The current world is becoming increasingly focused on sustainability and environmentally friendly practices. Businesses’ environmental practices particularly are coming under more and more scrutiny. One of the many areas that come under a lot of questioning is direct mail, a traditional marketing strategy used by many businesses around the world to directly deliver marketing campaigns to customers. In this blog post, we will delve into the myths and facts concerning the environmental impact of direct mail, trying to separate the lies from reality.
What is Direct Mail?
Direct mail is a traditional marketing tool that has been used for years. It involves producing promotional materials which can include the production of flyers, brochures, catalogues, letters and more to distribute out to a target audience sent out through postal services. This marketing tool refines customers through demographics as a way of directly engaging a specific audience.
Does Direct Mail Have an Environmental Impact?
Direct mail is commonly associated with environmentally damaging practices given its use of print advertising and large quantities of paper printing. Consequently, it is associated with lots of myths. Keep reading to myth bust and find the facts amongst the lies.
The Myths & Facts
Myth: All Direct Mail is Inherently Environmentally Damaging
Given the nature of direct mail, it is understandable that many people might think it is inherently damaging to the environment, but the reality is quite different. The environmental impact of direct mail is dependent on lots of different factors; whether that be the materials used, the production process or methods used for waste products and disposal. The statement that all direct mail is environmentally damaging is incorrect and is therefore an oversimplification of the issue.
Fact: Advancements in Printing Technologies are Minimising Environmental Impacts
Direct mail techniques have advanced over the years allowing for more environmentally friendly practices. Modern printing techniques like digital printing, can use more environmentally friendly inks as well as being more resource-efficient than traditional methods. Such techniques allow for more on-demand printing which consequently reduces unnecessary waste.
Myth: Direct Mail is a Significant Contributor Towards Deforestation
Many people think that given direct mail’s use of paper it contributes significantly towards deforestation. Although the production of paper has indeed been associated closely with deforestation, as times have changed, responsible paper sourcing and sustainable forestry practices have become more and more important, with many direct mail services adopting such practices.
Fact: Sustainable Paper Sourcing is Growing in Importance
Businesses are understanding the increasing importance of sustainable paper sourcing, making sure the paper used by their suppliers is coming from responsibly managed forests or recycled materials. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a certification programme, assures paper is sourced in an environmentally friendly manner. Today, over 60% of direct mail is being sourced from sustainably managed forests.
Myth: Direct Mail Generates Excessive Waste
Another common misconception about direct mail is that it contributes towards excessive waste as a result of unwanted or unopened mail that ends up in landfills. Although mail can go unopened, the advancements in data analytics used by mailing companies mean mail is targeted towards specific individuals to reduce the number of unwanted and irrelevant materials sent out which helps to minimise waste.
Fact: Digital Marketing Alternatives Also Have Their Environmental Impacts
Although digital marketing communications get rid of the need for physical materials, this doesn’t mean they are free from environmental impacts. For example, the energy usage that data centres require to stay running. When considering the environmental impact of marketing communication techniques it is important to look at the broader environmental implications of other communication methods.
Myth: Email Marketing is the More Environmentally Friendly Option
Another myth! It has been found that over 64 million unnecessary emails are sent in Britain every day. Studies have found that If this statistic can be reduced, more than 16,433 tonnes of carbon a year could be saved. This shows the underlying environmental impact that digital alternatives to direct mail can have.
Fact: Collaboration with Sustainable Partners Promote Environmentally Friendly Practices
Many direct mail companies are engaging more with environmentally conscious organisations. These collaborations aren’t limited to green practices, they can also include broader sustainability initiatives. Work like this shows direct mail companies’ active work towards positive environmental practices, contributing towards an overall more eco-friendly world.
Myth: Direct Mail is a Waste of Paper
Direct mail is only a waste of paper if the messaging is poor and ineffective. In reality, direct mail is a very effective marketing tool, prompting a large response in commercial action. 70% of direct mail is opened, with the remaining 30% left unopened and often recycled, making it a more sustainable practice than at first glance!
It’s obvious that direct mail is linked to lots of myths. However, hopefully, we’ve clarified that in reality, when done responsibly, direct mail can have a minimal impact compared to contrary beliefs. The best way to do this? Introducing sustainable practices throughout the direct mail process.
5 Ways to Reduce the Environmental Impact of Direct Mail
1. Using recycled materials and paper
One way that direct mail can significantly reduce its environmental footprint is by opting for recycled materials and paper. Printing campaigns on post-consumer recycled content reduces demand for virgin resources and also conserves energy.
2. Sustainable printing practices
3. Utilise on-demand printing
Printing in response to demand reduces excess printing and minimises the need for large printing runs. This is just one way to reduce energy consumption and waste, aligning more with a sustainable approach to direct mail.
4. Make use of data analytics to target recipients
If companies are able to utilise data analytics for their direct mail campaigns, they will be able to refine mailings to even more specific demographics. This ensures the promotional materials reach those most interested in the content, but also reduces the volume of unnecessary printed material.
5. Encourage recycling of direct mail
Another way direct mail can promote more environmentally sustainable practices is by encouraging recipients to recycle the direct mail materials after they’ve been read. This is a simple step businesses can take to minimise the environmental impact of direct mail and divert waste from landfills. A simple, ‘Please recycle me’ on the direct mailer is all it takes.
Environmentally Friendly Direct Mail with DMS
At Direct Mail Systems, direct mail is everything to us. Our extensive experience and carefully selected team make us the best choice for your business. We can offer you a specialised service with the most premium equipment and technology, ensuring the best results for every mailer. We work across a range of industries which makes us equipt with extensive experience. Our experts will help to find the best solutions to your business’s individual needs, whether that be in the printing, postage or fulfilment process.