Six Steps to Reduce your Mailings’ Carbon Footprint
Working with the Irish Direct Marketing Association, An Post has jointly developed a set of practical informative guidelines for Irish marketers in the planning and development of environmentally responsible direct mail campaigns.
Environmental awareness is now a cornerstone of responsible corporate practice. As well as making a positive contribution to the world around us, taking a greener approach makes good business sense.
Besides enhancing your organisation's public image, considerable savings can also be made by following some simple guidelines.
By reading the guide, you'll learn about:
- Sourcing eco-friendly paper supplies
- Designing mailings
- Targeting lists to minimise waste
- Paying attention to packing materials
- Communicating environmental commitments to customers and other stakeholders.
Six Steps to Reduce your Mailings’ Carbon Footprint
- List hygiene and data management
- Design and packaging
- Recyclable and reusable materials
- Reduce toxicity of materials
- Convince your customers
Step One: Focus on your target
List hygiene and data management
More accurately targeted mailing lists mean fewer wasted mailings. That’s better for your business and the environment. So consider taking the following steps to ensure good list hygiene:
Maintain suppression lists
- Maintain in-house ‘do-not-market’ lists for prospects and customers who do not wish to receive future solicitations from your company.
- Maintain a more detailed suppression file that enables customers and prospects to opt out of your company’s marketing lists on a selective basis, such as by frequency or by category.
Offer notice & choice
- Tell existing and prospective customers about opportunities to modify or eliminate future marketing contacts every time you write to them.
- Provide periodic notices and opportunities for prospects to opt in or opt out of receiving future marketing material.
- Offer customers incentives (such as discounts on their next purchase) to let you know about duplicate mailings and incorrect addresses.
- Let customers receive communications electronically if they wish.
There are a number of steps you can take to ensure that your mailing list is clean
- Irish Direct Marketing Association Mail Preference Service (MPS).
- Movers and Change of Address database.
- Address Correction services.
- Deceased list to eliminate names of deceased persons from mailings.
- National suppression files.
Merge and purge data
- Match outside lists against each other to prevent duplicates.
- Use the most effective matching criteria that will minimise duplicates.
- Match outside lists against other commercially available suppression files where appropriate.
Test market offers
- Test a sample of a list before mailing or marketing to the entire list.
- Test different versions of advertising and marketing offers, in mail and other media, to select those offers and media combinations that receive the best response.
Step Two: It’s a wrap
Design & packaging
The design and packaging aspects of direct marketing give you real opportunities to put good environmental practises into action. So identify how to minimise the use of environmentally undesirable elements in envelopes and mail packages.
- Periodically review your direct mail packages and test downsized pieces when and where appropriate.
- Test and use lighter weight papers wherever feasible. Use lighter weight or efficient packaging materials that provide appropriate protection while minimising volume/weight.
- Adjust trim sizes of publications and collateral to reduce waste.
- Test and use production methods that reduce print order overruns, waste allowances and in-process waste.
- Use ink-jet, open address windows or other environmentally sensitive addressing techniques that reduce your need to use window envelopes and parcels.
- Eliminate unnecessary packaging materials that do not protect merchandise or enhance its presentation.
- Use reusable packaging that allows customers to return items in the same package used for shipping to ease the return process.
Step Three: Do the paperwork
Recyclable and reusable materials
As a direct marketer, your use of paper is proof (or otherwise) of your green-friendly credentials. This means you should work with suppliers who can assure you that the paper you’re using comes from sustainable forests.
- Aim to use recycled paper. The good news is that recycled papers are now equal in quality to virgin stock and also compete effectively in terms of performance. Crucially, the cost of recycled paper is comparable to virgin stock.
- Currently, there is no accepted industry standard on what constitutes a recycled paper. Many UK companies seek advice from WRAP, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (www.wrap.org.uk) which recommends minimum specifications including a definition for recycled fibre.
- For printed paper, WRAP recommends a minimum 50% recycled content while copier and office paper should have a minimum of 70% recycled content.
- To help divert waste paper from landfill (where it can generate methane, a powerful greenhouse gas) use paper with the highest amount of recycled content possible. This means taking into account factors including print quality, availability, pricing and recyclability.
- Ensure, where possible, that all packing and packaging materials are made of recyclable, recycled, reused or reusable materials.
- Polywrap and window envelopes can’t be easily recycled, so their use should be minimised where possible.
Step Four: Make your mark
Reduce toxicity of materials
For the most part, petroleum or mineral oil-based inks are the norm in the printing industry. However, the quality of more environmentally-friendly vegetable oil inks has improved greatly in recent years and now matches (and sometimes exceeds) that of mineral oil inks.
- Work with your printer to explore using new printing techniques (such as digital and computer-to-plate (CTP) printing and pdf or virtual proofing) that help reduce chemical and paper waste, and emissions.
- Use vegetable oil inks in print. Widely used for sheet-fed litho printing, vegetable oil inks have much lower rates of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions than mineral oil inks and also usually do not contain heavy metals.
- Vegetable oils are derived from renewable resources and the inks made from them are more easily removed from waste paper during de-inking – a marked contrast to mineral oil inks.
- You should note, however, that vegetable oil inks are not currently suitable for digital or screen-printing.
Step Five: Convince your customers
Understandably, consumers can be very sceptical of business’s commitment to the environment. This means a clear and consistent approach to communicating your stance is essential to convince others of your good intentions.
- Use the correct recycling symbols. The ‘Recyclable’ symbol identifies paper and paperboard products made from fibres that are suitable for recycling after their primary use. ‘Recycled’ (or the recycled logo) may only be used alone when the product or package contains 100% recycled material.
- Encourage customers to reuse, return or recycle materials where appropriate.
- Ensure all environmental labelling is clear, honest and specific. For example, saying that your material is ‘Printed on 20% Post-Consumer Content Recycled Paper’, is far more convincing than ‘Printed on Recycled Paper’.
- Don’t boast: say you’re just doing your bit, not saving the world. And invite others to do likewise.
Step Six: FAQs
What’s the difference between ‘recycled’ and ‘recyclable’ symbols?
The ‘Recyclable’ symbol identifies paper and paperboard products made from fibres that are suitable for recycling after their primary use. Whereas, the ‘Recycled‘ symbol shows that your product or package contains 100% recycled material. Alternatively, you can use it with a % number to show the content percentage of recycled material that has been used to make your product.
What’s the best way to improve the accuracy of my mailings?
Constant monitoring and updating of your data is essential. You should maintain
in-house ‘do-not-market’ lists for prospects and customers who’ve said they don’t want marketing messages from you. Customers and prospects should also be regularly given the opportunity to opt out of your company’s marketing lists on a selective basis, such as by frequency or by category. It’s also worth offering customers incentives (such as discounts on their next purchase) to let you know about duplicate mailings and incorrect addresses. Prior to mailing, you should clean lists by using Irish Direct Marketing Association Mail Preference Service (MPS) and An Post’s National Change of Address database.
How can I source environmentally-friendly paper stock in Ireland?
The simplest way is to ask your printer or paper supplier if they are accredited by the PEFC Council (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes) and/or by the FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council). Check our Supplier Directory for a list of companies who use environmentally-friendly paper in Ireland.