Special Report: Paper Trails
Source. This term most commonly has referred to the origin of names on a list for rental. No longer. Now, direct marketers must get acquainted with a new application-paper source. Aggressive logging to support demand for paper products has drastically reduced the size of the world's forests, which play a critical role in absorbing the carbon dioxide gases that fuel global warming.
To protect the forestland that remains and rebuild some of what has been clear-cut, organizations have been established to promote responsible forestry management. These groups certify-among other wood-based products-paper and the chain of custody for suppliers involved in the paper and printing markets. Such certifications provide direct marketers who want to make environmentally sound production decisions with assurance that the virgin fiber in the paper stocks they purchase has been harvested in, at the very least, an ecologically responsible manner and, at the most, a socially conscious way.
The Certifications to Know
For the U.S. market, the two certifying bodies for paper products are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). The FSC got off the ground in the U.S. in 1995, and has certified more than 23 million acres in the U.S. SFI, established by the American Forest & Paper Association in 1994, is the U.S. arm of the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes and has certified more than 54 million acres in the U.S. While the FSC program has included independent, third-party audits as part of its process since inception, SFI just went the independent, third-party route in January 2007. In doing so, it addressed one of the major differences between the two programs.
Laura Hickey, senior director, global warming education, for National Wildlife Federation, a Reston, Va.-based nonprofit that urges people to protect wildlife, notes that some paper companies even offer triple certification, which generally means that they received FSC certification first and thus automatically qualified for the SFI and PEFC certifications.
Of course, each certification process does require financial and time investments, so being triple-certified is a major decision for suppliers. Not all paper and printing companies will opt for multiple certifications.
Without getting deep into the nitty-gritty of each program's features, what's the bottom line for direct marketers?
"The biggest thing right now is that the third-party NGOs recognize FSC more readily than they do SFI. And I think that still, from a political standpoint, is something that's fairly large out there in the minds of our customers. Until they overcome the NGO issue, I think there is still going to be reluctance for some people to go to SFI," says Chuck Fisher, manager of procurement, IWCO Direct, a direct marketing services provider in Chanhassen, Minn.
That being said, Fisher points out that he does not see a big difference between the two programs, especially now that SFI has made some changes to the chain-of-custody requirements that bring its standards closer to those espoused by FSC.
Gary Jones, manager, environmental, health and safety affairs at PIA/GATF, a leading graphic arts trade association based in Sewickley, Pa., also finds the two certifications are becoming more similar. "I think the position is that if you're going to be specifying paper from a responsibly managed forest, either one of them will work for you."
One important fact to note: FSC and SFI certifications only address virgin fiber content. "You can't have recycled fiber mixed with virgin fiber content and get that FSC or SFI certification," Jones explains.
What to Know About Certified Paper
While the good news is there are more FSC- or SFI-certified, as well as recycled, paper options available than ever before-and the market is expected to grow-demand is outpacing supply for the time being. The challenge for direct mail marketers is to plan for paper needs as far ahead as possible, advises Hickey.
"People need to understand, especially right now, to become more green does cost more," cautions Fisher. "When you look at the availability of a stock and the cost of that stock," he explains, "there are some broad guidelines. If you look at postconsumer waste, for every 10 percent you add, you're also adding 3 [percent] to 4 percent per hundred weight to that cost. On the FSC side, you're adding about 6-plus percent to the cost per hundred weight of that paper. And in addition, because FSC pulp credits are limited, you are not going to find your commodity grades available in FSC[-certified stocks]. So, you're not going to find a lot of offset or white wove stocks available. The mills are using their pulp credits for the higher value products; typically, the entry for FSC[-certified stock] would be an opaque grade. So, [direct marketers are] going to get hit with a higher per hundred weight cost anyway because they're going to have to move up in the paper chain to an opaque on the uncoated side."
The Big Picture for Paper
Determining which paper is the "best" for your budget, creative goals and the earth can be a bit mind-boggling. "People are starting to ask those types of questions when sourcing papers," says Jones, referring to queries such as: Is recycled fiber better? Is mixed source better? Can virgin fiber that is responsibly sourced and produced be better than recycled?
And both Hickey and Fisher point out that carbon footprinting will be a big part of the conversation on paper and production processes moving forward.
But the most important step, everyone agrees, is to start somewhere.
"If you really want to take this seriously, you need to look at developing an EPP (environmental procurement policy) for your corporation. When you do that, you have to look at all aspects of your corporation, not just your direct mail components," Fisher explains. After you have an EPP, he adds, your goals will center on how to make it part of your culture and follow it in all areas of your business.
Furthermore, your firm's EPP is something you can share with your paper and print suppliers, so these organizations can help you reach your goals.
The solution to more environment-conscious direct marketing may not end with you, but it can start there.