Five reasons why we’re not red-faced over the environmental impact of mail

Senior Business Specialist, Limara Lohan, reviews the myths and facts

Like many companies, we have a mandatory environmental policy, which is implemented through a documented management system designed to comply with the requirements of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. Maintaining compliance is, by the very nature of our business, a challenge; but Citipost Mail has never shied away from a challenge, and that’s why we have chosen to talk about being green and not red-faced in this blog.

As members of the Direct Marketing Agency (DMA), we are part of an industry-wide initiative that is working hard to reduce its impact on the environment, not just in the short term but as a long term solution. In order to that, we must make changes, some quite radical, and some need to be driven by our clients if they are to be successful. Here are our top five myths and facts to demonstrate:

Myth: Direct Mail is a waste of paper

Fact: Only if the messaging is poor and ineffective. Direct mail remains a very effective marketing tool with 31% prompting a commercial action and 70% of all direct mail items being opened. 63% is opened immediately, with a further 18% opened subsequently (according to JICMAIL). Whilst you could argue that the 30% of unopened letters are a waste of paper, a large amount of these letters are still recycled, even if they are not read.

Myth: Emails are the environmentally friendly option

Fact: Not always! A study by Professor Mike Berners-Lee (whose brother Tim invented the world wide web) has estimated that 64 million unnecessary emails are sent in the UK every day. By not emailing people sat opposite you or down the corridor, and not sending back a LOL, thank you or smiley face emoji at the end of an email conversation, we could save 16,433 tonnes of carbon per year. Which, to put it in perspective, is the equivalent of 81,152 flights to Madrid from the UK or taking 3,334 diesel cars off the road.

Berners-Lee told The Guardian: “When you’re typing, your computer is using electricity. When you press send it goes through the network and it takes electricity to run the network. And it’s going to end up being stored on the cloud somewhere, and those data centres use a lot of electricity.

“We don’t think about it because we can’t see the smoke coming out of our computers, but the carbon footprint of IT is huge and growing.”

Myth: All posted magazines need to be wrapped in plastic

Fact: As associate members of the Professional Publishers Association (PPA), we share its vision for sustainability and reducing dependency on plastic wrapping. We are supporting the association in its exploration of alternative materials, such as bio-based and compostable wrapping, paper alternatives and sending titles unwrapped.

Myth: Only recycled paper is good for the environment

Fact: The quality of recycled paper has improved, and it is definitely a viable option for many printed documents, but if virgin paper is required for specific printing projects then it is still possible to be sustainable. At  Citipost Mail, our Print Management Services use FSC certified paper for printing projects.

Myth: Nothing compares to Direct Mail when it comes to campaign success

Fact: We’re not denying that Direct Mail is a very successful marketing tool and for many campaigns nothing else will come close. However, there are alternatives, and short message service (SMS) can bring unrivalled ROI with exceptional response rates. Costing from as little as 3.25p a message, SMS is particularly successful in B2C campaigns, with 9 out of 10 messages read within ten minutes, 98% open rates and proven customer click-through rates of 45%.  As far as the carbon footprint of texting goes, let’s go back to our friend Mike Berners-Lee and his 2010 book How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything. Mike says “The estimate I made for text messaging was 0.014 grams of CO2e. For perspective, the average U.K. person has a carbon footprint of about 15 tons a year, which is something like 35 kilograms a day. So, 0.014 grams is a very small amount.”

Our industry is not alone in having an impact on the environment but we are working hard at negating that effect as much as possible, and we are always looking for ways we can make our solutions more sustainable and supporting industry initiatives to improve practices.