We may all get annoyed with the amount of spam and unwanted emails that end up in our inbox, but paper junk mail will not cease anytime soon. Credit card offers touting free airline miles and goodies comprise a big chunk of all that junk, and the amount of those mailings doubled from 2009 to last year. Slice and dice the data as you wish, but those 2.82 billion credit card solicitations consume their share of trees, energy, and landfill space. Wireless carriers contribute their fair share to the snail mail, by either offering to link up that additional family member or an “offer” to extend your contract by another two years with the latest smartphone.
To that end, the non-profit ForestEthics ranked twelve financial and communications firms after gauging how their operations—especially those pesky mailers—affected forests.
The results are listed in ForestEthics 2011 “Green Grades Report Card,” and they reveal very little grade inflation. Two firms were given “F’s” for behaving like truant kids and not responding to Forest Ethics’ survey. The only company that earned an “A” was Sprint.
How did Sprint snag so many gold stars? Sprint already sports a fairly strong paper conservation policy with a commitment by next year to decrease the total weight of paper the company procures by 30 percent. They are aiming for 40 percent reductions by 2017. The country’s third largest wireless carrier has also revamped its paper policy to avoid any products culled from endangered forests. Sprint has also promised to source 90 percent of its paper from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper by next year.
In ForestEthics’ view, other financial services and communications companies have some catching up to do. AT&T won some kudos for its commitment to increase the amount of paper sourced from FSC-certified suppliers. Discover just started a new paper procurement policy. And Bank of America got some brownie points for a policy that avoids paper from dodgy sources–but like other companies surveyed they use Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)-certified paper. SFI-certified paper is a no-no, according to organizations like ForestEthics, because the timber industry have a heavy influence ober the guidelines.
As always, these ratings should be seen in the context of the firms’ entire sustainability agenda as a whole. For all of its criticism, Bank of America has ramped up investment in solar energy. USAA provides compelling insurance programs for military families and veterans at rates affordable on a military salary or pension. Insurance companies like State Farm offer economic opportunity to folks who are interested in launching their own businesses who otherwise face limited job prospects.
The lesson for financial services firms is that more consumers are becoming aware of the waste that all those mailers generate. Banks have a ways to go to restore that luster lost during the shenanigans before and during the 2008 global financial crisis, so a more ethical and sustainable paper use policy can score a few easy points on those corporate social responsibility (CSR) scorecards, and hence is one step in gaining consumers’ trust back.