Two Sides sends open letter to Minister Diane Finley in Response to Anti-Paper Environmental Claims Made by the Government of Canada

The letter below was sent to Minister Diane Finley (Public Works and Government Services) requesting that the Government of Canada stop the use of terms such as “saving trees” or “going green” in communications related to switching from paper-based to electronic transactions, due to the misleading nature of these terms, their non-compliance with Canadian marketing guidelines, and their negative impact on millions of people who work in the graphic communications industry throughout North America.

Dear Minister Finley,

Re:  Misleading Environmental Claims Related to Federal Direct Deposit Payments

I read with disappointment a recent Globe and Mail article published April 1st, 2015 titled “Direct deposit payments: A government pitch that makes sense” encouraging people to switch from cheques to direct deposit for government payments.  In this article it is stated that “Ottawa argues in its pitch that about 32,600 trees will ultimately be saved by direct deposits.”  The source of this information is a Government of Canada infographic which also mentions “100% reduction in CO2 emissions.”

Two Sides and its membership of over 140 North American companies disagree with such misleading environmental messages related to print and paper products as they are damaging to the print and paper industries who are such an important part of Canada’s history.

Today, there are over 800,000 mail-related jobs in Canada, almost 5% of all jobs in the country. Revenues from this sector are estimated at $88 billion, or 5% of total GDP in Canada.[i]  These jobs are held by Canadians in many organizations who make daily efforts to be responsible corporate citizens by continuously reducing their environmental impacts and ensuring the responsible manufacture of print and paper products that we all benefit from.   The “go paperless – save trees” message is not well received and questioned by many people[ii], especially those who work in this value chain.

Your claims do not meet guidance published by the Competition Bureau of Canada and the Canadian Standards Association[iii] which state: “A self-declared environmental claim shall be specific as to the environmental aspect or environmental improvement which is claimed.  An environmental claim that is vague or non-specific or which broadly implies that a product is environmentally beneficial or environmentally benign shall not be used. It is therefore not possible to use terms like environmentally safe, environmentally friendly, non-polluting, green, nature friendly or ozone friendly.” In addition, claims must be factual, verifiable and supported by credible scientific evidence.

Trees and working forests are a renewable resource that provides numerous social, environmental and economic benefits to Canada. The nation’s forest cover has remained stable over the last two decades and less than 0.5% of the forest resource is harvested each year. [iv]  In addition Canada has the most third-party certified forests in the world (for sustainable management) – 150 million hectares, or 41% of all global certified forests.  Finally, most trees in Canada are used to make lumber, not pulp and paper.[v]

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