As a catalog marketer, you’re constantly battling to bring every penny to the bottom line. The winds of change have been blowing strong in the industry. Changes in postage and a strong resurgence in pressure from environmental groups ultimately will hurt profits. Be not afraid; at least one of the clouds on the horizon has a silver lining.
I’d be hard pressed to say that any changes in the postal rates could be turned into a positive. But I can make a case that embracing recycled paper (or its environmentally friendly alternatives) can enhance your business in spite of the perceived cost premiums.
First, it’s important to note the recent changes in paper supply policy made by Limited Brands (Victoria’s Secret catalog) and Williams-Sonoma (Pottery Barn, Hold Everything! catalogs). Limited Brands, which mails up to 1 million books a day, became the target of a well organized environmental group called Forest Ethics—an organization you should familiarize yourself with. Forest Ethics’ campaign against Limited Brands, which it called “Victoria’s Dirty Secret,” eventually forced the cataloger to overhaul its entire paper procurement policy and add additional environmentally friendly product to its books.
Limited’s Big Shift
Since, Limited Brands has partnered with its paper supplier to eliminate all pulp supplied from the Boreal Forest (Alberta’s Rocky Mountain Foothills) and British Columbia (Inland Temperate Rainforest). It also has shifted its catalogs to either 10 percent post consumer waste or at least 10 percent Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) content during 2007.
As part of the deal, Limited Brands committed $1 million to research and advocacy to protect endangered forests and to ensure leadership in the catalog industry in the area of recycled paper use.
Todd Polia, executive director of Forest Ethics, stated recently that the new strategy of the organization to effect change in the industry “works through the market system to turn Fortune 500 companies into environmental advocates.” In fact, the next companies that Forest Ethics plans to “partner” with include J. Crew, L.L.Bean, Sears Holdings (which owns the Lands’ End catalog) and other catalogers.
One new way Forest Ethics is looking to effect change is through the formation of a do-not-mail list, to be modeled after the Do-Not-Call Registry that limits telemarketing. “All the companies that have sat on the sidelines — now they know we’re freed up,” Polia said recently. “The catalog industry in general is badly in need of reform. It’s tremendously inefficient and destructive environmentally. We’re going to provide all these companies with the option of doing it the easy way. If they want to do it the hard way, we can see a tremendous amount of negative press and damage to their brand.”
Naturally, any cataloger — large or small, on this group’s radar screen or off — should be concerned about the actions of Forest Ethics. Here’s what you should be thinking about to avoid the potential disaster of a negative environmental campaign and at the same time turn the changing climate of environmental awareness in the catalog industry to your advantage.
Basically, there are two ways to include environmentally friendly content in your catalogs: post consumer waste and FSC-certified products.
The FSC says that any product made of pulp or paper has the potential to be certified, as long as the wood used in the product originates from FSC-
certified sources. The intent of the FSC system is to shift the market to eliminate habitat destruction, water pollution, displacement of indigenous peoples and violence against people and wildlife.
Just like other forest products, in order to use the FSC logo as an “environmental claim” on paper, your catalog paper must have flowed through the FSC “chain of custody” from an FSC-certified forest to a paper manufacturer, merchant and finally, a printer, all of which have FSC chain-of-custody certification. (To learn more about certification, go to www.fscus.org/faqs/what_is_certification.php.)
Bill Orndorff, vice president of materials management at Waterloo, Wis.-based printer Perry Judd’s (recently aquired by R.R. Donnelley & Sons), says that environmental awareness among catalog customers has changed and this eventually will affect the policies of Perry Judd’s customers as demand for product with environmentally friendly content increases.
Both Orndorff and Tom Hansen, vice president of marketing and publication papers at paper merchant Bradner Smith & Co., feel strongly that today, there’s no difference in the quality of recycled catalog paper with post-consumer waste content.
Available by Grade
Post-consumer waste products are available under specific grade names. Domtar, for example, offers New Domtar EarthCote as environmentally responsible coated lightweight paper that contains 30 percent post-consumer recycled content.
Another catalog printer, Stora Enso, promotes forest management in its policy and products including multiple certification programs. The principles set out a framework for implementing, monitoring and improving environmental and social responsibility in wood and fiber procurement, as well as forest management. Like other printers, Stora Enso develops monitoring, reporting and third-party verification of performance related to these principles when relevant.
Like other catalog printers, Stora Enso puts its recycled paper activities on a pedestal, being one of the largest users of all recycled paper in Europe and of recycled fiber in coated paper stock in the United States. Regardless of which printers you use, approach them about recycled paper; with rare exceptions, they’re ready to work with you.«
***For Seven Ways to Take Action, click under Related Items in the upper-right!
James J. Maioho is the former vice president of business development for Professional Uniforms Inc. (which markets via the Lydia’s Uniforms, Uniform Warehouse and Soleas catalogs) and is currently president of consulting firm Maioho Consulting Group. You can reach him at (616) 292-5048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.