Every Story has Two Sides

You have received hundreds of mails in recent years with some form of ‘Environmental’ message as a closing comment. Things such as, ‘Consider the environment before printing this e-mail.’ and, ‘Before printing this document, please think about your personal responsibility to the environment.’. Add to this the comments from large organisations that they are e-mailing you instead of sending post because it is more environmentally friendly. The implication is that printing or the use of paper is harmful to the environment. Statements of this nature have become so ubiquitous that many people have started to believe them. That is not to say that people are gullible, but where the environment is concerned we tend to believe any claims that appear to be offering us a way of doing something without having to take too much action. We all want to be environmentally conscious and by following this advice we feel that we are going some way to achieving that. So successful have these messages been, that there is a term for it – Greenwashing. We are lead to believe that the use of paper and the printed medium is actually harmful to the environment and that this is the reason for large organisations such as banks and utilities companies, opting to send statements electronically. Extensive research has been conducted by organisations around the world to dispel the myths and provide facts to clarify the situation. Internationally there is a champion for the cause and not surprisingly it is an organisation made up of companies and individuals who believe that the use of paper is actually beneficial to the planet. Two Sides was founded in the United Kingdom in 2008 and came into being out of the UK Paper Merchants Association with the aim of informing paper users that paper and print is in fact still an attractive and sustainable means of communication. The concept and organisation has spread and is now active in markets around the world. It directly tackles instances of Greenwashing and aims to educate paper consumers of the real facts surrounding the use of paper. Two Sides is now present in South Africa and will be extending the work of the international organisation to the local market. Deon Joubert, managing director of Merpak has been appointed the country manager of Two Sides South Africa. In addition, Zama Zulu has been appointed to the role of marketing manager with the task of handling the day-to-day operations of the organisation. But what is the aim and function of Two Sides South Africa? According to its mission statement it is tasked with promoting responsible production and use of print and paper and to dispel common environmental misconceptions by providing verifiable information. In addition, it aims to unite all participants in the graphic communications value chain. Two Sides South Africa will: promote responsible use of paper and fibre-based packaging; create an independent communication platform; conduct and report on consumer preferences; develop effective advertising campaigns and; it will attempt to educate society as a whole. On 6 October, Deon and an international contingent of Two Sides country managers presented the concept and vision to a small group of paper and printing industry representatives. International Two Sides managers included Martin Eustace of Two Sides in the United Kingdom, Phil Riebel of Two Sides North America and Fabio Mortara of Two Sides Brazil, the latest addition to the Two Sides family prior to South Africa. Establishing an advocacy organisation such as this requires initial capital and logistic support. Here in South Africa, this is being provided by Printing SA as the industry body most closely aligned to the aims of promoting the sustainable use of paper. Two Sides South Africa will be run out of the Printing SA Offices in Midrand and will start working immediately on raising the image of paper. A number of functions are required in the initial phase. These include: selecting a management committee, a marketing committee and a strategic committee, also there is the need to develop a revenue model allowing Two Sides South Africa to become self-sufficient and the need to work out what is required to achieve that autonomy. Two Sides South Africa has access to a range of comprehensive resources available for use by members and the organisation as a whole. This will allow it to address misconceptions, correct attitudes and inform paper consumers. One of the major misconceptions which persists around the world is that paper manufacture is causing the loss of rain forest and is the main contributor to deforestation. The Two Sides resources include being added to the international website, access to the range of Myths and Facts booklets which can be localised and, access to the advertising material in a range of sizes for different applications. These too can be localised. Internationally the adverts are used to change perceptions of the people in the markets where they appear. This has achieved considerable success in the mainstream media in Europe and the United Kingdom. In the United States, the largest volume of success has been seen in advertising aimed at tertiary education students. According to Phil Riebel, this is quite surprising as it is widely considered that this is the age group where electronic communication is more prevalent. Brazil is slightly different to these two markets but appears to have a lot of similarities to South Africa. One of the decisions which will have to be made in the local market is what the membership structure of Two Sides will be. In Europe and the United States this is based on a company fee dependent on the turnover of the respective organisation. Printers fall into a specific level at a fixed rate and then there are smaller memberships. The aim is to encourage as many players as possible from all relevant sectors to take up membership of Two Sides. Of prime importance is the need for member companies to be able to see actual and quantifiable benefits for their membership. Proposed benefits will include: promotion of the sustainability of print media; enhanced credibility and visibility for the paper and print media sectors; a forum to challenge misleading and anti-paper and print claims; creation of a forum for discussion, both internal and external; access to information, material and logos for use on promotional items; access to specific and researched information and; the ability to demonstrate a proactive approach to responsible business practise. An important element of the information provided by Two Sides is that all data presented has been sourced and researched by reputable international organisations and is generally accepted as legitimate. Therefore, the claims made in the various items of Two Sides literature are not conjecture, but are factual and based in empirical research. While the official launch has only just taken place, Two Sides South Africa has already started addressing some of the Greenwashing occurrences which have come to its attention. This is done by sending letters requesting that environmental claims be changed, amended or removed where necessary. The campaign will start with larger organisations such as banks, utilities and telecommunications where commercial considerations rather than environmental concerns. Internationally, these organisations have been quick and decisive in their response. Two Sides South Africa is taking up the banner on behalf of all sectors of the industry where paper and fibre-based products are coming under threat from the advantage which is being taken of the uninformed. For more information visit the website www.za.twosides.info