JULY/AUGUST 2012                                                                                              VOLUME 128, NO. 4.

editor's note...

It's OK to Print

by John O'Brien, Managing Editor

In case you missed it, Toshiba on June 4, at the 2012 Sustainable Brands conference in San Diego announced that it had dubbed October 23, 2012 as the first annual National No-Print Day (NNPD).

In a written PR statement accompanying the June 4 launch of NNPD, Bill Melo, vice president of marketing, services and solutions, Toshiba America Business Solutions, Inc., said, “We know that approximately 336,000,000 sheets of paper are wasted daily — that’s more than 40,000 trees discarded every day in America. We as individuals and companies are failing to make the link between printing waste and its negative impacts on our landfills, natural resources and the environment. For those reasons, Toshiba is leading the charge with NNPD to raise awareness of the role of paper in the workplace by not printing at all for one day.”

I’m not sure who appointed Mr. Melo judge and jury to preside over which sheets of printed paper are deemed “waste,” but you can bet they’re not the ones his memos are printed on.

So why would a company that sells printers, ink cartridges, toner, etc., devise such a campaign? Easy; to create the perception that Toshiba is a fall-on-the-sword type of environmental hero, and if they make a few extra bucks from their quasi-green image, well who’s really paying attention.

Editor’s note to Toshiba: According to Wikipedia, “greenwashing” is a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s aims and policies are environmentally friendly. Whether it is to increase profits or gain political support, greenwashing may be used to manipulate popular opinion to support otherwise questionable aims.

I have to admit I didn’t see the NNPD announcement at the time it came out, but thanks to paper industry related blogger, D. Edward Tree, who maintains the blog Dead Tree Edition, his June 10 blog “10 Questions About Toshiba’s No-Print Day” got my attention.

As you can imagine, in the weeks following the unveiling of NNPD, the printing industry was rapidly losing that loving feeling for Toshiba and Michael Makin, president and CEO of Printing Industries of America, had a ‘discussion’ with Bill Melo. Mr. Makin pointed out that Toshiba’s ill-conceived campaign was a condemnation of the entire printing industry and the over 800,000 people who are employed by it.

After the two men talked things out, Mr. Makin released an announcement to his organization’s members, stating, “Mr. Melo was quite ‘concerned’ with how the campaign had been received by the commercial printing industry and stressed it was never the intent of his company to disenfranchise or insult our industry. He explained that the campaign was always directed at the office marketplace where he opined there was needless waste.

“My retort to Mr. Melo was that if this was truly the case, his campaign should have been more specific. It was not promoted as “lets save office waste day” but rather National No-Print Day. I argued this was tantamount to having a ‘Do Not Walk’ day or ‘Do Not Eat’ day and that the grassroots response from our industry was only to be expected.”

A little over two weeks after NNPD was launched, Toshiba aborted the campaign. There are a number of lessons we can take away from all of this and here are a couple: 1) The masses aren’t so easily schmoozed anymore when it comes to self-righteous green campaigns from big companies, and; It’s OK to print — really!

John O'Brien can be reached at: jobrien@paperage.com

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