Eco-friendly Direct Mail

by Rich B

We believe that direct mail can be one of the most environmentally responsible channels of communications available to the modern marketer – even compared to the hidden environmental impact of digital (see here). But like any channel we use, it requires thought and effort to ensure it’s well targeted and to properly offset any environmental impact.

Direct mail is sometimes slammed on two fronts:

  1. It’s Junk (if it’s not targeted well enough)
  2. It’s environmentally harmful (it’s not been asked for therefore it’s a waste)

Both of which are closely linked and, interestingly, which are in everyone’s interests to mitigate – the marketer, the printer and the receiver.

environmentally friendly direct mail

Even the wrapper can be eco-friendly!

But the issue starts with the marketer. Marketers need to maximise their return on investment, and that means they need to closely understand their customers and make sure anything they send to them is relevant to the customer. If the mailing isn’t relevant to their customer, it’s not going to be effective. That’s not only a waste of their budget but can also damage their customer relationships.

Hence, reducing the amount of non-targeted mail is in the marketer’s best interest.

Of course, some businesses do employ a scattergun approach, mailing out information in a pretty unsophisticated way. Their hope is that they hit enough customers to make the approach worthwhile. But as technology advances and budgets become tightened, most marketers are working hard to make sure that every penny counts.

And the data and software tools are increasingly becoming available to increase the odds that any mailing is going to hit the mark. If the direct mail industry can do that consistently, then the term ‘junk mail’ may well be a thing of the past.

Setting this targeting issue aside, the fact is that Direct Mail does involve printing on paper or card and then distributing to customers. So it’s tempting to think that it must therefore be harmful whatever steps are taken. But that’s not actually the case.

Aside from interesting, biodegradable developments such as seed papers, the papers can of course be sourced from environmentally-responsible sources (FSC or PEFC certified suppliers for example) and  technologies such as vegetable based inks can be used to print with. These things all minimise the environmental impact.

And these days, it’s relatively simple to ensure this process is entirely carbon-offset and more trees are planted to replace the ones used. This includes the entire path of supply, from source to printer.

It’s also the case that the vast majority of the end-users now sort our paper for recycling at home. Which mean that arguably most of the DM that reaches the customer is now recycled and reused anyway.

The Direct Marketing industry itself is looking to further improve its green credentials. They have introduced the PAS 2020 environmental standard which aims to improve the environmental performance of direct marketing activities. That means, a campaign which conforms to PAS 2020 has to prove it has taken the environmental impact of all aspects of the campaign into consideration – maximising response rates, recyclability and reducing environmental impact of any printing, purchasing and distribution.

Direct Marketing is a tried, tested and effective method to market yourself in many sectors. Now it’s becoming greener and greener, and more and more targeted, and now we’re beginning to understand that digital marketing is not cost-free (environmentally-speaking) most of the objections to giving it a go are being swept away.

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