“The ‘Green Guides’ were updated last October because consumers have been increasingly exposed to ‘green’ claims that are unsubstantiated, hyperbolic, or misleading,” Carli explained. “But the ‘Green Guides’ are not the law,” he stressed. “The burden of proof is high. There needs to be economic damage. In other words, a company has to have been financially harmed by such false claims.” (Carli also noted that Underwriters Laboratories will soon reissue its updated Sins of Greenwashing website.)
PIAC’s Bonetto thinks there is merit in filing an official BBB challenge, and he’s not alone. But no single industry association or other consortium of printing firms has come forward to take the lead. “We have a timid group of people,” one frustrated industry executive told me under the condition of anonymity. “No one wants to take bold action.” But bold action is needed to make a statement.
Some believe the industry’s paralysis is due to fear. The BBB process, which can take up to 60 days, is self-regulating and fairly non-confrontational, Carli explained. However, if the FTC were to rule against the printing industry, the findings would go public—making matters worse by further tarnishing print’s already tainted reputation. So the prevalent attitude among is to “leave well enough alone.”
Defenders of Print?
Perhaps cost is the determining factor for non-action. The $5,000 fee is a drop in the ink bucket, but it’s only the start. Carli thinks what the print industry may need to better support its cause is to commission a double-blind consumer perception study. The vast majority of people do not need to be misled by false green marketing claims. “Twenty to 30 percent of the population is sufficient,” he said.
Such a study could take four to six weeks to conduct and cost in the neighborhood of $100,000. Some would consider that sum a nominal investment, especially since the findings could be used repeatedly in BBB advertising/marketing challenges. Raising $100K among the nation’s printers would not be a difficult endeavor. Again, someone has to pick up the print torch, but whom?
Print Media Center blogger Deborah Corn says we should keep applying pressure (http://printmediacentr.com/2013/01/why-is-the-print-industry-whining-about-paperless2013/). Bonetto agrees, telling me he doesn’t mind the social media debate. He is more concerned about the rebuttals dying down, the dialog stopping, and people forgetting. “What about tomorrow, next week, next month?” he asked. This stirring of the print pot “happened last year [with Toshiba] and it will, inevitably, happen again.”
Editor’s note: As of mid-January, the leafy image and tree-hugger tagline at the “Go Paperless in 2013” website had not been revised or altered.
A month before this latest multimedia tiff, Joann Whitcher wrote a myth-busting piece on paper and the environment: www.myprintresource.com/article/10836267
Targeting the Office
“Google Drive is part of the Paperless Coalition, a group of organizations and products that help you live completely in a paper-free world,” proclaims its landing page. “Drive makes it easy to keep all your stuff in the cloud and access it anywhere—so you don’t have to carry around paper copies wherever you go. And if you use paper to fax documents, print receipts, track expense reports, or jot notes, the Paperless Coalition has apps to help with that, too.”
While Google and its Google Drive cloud storage business may be big, recognizable names, they are not the only companies and products involved in paperless2013.org. The website lists email marketer Constant Contact, Intero Real Estate Services, and online payment provider Stripe as sponsors. HelloFax.com and e-signature sister company HelloSign lead the Paperless Coalition, whose other member are:
Expensify expense reports, Fujitsu ScanSnap portable scanners, Account/bill organizer Manilla, Xero accounting software.
Playing Hardball in Europe
A Euro-battle is still brewing. Four years ago, Rupert Murdoch called Google and other search engines “content kleptomaniacs.” The recent end of a 19-month FTC investigation concluded that Google had not broken any antitrust law in the US, but the European Commission may yet take a different stance.