The Debate: Using Recycled Paper in Catalogs
Enough wood to make a 6-foot fence stretching across the United States seven times, or to make copy paper for 18.2 million people. That’s how much the entire catalog industry could save if it used paper composed of just 10-percent postconsumer recycled content, according to experts.
A study by the Alliance for Environmental Innovation (the Alliance), a project of Environmental Defense, a nonprofit organization, revealed that despite such potential environmental savings, most catalogers instead print their pages on virgin (non-recycled) paper.
Several industry experts largely attribute catalogers’ resistance to using recycled paper to concern about cost and possible decrease in sales. “It’s not that [companies] don’t care about the environment, but if something doesn’t pay for itself, you just can’t do it,” says Kathy Johnston, creative services manager at consultancy J. Schmid and Associates.
However, proponents insist that catalogers can use recycled paper without hurting their bottom lines, brands or business overall. Here’s a closer look at some of the issues surrounding the use of recycled paper.
Advocates trumpet its business advantages, in addition to its ethical ones. For example, catalogers whose products emphasize outdoor products, support for the environment, animal rights, recycled materials and/or organic materials can bolster their brand messages by using recycled paper. Marci Zaroff, president and founder of organic cotton apparel cataloger Under The Canopy, thinks her company’s sales would actually decrease if she didn’t use recycled paper.
But even companies that don’t offer such items can benefit. Customers respond to companies that take social responsibility seriously, especially in this era of corporate scandal and growing consumer advocacy, says Victoria Mills, project manager at the Alliance. For example, a 2002 corporate citizenship study from strategy firm Cone discovered that 91 percent of Americans would consider switching brands if they were to learn of a company’s negative corporate citizenship practices. Eighty-six percent agreed that companies should reveal the ways they support social issues.