In the first part of this two-part series on the environmental issues affecting the catalog industry today, this week I look at the role recycled paper can play in helping your business become more environmentally sustainable.
The hot-button issue of environmental awareness has spread to the catalog/multichannel business. Consumers are increasingly asking that their catalogs “go green.” The concept of lowering the carbon footprint, however, needs to be balanced against the economic reality of spiraling costs for catalogers. Is it possible for catalogers to “go green” without going out of business in the process?
Step One’s Almost Always Recycled Paper
One issue that’s attracted consumers’ attention is the recycled content of paper. Adding some postconsumer recycled paper content to your paper specification can be affordable. For example, the upcharge for adding 10 percent postconsumer content to your paper is typically $1/cwt. For a paper costing $50/cwt, that equates to about a 2 percent cost increase. But if you add more recycled content or go to the chain of custody certification offered by third-party environmental groups, it can get quite costly.
When choosing recycled paper, don’t lock your business into specific commitments for recycled content. The problem with specific commitments for recycled content or compliance with a third-party environmental oversight is that costly commitments now may prove unaffordable if paper prices continue to rise and paper mills continue to discontinue sheets of paper, while placing a premium on producing sheets with recycled content.
Within the catalog printing world, there’s legitimate debate regarding the value of using recycled paper and the net effect of recycling upon the environment. Catalog paper isn’t sourced from old growth timberland but comes from the pine forests of Maine, Arkansas, Finland and Canada. So a case can be made that pine trees are simply a renewable crop. A case can also be made that recycling and de-inking are difficult processes where the net impact in terms of energy usage is neutral.
But know that from a business standpoint, the arguments against recycled paper won’t be heard by the portion of consumers who are urging you to “go green.” So from a business perspective, you need to calibrate how much your customer demographic cares about recycled paper. Have a flexible policy on recycled paper that balances your customers’ perceived value of recycled paper against your need to keep paper costs low.
What’s Your Explanation to Customers?
Do you have an explanation ready when your customers call and ask why you’re only using 10 percent recycled paper rather than 100 percent? The reasons are economic. Most catalogers simply can’t afford the higher cost of the recycled papers.
Next week in the final part of this series, I’ll provide some tips on how catalogers make their businesses more environmentally conscious and sustainable.
Jim Coogan is president of Catalog Marketing Economics, a Santa Fe, N.M.-based consulting firm focused on catalog circulation planning. You can reach him at (505) 986-9902 or email@example.com.