Sept. 8 2021 05:46 AM

Eleven years ago, I wrote an article for this magazine about the document industry's environmental efforts. The article pointed out that during a recession, economic strategies were likely to take precedence over purely environmental objectives. Here we are in 2021 and the situation seems familiar.

The 2020-21 pandemic and the accompanying economic fallout have forced companies to re-evaluate how they spend their money. Now, as it was in 2010, the moves a company makes to reduce their operation's environmental footprint will be tempered by financial reality.

A Slow Trajectory Towards Less Mail

Remember the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? In 2010, the accident spewed oil into the ocean for three months. The story was on the news constantly, along with those awful pictures showing the devastating environmental impact of that event. BP Oil suffered a huge public relations challenge which forced them to spend millions on television ads and clean-up efforts aimed at rebuilding their reputation.

No one in the print/mail industry is likely to experience the overwhelming environmental crisis that BP suffered in 2010. Instead of a gusher of negative sentiment, the dissemination of adverse information about paper mail is more like a slow drip. False and misleading statements about the environmental benefits of switching to electronic delivery continue to be used by companies as they seek to reduce their transactional document delivery costs. The latest postage increase in the US will probably encourage companies to continue or accelerate these efforts.

Despite the progress towards multi-channel communication over the last eleven years, paper documents continue to be a consistent and reliable way for companies to connect with their customers. One might argue that the impact of paper communications has increased as the glut of electronic messages overwhelms consumers. Improving the quality of paper documents while simultaneously lightening your organization’s environmental footprint, and that of your clients, might be a good strategy — even while financial challenges still exist.

Business and Environmental Benefits

The role of a print/mail service provider used to be limited to creating mail in the most economical fashion possible. Now companies that create and distribute mail have a greater responsibility to their clients.

· Help them drop duplicates or target their audience more precisely and reduce waste

· Suggest ways to enhance client data so you can produce personalized and relevant content that generates an acceptable ROI from smaller lists

· Use variables to customize boilerplate text and include only sections relevant to each customer to reduce page-counts

· Household documents to eliminate needless mail pieces

· Suggest document format changes that supply customers with summaries, with details available online to turn multi-page documents into single-page letters.

Greening the Document Center

The tools to make your organization greener while also improving the quality of your product already exist. Even if your primary aim isn’t environmental protection, your efforts will make a difference, which is good the planet, for your reputation, and that of your clients.

Environmental improvements need not be pure extra expense. With smart adjustments in the documents you mail, your company can lower expenses and enrich client relationships at the same time you are upping your environmental game.

Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants creates content for the document industry and helps document operations build and implement strategies for future growth and competitiveness. Learn more about his services at and Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, or send him a connection request on LinkedIn.