Two Sides Survey: Paper and Print Is Highly Valued By the Majority of People
By Phil Riebel, et al.
Two Sides is a global independent, nonprofit organization created to promote the responsible production, use and sustainability of print and paper. Its members span the entire print and paper value chain, including forestry, pulp, paper, inks and chemicals, pre-press, press, finishing, publishing, printing, envelopes and postal operators. Two Sides is active globally in North America, Europe, Australia, South Africa, Brazil and Colombia.
In recent years, Two Sides has successfully coordinated a global anti-greenwash campaign that has resulted in over 165 corporations, including many Fortune 100, removing their "Go Paperless – Go Green” or similar anti-paper claims often used to promote lower cost electronic services and products.
The Attractiveness and Sustainability of Print and Paper – Global Survey
To support its initiatives, Two Sides commissioned Toluna Inc. to conduct a 10 country survey in June 2016 on The Attractiveness and Sustainability of Print and Paper. Over 7,000 consumers were surveyed globally to provide insight into opinions on the environmental impacts of digital versus paper-based communications, and views on corporate initiatives forcing people into digital-only communication by eliminating paper-based options.,,,,, Survey data was split by five different age groups, from the age of 18 to 55 and over. Individuals working in the paper, printing or allied industries were excluded from the survey.
Print and Paper is Seen as a Sustainable Way to Communicate
Survey results showed that 88 to 91% of respondents agreed that, when responsibly produced, used and recycled, print and paper can be a sustainable way to communicate.
Likewise, 85 to 89% agreed 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.
These results were very similar across the countries and regions surveyed, suggesting that print and paper products are trusted as long as people believe they are manufactured and used responsibly. In other words, recycling and the use of sustainable forestry practices are likely important factors.
Sustainability Features are Seen as Important, but Forestry is Misunderstood
In general, people recognize the positive environmental attributes of paper, with 94 to 97% agreeing that recyclability is an important characteristic of environmentally responsible products. Likewise, 61 to 76% agreed that paper is based on a renewable resource, and 86 to 94% agreed that new forest plantations are necessary to counteract global warming.
In the U.S. and Europe, there is an opportunity to educate the public about sustainable forestry and the state of forests. Despite U.S. and European forests growing in volume in the past 50 to 60 years,, 74 to 76% of respondents believed that forests have stayed the same or decreased in size. Only 5 to 11% responded that they have increased in size.
Concerns about forestry persist in all five countries or regions, with 73 to 78% of respondents being concerned about the effect on forests by the production of paper.
The Great Recycling Story of Paper is Not Well Known
The majority of respondents did not know that paper is one of the most recycled products in their countries or regions, with recovery rates over 65% in all regions or countries. For example, 64 to 73% of respondents believed that less than 50% of waste paper is recovered for recycling, and only 5 to 9% believed it is over 60%.
"Go Paperless – Go Green" Claims are Questioned by Many
There is consumer cynicism related to “go green” claims used by corporations and governments to promote electronic statements and services over paper-based communications. The majority of respondents (80 to 85%) receiving environmental claims such as, “Go Paperless – Go Green”, or “Go Paperless – Save trees” believe companies are seeking to save costs.
The percentage of respondents that question the validity of these claims ranged from 29% to 57%, with the highest responses being recorded in the U.S. (57%) and the UK (50%) and the lowest in South Africa (29%).
Print on Paper is Preferred for Reading
In terms of reading preference and tactile experience, people prefer print on paper compared to reading from screen or electronic devices. The surveys showed that 64 to 80% of respondents agree that reading from paper is nicer than reading off a screen. As well, 71 to 79% enjoy the tactile experience of paper and print and agree that, compared to other media, print on paper is more pleasant to handle and touch.
Many Want or Need a Paper Option ("digital-only" is Not Accepted)
Results indicate that many consumers want to retain the choice of receiving paper statements at no additional cost. For example, 62 to 79% of respondents want the option to continue receiving printed information as it provides a more permanent record. Not surprisingly, 72 to 77% would be unhappy if they were asked to pay a premium for paper bills and statements.
In addition, a surprising 29 to 49% of respondents reported that they don’t have a reliable internet connection and want paper records. These results suggest that millions of people in all regions surveyed still rely heavily on print and paper for their communications. However, these results should be considered gross estimates given that the survey was conducted online in all countries and regions.
Information or Ads About Environmental Friendliness
In the UK, the U.S. and South Africa, 14 to 35% of respondents indicated that they have seen ads related to the effectiveness or environmental friendliness of print and paper. In Australia and New Zealand, 29 to 30% of consumers surveyed have heard about the environmental friendliness of paper and print.
In all cases, the majority of respondents believe the information to be useful (81 to 92%) and credible (78 to 95%).
In the UK and the U.S., 2016 survey results were compared to results obtained in 2011 and 2013, and some positive trends emerged related to the overall environmental acceptance and understanding of print and paper.,, For example, when consumers were asked “Which is the most environmentally friendly way to read (print on paper or electronically)?”, the following differences were noted between 2011 and 2016:
- For books and magazines, a 2 to 4% increase in favor of paper.
- For newspapers and direct mail, a 6 to 14% increase in favor of paper.
There was also an 18 to 19% increase in respondents agreeing that print and paper can be a sustainable way to communicate when used and produced responsibly (2013 vs 2016).
