public relations and customer dissatisfaction to legal action and financial penalties – make rigorous factual and legal scrutiny of product and service claims a fundamental step in today’s corporate marketing process. So why do so many otherwise diligent companies skip this step and shoot from the hip when it comes to making environmental claims about the use of print and paper? In part, the answer lies in the fact that the “go paperless, save trees” mantra has been repeated so often over the years that it is accepted as gospel by many corporate gatekeepers. If paper comes from trees and we use less paper, we save trees and protect our forests, the reasoning goes. And since using less paper is good for the environment, the electronic bills, statements and other customer communications that replace it must be a better environmental choice, right? Wrong. But lots of big-name North American companies are making this unsubstantiated leap as they encourage their customers to switch from paper to electronic communications, ironically sidestepping best practices for environmental marketing under the banner of going green.
In fact, it’s become so common that 7,500 companies issue sustainability or corporate responsibility reports in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative detailing various initiatives to reduce their environmental impact. It helps that this is a hot topic among consumers right now, with 77 percent of people wanting to learn ways to lead more sustainable lives.
Companies have numerous options when it comes to answering the sustainability call. Among them, companies can introduce fleet vehicles with alternative energy sources, install green features such as solar panels, or use recycled and recyclable materials in their products and packaging.
But sometimes it helps to get back to basics, particularly as the new school year begins. Approach learning the world of sustainability as a child would master learning their ABCs. Who knows — maybe you’ll discover a few new ideas to include in your company’s efforts, too.
A Is for Alternative Energy Sources
Unlike fossil fuels, such as gasoline, alternative energy sources are used to power vehicles and buildings. For example, using electric vehicles in the supply chain can help reduce environmental impact caused by deliveries.
B Is for Biodegradable
Biodegradable waste can be broken down naturally. Consider this to be food matter or packaging made from certain materials, such as corn starch or paper. Consumers should know that there are very specific guidelines for the definition of a biodegradable material. Beware of false claims!
C Is for Carbon Neutral
When the amount of carbon dioxide being released equals the amount being removed, that’s considered being carbon neutral. Companies like IKEA are taking it one step further by committing to “climate positive” impacts, using renewable electricity and heat sources.
D Is for Damage
Damaged packages and products negatively impact the environment. The products end up in a landfill, and companies must ship replacements, contributing to greenhouse gases and increasing carbon footprints.
E Is for Earth
Earth is the planet we’re working to protect since it’s the only naturally habitable planet in the solar system. We celebrate Earth Day every year on April 22 to bring awareness to the importance of protecting our environment with initiatives like planting trees and pledging to do one thing to reduce our carbon footprints.
F Is for Forests
Forests cover almost 1/3 of the Earth’s surface and provide key benefits to our planet such as nurturing our soil and acting as carbon sinks. Organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) promote environmentally friendly practices — so when you use something with an FSC certification, you’re assured the chain of custody has been verified, and the product is made from recycled materials.
G Is for Greenhouse Effect
Greenhouse gases are increasing, causing the atmosphere to heat. Though they’ve always existed, they’ve become stronger in recent years as more and more carbon dioxide and methane are emitted into the environment.
H Is for Household Waste
Any kind of trash that comes from a residence is considered household waste. This can include paper, fabric, wood, food, glass, and garden clippings.
I Is for Incineration
The process of disposing of waste by burning. The energy produced may be channeled into producing power, like electricity.
J Is for Junkyard
Also known as a landfill, a junkyard is a waste disposal site. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) licenses these sites and checks to ensure they’re not seeping chemicals into the groundwater or emitting noxious gases into the atmosphere.
K Is for Kyoto Protocol
Enacted in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement that various countries signed. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a rolling percentage every year.
L Is for Landfill Gas
Gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, that form when material decomposes in a landfill are known as landfill gases, which can ultimately contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
M Is for Municipal Waste
Municipal waste includes waste from individual households as well as from commercial sites, such as offices and restaurants.
N Is for NGOs
More non-government organizations, or NGOs, have formed in recent years to help people and protect the environment. One important NGO is Greenblue, the parent NGO for both the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) and the How2Recycle programs. Their mission is to help companies improve their sustainability efforts by using fewer raw materials and encouraging recycling.
O Is for Oceans
Oceans cover 70 percent of the earth’s surface, and taking care of them is critical to ensuring the sustainability of our planet for future generations. Organizations such as the Alliance to End Plastic Waste are focused on reducing the 8 million tons of plastic waste that end up in the oceans every year.
P Is for Planet
Earth is our planet. It’s what we’re trying to protect with every one of our sustainability initiatives so we can preserve it for future generations.
Q Is for Quantified Emissions Limitation and Reduction Commitments (QELROs)
The Kyoto Protocol requires certain timetables and targets to be met, known as QELROs, such as the U.S. reducing its carbon emissions by 7 percent by 2012, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
R Is for Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Remember the three “R’s” of sustainability from school? Reduce the amount of waste generated or amount of materials consumed, reuse what you can, and recycle the rest. As we learn more about protecting the environment, reducing waste means choosing the right amount of material for things like packaging, as well as reducing how much virgin material we use. Recycling and reusing items is particularly important to the circular economy. By continually embracing the 3 Rs of sustainability, every consumer can make a positive impact on the environment.
S Is for Sustainability
The holy grail of these efforts is known as sustainability. These are practices that don’t damage the environment. You can start by making small changes such as choosing recyclable packaging that lead to larger results.
T Is for Toxin
Poisonous substances from plants or animals are known as toxins. There are also many toxins which are manufactured and contribute to environmental pollution.
U Is for Unboxing
The experience customers have when opening a package they ordered online. Brands can use unboxing to highlight their sustainability initiatives by choosing the right materials [link to unboxing blog] .
V Is for Voluntary Measures
The steps people and companies take to reduce their environmental impact, without being mandated by government regulations. This can include choosing sustainable packaging to dropping off materials at recycling centers.
W Is for Waste Prevention
The subset of waste management that focuses on reducing the amount of waste that’s generated, as well as decreasing the environmental impact of waste, is known as waste prevention.
X Is for Xeric
A very dry habitat, such as a desert, is called xeric. Climatologists predict that if we don’t save the Amazon rainforest, it will become xeric.
Y Is for Your Company or People
Your organization can take meaningful steps to protect the environment. Align supply chains, logistics, and packaging to help meet sustainability goals.
Z Is for Zero Waste
Any energy source that doesn’t create harmful gases or release them into the air.
While there’s much to know about sustainability, going back to basics can help — and that starts with packaging. Pregis offers a full range of environmentally-friendly packaging that allows companies to demonstrate their commitments to sustainability and encourage their customers to recycle.