What’s the biggest issue affecting UK businesses at the moment? According to recent research commissioned by Arjowiggins Graphic, the leading developer of environmental paper solutions, 67% of businesses believe it’s the economy. Perhaps that’s to be expected. Yet interestingly, more than a third of respondents (37%) also said the biggest environmental challenge they face is understanding what to do next on sustainability.
It is, of course, important that businesses robustly demonstrate their environmental credentials. Consumers are now more savvy and businesses face strict targets for reducing their carbon emissions. If businesses fail to show that they are actively addressing these concerns, they could fall behind competitors, as consumers seek out those who walk the walk (as well as talk the talk) on environmental issues.
But doing so properly requires time and resources that are not always readily available, leaving organisations with a sense that making progress on sustainability is a difficult challenge to overcome.
One simple, fundamental issue that can be addressed, however, is an organisation’s choice of paper. Switching to recycled varieties can have significant environmental benefits for the company and the wider world. For example, by using Arjowiggins Graphic recycled papers, our UK customers helped to reduce the amount of paper landfill by 155.5 million kg between January 2010 and August 2012.
Clearly, the paper industry has a key part to play in tackling global ecological issues. That’s why using recycled paper is already part of so many businesses environmental policies: it can reduce the company’s carbon emissions, water usage, energy usage and waste to landfill. This is backed up by our research, which found that more than two-thirds (76%) of companies thought that using recycled paper was either very important or important to their organisation, with over half stating that they currently use recycled paper.
Paper often provides the link between business and the outside world, with mailers, newsletters and annual reports used to communicate with customers. Recycled paper offers a sustainable, greener option, allowing businesses that use paper to communicate their brand values in a way that goes beyond the written word. The quality and variety of recycled paper options available also means there are stocks for multiple purposes, allowing companies to use recycled paper without sacrificing either print quality or their environmental commitments.
The quality of recycled paper has increased dramatically, in fact. Innovations in the process of recycling have enabled paper to reach new heights of sustainability without sacrificing its look or feel. Now, corporates can opt for recycled paper that’s whiter than white – and often do for their annual reports or direct mail. However, ‘natural’ shades are still popular with companies seeking to wear their green credentials on their sleeve. Either way, it’s great that the more sustainable options can match the best paper when it comes to quality.
Using recycled paper or adopting other sustainable tactics as part of your corporate social responsibility strategy (CSR) is one thing; but, understandably, most companies want to be seen to be doing the right thing too. The key here is to be transparent about your CSR actions: consumers appreciate honesty. This is where environmental accreditations come in: trusted experts can work out how well you’re doing and map out your next steps to ensure your business operations are sustainable. The WWF Environmental Paper Company Index (EPCI), for example, enables businesses to see which paper companies are proven to be the most sustainable.
There are also various tools available that showcase businesses’ use of recycled paper to their customers. For example, the Environmental Benefit Statement (EBS) by Arjowiggins Graphic calculates how much landfill, greenhouse gas emissions, litres of water, energy and wood are saved by using recycled paper compared to non-recycled paper, tailored to specific print runs. These savings can be communicated to customers and stakeholders by printing the details on each set of materials – brochures, direct mail, report and accounts, etc.
It’s now common for consumers to be provided with a wealth of information on companies’ sustainability strategies. Getting these strategies wrong affects not only a company’s reputation, but also its bottom line. Switching to recycled paper is a simple step towards enhancing them both.
Angela De Vorchik is Operational Marketing Manager UK, Arjowiggins Graphic.
Arjowiggins Graphic is a Forum for the Future partner.
Photo credit: Dirk Houben/iStockphoto/Thinkstock