Lowering the environmental impact of marketing campaigns

Debunking print myths.

Lowering the environmental impact of marketing campaigns

The digital and paper carbon footprint debate

Many brands continue to migrate marketing spend from print to digital in the face of environmental arguments against paper. But digital communication is far from being environmentally neutral.

Email marketing has a huge carbon footprint, with an average email generating 0.3g of CO2e (the carbon dioxide equivalent), going up to 50g for an email with big attachments. 1 Considering the vast number of marketing emails that are sent out (because they’re seen as an easy, low-cost way to reach target audiences) and the number of those that go straight into the ‘Junk’ folder or are deleted without reading, it’s clear that many of them are wasted.

This is not to say that print doesn’t have a carbon footprint. In comparison, a printed mailer has an average footprint of 20g of CO2 according to various postal services reports. However, the majority of this isn’t generated during production, it’s through its transportation. And while there have been steps towards reducing CO2 from print’s distribution, by introducing electronic vehicles, for example, there is still more that can be done. Having acknowledged that both print and digital communications have a carbon footprint, it’s now a question of adopting more sustainable practices to reduce that footprint.

Why less is more

In the age of ‘digital fatigue’, print is an extremely powerful marketing tool. Ultra-targeted campaigns, achieved through mechanisms such as programmatic print, can be one of the more environmentally responsible choices within your marketing mix.

But some still believe that print is slow and expensive. However, concepts such as programmatic print combine the best attributes of digital and print marketing by reaching consumers with relevant, bespoke information – making it quick (within 48 to 24 hours!) and relatively cheap to do. When done right, it delivers the emotional impact of individualised print with the immediacy of digital marketing. All while delivering compelling commercial results.

As Yves Gautschy, Founder and Consultant at Urs Zuber AG, a print service provider (PSP) specialising in programmatic print, explains, "Programmatic printing enables us to address customers even more directly and personally. We can react automatically to events in the customer journey with predefined triggers.

“This enables us to send customised and targeted print communications, which increases the response rate of the campaigns and the ROI for our customers. In addition, reduced waste saves resources and costs. Programmatic printing is therefore not only more efficient, but also more resource-efficient and sustainable."

Work professionals discussing why paper choice matters

Why paper choice matters

Another misconception is that using paper in print marketing campaigns involves cutting down forests; however, when responsibly sourced, paper can be a renewable resource. In fact, careful consideration of media choices can lower the environmental impact of any marketing campaign.

Nowadays, many providers are focused on planting new trees specifically for the production of paper, which also supports the reduction of CO2. Paper is also far more recyclable than commonly perceived, with 74% of paper recycled in 2020 in Europe. 2

When considering recycled paper, ‘FSC Recycled’ is an example of a certified paper produced exclusively from recycled fibres, so no tree is cut down for this type of paper. Compared with paper made from virgin fibres, the production of recycled paper requires about two-thirds less energy and water. And the added bonus is that the production process does not use optical brighteners, chemicals that have an additional impact on the environment.

Thinking about the future

Because of increased costs and poor returns on marketing investments, the days of wasteful ‘spray and pray’ marketing are dead, whether that’s in print or digital. By focusing on campaign objectives, being clear on print’s purpose and measuring performance to see where print stimulates a response, PSPs and marketers should work together to implement the tactics and channels that deliver results.

By recognising value over volume and understanding how to leverage data and optimise processes, PSPs can help marketers use programmatic print to lower the environmental impact of their campaigns.

  1. Source: Mike Berners-Lee – 2010 – How Bad are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything
  2. Source: Cepi statistics – 2021 – Key Statistics 2021: European pulp & paper industry

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