The much-heralded paperless revolution has yet to deliver the promised environmental benefits, and sustainable printed material continues to play an important role alongside online communications. The case for recycled papers remains as strong as ever

Shannan Hodgson
Brand sustainability manager
Arjowiggins Graphic

Paper communications are a key factor in driving customer satisfaction, and recycled papers play an increasingly important role in demonstrating businesses’ environmental credentials.

The digital age has seen many companies look to electronic and Web-based communications to engage with their customers. But have they stopped to think about how customers feel about this, and the impact it has on their brand?

Recent research by Royal Mail has shown that removing paper-based communications could have the same negative effect as removing UK call centres and local branches.

Following research conducted with 500 consumers, 65 per cent of customers stated they would either consider leaving or leave a company straight away for a competitor which could offer a choice of paper-based communications. About 75 per cent of those surveyed still want to receive paper statements and bills.

This is important information for designers, who are often asked to advise clients on the best way to communicate their brand to customers. Paper is a vital component in communicating a brand message and showcasing the way that companies portray themselves.

Alex Ricketts, market development manager at Royal Mail, commissioned the research. He believes that the survey shows just how important paper-based communications are as a key indicator of customer satisfaction, and that  paper communications make people feel valued and help to build relationships with customers. However, he also thinks that combining paper and Web-based media provides the best service. Many consumers do like to receive reminders and short communications via text message or online, and those who want to receive only digital communications have opted to do this already. Those who have not, require a balance between electronic and print to help them meet their needs.

The results of this survey did not come as a surprise.

Companies often cite Internet and e-mail communication as a crucial part of their drive towards sustainability, but using paper does not necessarily mean that a company is having an adverse environmental impact. In fact, paper can be totally renewable and recyclable.

In the two years since we established Arjowiggins Graphic, we have seen an unprecedented 140 per cent rise in demand for recycled paper. This highlights not only the continued need for paper but also the demand for sustainable paper stocks across business, print and design sectors.

A common perception in the design community is that using recycled papers results in a loss of quality. But through evolving environmental paper solutions, we have met customer demands, developing recycled papers that are consistently high quality.

This provides designers with products that can extend environmental messages and enhance their own sustainable credentials as well as those of their clients, without any loss of quality.

Producing high-quality recycled papers also helps to reduce our own environmental footprint because the process involves looking at our manufacturing plants and distribution network to ensure sustainability throughout the entire process.

Throughout 2011, sustainability will remain a key aspect of the wider business agenda – but different businesses have different needs. As well as developing new products that provide whiteness comparable with virgin fibres, it is important for the paper industry to continue to produce ranges that have a natural recycled feel.

Whichever product best suits a designer’s need, for many projects it is about enabling designers to make a clear and tangible statement about Green credentials to their clients.

In this spirit, in 2010 Arjowiggins launched ‘environmental benefit statements’, which make it easier for companies to show environmental reductions in a clear manner. These statements have now been expanded so that clients can show the impact of any given print run using the ‘environmental calculator’ on the Arjowiggins Graphic website. The statements can be integrated into corporate documents, annual reports and promotional literature to show how using recycled paper has reduced environmental impact through measures such as water, energy, carbon dioxide consumption and wood.

A commitment to corporate social responsibility is now expected of all businesses, as is the ability to demonstrate transparency. More particularly, businesses are increasingly concerned with being able to give robust and precise figures showing how much their environmental impact has been reduced, both as a way of meeting their targets and of demonstrating how seriously they take their customers.

Recycled printed materials fit in well with this agenda, being key to combining sustainability with a high level of customer satisfaction.

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