Wednesday, December 9, 2009

ForestEthics is releasing its annual Naughty / Nice list of companies in the direct mailing industry

An irritating byproduct of the holidays season is the growth in junk mail. So much waste of paper that in the best scenario will go directly to the recycling bin and in many cases will just end up in the landfill.

Some companies are better of course than the others, but how can we know who is good and who is bad?

Well, fortunately ForestEthics comes to our help (like they do every year) with their annual Direct Mail Industry Scorecard that grades companies according to their paper choices and the steps they're taking to minimize their direct mail's footprint. The report includes 3 grades: Nice, Checking Twice and Naughty. As you can imagine, naughty is the worst among the three.

The grades were given according to four criteria: whether or not Endangered Forests are cut to produce the company’s catalogs; whether the company uses Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper; the amount of post-consumer recycled content in the company’s direct mailings; and the company’s efforts to reduce overall paper consumption.

This is the forth year this scoreboard is published, so you can also compare the results to the last couple of years. And the results are definitely encouraging - there are more ‘nice’ companies (12 this year comparing to 10 last year) who are taking concrete steps to ensure that their paper choices don’t endanger precious wildlife, and don’t destroy intact Boreal Forest. The naughty list also got shorter with 5 companies this year comparing to 7 last year.

So, who's Nice? at the top of the list you'll find companies that you definitely expect to find there such as Patagonia (using the highest percentage of post-consumer recycled content in all the land) and Timberland (stopped printing catalogs altogether!). You can also find there some less expected names like Victoria's Secrets (I saw they got the same grade last year, so apparently it's not such a surprise). Also on the top of the list Macy’s/Bloomingdale’s who followed up their phase-out of Bloomingdales’ catalog by increasing post-consumer recycled content from 10% to 30%.

And who's on the bottom? five companies got the Naughty grade: Sears, Neiman Marcus, Eddie Bauer, Citi and Chase.

I was surprised to see Citi on the list, as they just recently won the "Most Innovative Bank in Climate Change" Award From The Banker Magazine, and on their press release about it you could read a quote from Sandip Sen, Head of Citi's Alternative Energy Group, saying "Citi has been a leader in environmental sustainability for eight years". Well, it seems like their Naughty grade is a result of the bank's refusal to reply to ForestEthics' questions. If the bank is a leader as it claims to be, I see no reason why it won't cooperate with ForestEethics and share its policy paper with them. I'm sure Mr. Sen would agree with me here.

Thanks to ForestEthics and the great job they're doing. I'm sure this report is not only a way to make companies' paper policies more transparent, but also an effective tool to pressure them to improve their practices, as we can see from the improved results presented this year.

The Direct Mail Industry Scorecard is available at (2008 scoreboard can be found here)

Raz @ Eco-Libris

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