Improvements in perception about paper and print may be due to consumer ad campaigns operating in the UK and the U.S. focused on the sustainability and benefits of print and paper. These include the “No Wonder You Love Paper campaign operating in Europe and the Paper and Packaging Board - How Life Unfolds campaign in the U.S.  Between 2013 and 2016, U.S. survey results show that roughly three times more respondents saw ads related to the effectiveness and sustainability of print and paper (35% in 2016 vs 12% in 2013), and the large majority rated the ads as credible and useful.
In the U.S., a more detailed analysis of the data showed that younger age groups (under 45) had a stronger acceptance of digital media than older age groups (over 45), but there is a resistance to being unwillingly moved to online communications. In addition, the level of awareness of 18 to 24 year olds was generally lower than the overall survey results for questions regarding recycling and the state of forests.
There is a clear preference for print on paper across all countries and regions, likely indicating a more fundamental and more human way that people react to the physicality of print on paper. Many prefer paper-based communications to digital options for a variety of reasons including ease of reading, tactile experience, and a lack of internet access. These findings may also be partially explained by neuroscientific studies which have shown that our brains have a much more emotional and meaningful connection when we read on paper versus screens.,
The large majority of respondents recognize that paper-based communications can be a sustainable way to communicate when produced and used responsibly. The concept of well managed forests to produce forest products also seems to be accepted by the majority. However, concerns about environmental impacts still persist and should be addressed by more education on the industry’s progress and performance in the areas of sustainable forestry and recycling. The overall level of awareness for these topics was low in all countries and regions.
One of Two Sides’ trademarks is its series on Myths and Facts about Print and Paper which is summarized in a booklet available in several languages globally. The booklet, as well as other materials such as fact sheets and infographics related to the sustainability of print and paper are available at the various country websites. To access the booklet, as well as other materials such as fact sheets and infographics, click here and then select the corresponding country in the upper right.
 Two Sides, 2016. Major Corporations in Sight for Two Sides’ Global Anti-Greenwashing Campaign. Press Release, November 23, 2016. www.twosidesna.org/US/Major-Corporations-in-Sight-for-Two-Sides-Global-Anti-Greenwashing-Campaign.
 Two Sides North America, 2016. The majority of U.S. consumers value paper and disagree with digital-only communications. Press Release, July 21, 2016. www.twosidesna.org/US/The-majority-of-US.-consumers-value-paper-and--disagree-with-digital-only-communications.
 Two Sides Australia, 2016. Global Survey: Consumers still love print and paper but environmental misunderstandings persist. Press Release, July 2016.
 Two Sides South Africa, 2016. Global Survey: Consumers still love print and paper but environmental misunderstandings persist. Press Release, July 22, 2016.
 Two Sides UK and Toluna, 2016. The attractiveness and sustainability of paper and print – The UK consumer’s view. July 2016. www.twosides.info/download/The-attractiveness-and-Sustainability-of-Paper---UK-2016.pdf .
 Two Sides Australia and Toluna, 2016. The attractiveness and sustainability of paper and print – The New Zealand consumer’s view. July 2016.
 European forests grew by a total of 44,160 km2 between 2005 and 2015 (UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 2015)
 U.S. Forests have increased by 58% in wood volume and 3% in area over the past 60 years (USDA Forest Service, 2012).
 Two Sides North America, 2012. Research Shows Americans Still Prefer Print and Paper Communications, but Misconceptions about Environmental Sustainability Remain. Press Release, January 13, 2012. www.twosidesna.org/Research-Shows-Americans-Still-Prefer-Print-and-Paper-Communications-but-Misconceptions-about-Environmental-Sustainability-Remain .
 Two Sides North America, 2013. Most U.S. Consumers Want the Option to Receive Paper Bills and Statements. Press Release, July 31, 2013. www.twosidesna.org/US/Most-US-Consumers-Want-the-Option-to-Receive-Paper-Bills-and-Statements .
 Two Sides UK and Toluna, 2013. Paper bills and statements – a real necessity in a digital world. July 2013. www.twosides.info/download/Paper-Bills-and-Statements-A-Real-Necessity-In-A-Digital-World.pdf .
 Two Sides North America, 2015. Neuroscience Shows Benefits of Paper. www.twosidesna.org/US/Neuroscience-Shows-Benefits-of-Paper.
 Two Sides North America, 2015. Studies Show Consumers Embrace Information on Paper with Greater Effect than Digital. www.twosidesna.org/US/Studies-Show-Consumers-Embrace-Information-on-Paper-with-Greater-Effect-than-Digital .
Phil Riebel, Two Sides North America
Martyn Eustace, Jonathan Tame and Greg Selfe, Two Sides UK
Deon Joubert and Zama Zulu, Two Sides South Africa
Kellie Northwood and Victoria Fratin, Two Sides Australia
Fabio Mortara, Two Sides Brazil
Phil has over 28 years of international experience related to sustainability and the forest products industry. He currently leads Two Sides North America, a non-profit that promotes the unique sustainable features of print and paper, as well as their responsible production and use. Two Sides operates globally in five continents with members that span the entire graphic communication value chain. Phil has written extensively on sustainability and environmental topics related to the forest products sector. He received his Bachelor and Master's of Science degrees from McGill University in Montreal. He is a private forest owner and sustainably manages over 200 acres of forestland for both recreational and economic benefits.