In its latest survey, called Trend Tracker, industry initiative Two Sides has collected data on consumer opinions in the field of paper vs. digital, which shows that an increasing number of consumers have reservations about forced digitisation in communication with public authorities and companies, but that the majority continue to believe that digital communication is environmentally friendly.
According to the survey, more than half (55 per cent) of consumers believe that the real reason for switching from paper to electronic bills and statements through a service provider is to save costs. This was up from 49 per cent in 2021, and even if consumers were forced to switch to digital, 62 per cent of respondents (up from 54 per cent in 2021) believe they should not pay higher fees for choosing a paper bill or statement.
The survey also found that 76 per cent of European consumers (up from 74 per cent in 2021) want to choose how they receive communications from financial organisations and service providers, whether in print or electronically. Ensuring choice in this regard not only supports consumer demand, but also ensures that those who do not have access to digital information are not disadvantaged, Two Sides says.
Some reservations about
digital communication remain
The Trend Tracker survey also reveals that consumers are concerned about the security of digital communications and that "digital downtime" are more important than ever. Some 56 per cent of European consumers are increasingly concerned that personal data stored electronically is at risk of being hacked, stolen, lost or damaged, according to other findings of the Two Sides survey. Almost half of consumers agreed that they spend too much time on digital devices and expressed concern that excessive use of electronic devices could harm their health.
However, according to the survey, the majority of consumers assume that digital communication is environmentally friendly. The environmental impact of digital communication is too often overlooked, Two Sides points out. Information and communication technology (ICT) accounts for 5-9 per cent of electricity consumption, which is more than 2 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If left untouched, the ICT footprint could rise to 14 per cent of global emissions by 2040, according to European Commission estimates. In Europe, the printing and paper sector is one of the lowest industrial greenhouse gas emitters at 0.8 per cent, according to the European Environment Agency Greenhouse Gases Data Viewer.
For Two Sides, print and digital are definitely complementary elements. "Print and digital are often compared in a bid to decide which is best, but both channels are important and complement each other,” says Jonathan Tame, managing director of Two Sides Europe. It is important here that consumers are not led to believe that digital communication is better for the environment than paper. The initiative criticises the fact that more and more brands and organisations across Europe are switching their customers from paper to digital communication for cost reasons, but justify this with misleading, unsubstantiated environmental messages. This is greenwashing, Two Sides complains.
The biennial Trend Tracker survey describes Two Sides as one of the printing and paper industry's largest studies of consumer preferences and perceptions of print, paper and paper-based packaging. The study surveys more than 10,000 consumers in 16 countries worldwide, from South America and the United States to South Africa and Europe.