The majority of Australian consumers value paper but environmental misunderstandings persist

Submitted by: Two Sides Australia 24/07/2016

Results of a new survey conducted by Toluna Inc. show that a majority of Australians want to retain a choice for paper options rather than be forced into “digital-only” communications.

Citing environmental concerns, corporations and governments are increasingly driving communications online and making paper more difficult, and costly, to access. A new survey provides valuable insights into how consumers view this trend, and how they perceive and use paper in their daily lives.

Carried out by international research company Toluna in June 2016, the survey questioned more than 7000 consumers worldwide (532 of them in Australia). Among its findings, the survey reveals that many consumers want to retain the choice of using print and paper, at no additional cost, and that many question or feel misled by “go paperless – go green” and similar “greenwash” claims – believing cost savings to be the primary driver for organisations looking to phase out paper-based communications.

Despite some concern over environmental impacts, many respondents preferred paper-based communications to digital alternatives, with ease of reading and a lack of internet access among the many reasons given.

A lack of awareness around the industry’s positive environmental activities (especially sustainable forest management and recycling) persists. Despite Australian forests growing in size by 308,000 hectares in the last 5 years, consumers are concerned about the effect on forests by the production of print and paper. “Educating consumers on practices within the paper industry is required, as consumers are unaware that 82% of paper consumed is from planted forests,” says Kellie Northwood, Executive Director of Two Sides Australia. The majority of respondents were also unaware that paper is one of the most recycled products with recovery rates of 87% in Australia.

“Although further education on the positive environmental credentials of print and paper is required, the survey findings highlight a notable preference for print on paper over digital in all age groups, with consumers appreciating the tactile and engaging nature of paper. Findings also suggest that overall, consumers fundamentally believe that when sourced from sustainably managed forests, print and paper is a sustainable way to communicate,” says Northwood.

Key Findings:

“Go Paperless-Go Green” claims are questioned by many

  • 83% receiving environmental claims like; “Go Paperless – Go Green”, or “Go Paperless – Save trees”, or “Get your bills on line - it’s better for the environment” believe companies are seeking to save costs
  • 56% question the validity of these claims
  • 42% feel misled by these claims

Many people need a paper option and don’t want to be forced into “digital only”

  • 76% are unhappy if asked to pay a premium for paper bills and statements
  • 69% want the option to continue receiving printed information as it provides a permanent record for important documents
  • 58% are unhappy that the responsibility to print valuable documents is being passed to consumers
  • 44% would consider changing service providers if asked or forced to move to paperless communication
  • 43% don’t have a reliable internet connection and want paper records

Consumers see print and paper as sustainable – but concerns about forestry persist

  • 94% feel recyclability is an important characteristic for environmentally responsible products
  • 89% believe new forests are necessary to counteract global warming
  • 88% agreed that, when responsibly produced, used and recycled, print and paper can be a sustainable way to communicate
  • 85% believe that when forests are responsibly managed it is environmentally acceptable to use trees to produce products such as wood for construction and paper for printing
  • 74% still prefer reading print on paper than from a screen
  • 71% of consumers enjoy the tactile experience of paper and print
  • 77% are concerned about the effect on forests by the production of print and paper
  • 66% consider that paper is based on a renewable resource
  • 43% believe paper records are more environmentally sustainable than electronic storage of information

The great recycling story of print and paper is not well known

  • 73% believe that less than 50% of waste paper is recovered for recycling
  • Only 7% of consumers believe that the industry recycling rate is more than 60%
  • Only 24% believe the industry recycling rate is higher than average, whereas (at 87%) the paper industry has one of the highest recycling rates of all

For a full version of the report, please view here