Environmental concern has re-emerged as an important issue for the direct marketing industry in the past few years. And the use of recycled paper is one of the issues that has been at the forefront of the resurgence.
U.S. catalog companies mailed about 17 billion catalogs last year, using 3.6 million tons of paper, according to the Alliance for Environmental Innovation (AEI), a national nonprofit organization focused on environmental protection.
“Catalogers are more aware of the environmental impact of their paper use and increasingly understand that reducing waste, maximizing recycled content and protecting forests are the right things to do,” says Victoria Mills, AEI’s project manager. “The really smart catalogers recognize that these steps also make business sense.
“Catalogers who are proactive and seize the opportunity to improve their paper practices,” Mills continues, “will have a much better story to tell their customers than those who do nothing.”
Catalog companies such as Patagonia, Sundance, Omaha Steaks, Planet Dog and Norm Thompson Outfitters have taken such measures by using recycled paper and evaluating their paper suppliers’ forest management and manufacturing practices.
Following are actions you can take in your own operations.
Simply Use Less Paper
“Saving paper equals saving money, so wise consumption is a natural [solution] for direct marketers,” says Derek Smith, corporate sustainability manager at Norm Thompson Outfitters, a multititle catalog company based in Hillsboro, Ore. Since Norm Thompson has begun coupling environmental factors with its business decisions, it has more efficiently trimmed catalogs, eliminated envelopes, complied with customers who request fewer catalogs and consolidated package deliveries.
One program alone has effectively saved Norm Thompson more than $400,000 in packaging expenses last year. The Ship All Together program, started in 2001, asks customers if they’d prefer to receive their entire orders in a single box — that is, if they’d rather wait to get in-stock items with backordered products. Says Smith, “[The program] provides an opportunity to communicate our environmental commitment to customers.” In addition to reducing environmental impact, the program contributes to corporate-wide savings in packaging materials, freight and labor.