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Quadriga Thought Leadership
Ideas & Insights Series
Sustainability Gets a Green Light in the Direct Marketing Industry
It made sense for the Canadian Wildlife Fund (CWF) to conduct an assessment of its total
carbon footprint: clearly its biggest fans – donors who care deeply about preserving the
planet’s animals – also care about conservation and ecology on a holistic and global scale.
So the CWF tackled the exercise to determine its total operation and environmental impact,
knowing that there would be clear demands for improvement.
The results led the CWF, among other measures, to reduce travel by arranging more
centralized meetings, better target direct mail recipients to reduce over-mailing, offer
monthly giving options to further cut down paper usage, install additional solar units in the
central office, and ramp up internal recycling efforts among all departments throughout the
organization. The efforts have paid off not just in a sense of better corporate responsibility,
but in improved donor communication and positive donor response.
The CWF’s commitment to improved internal sustainability practices and more
environmentally efficient marketing campaigns highlights a vocal call to action for all direct
marketers. The industry makes its bread and butter on massive quantities of paper being
printed and mailed, but worldwide is increasingly called upon to address ways to recycle,
reuse and reduce both energy and product. Even with the growing reliance upon digital
marketing channels, direct mail continues to grow, now accounting for more than 30
percent of advertising spending annually in the United States.
While direct mail pieces account for only 2.4% of the total solid municipal waste generated
annually in the U.S., the production of direct mail packages is fraught with processes that
traditionally have been energy and product wasteful. Everything from the use of airfreight,
to the energy used in paper production to neglecting to instruct consumers (donors) to
recycle is ripe for scrutiny.
The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) provides a comprehensive resource center to help
the industry identify ways to reduce carbon emissions and increase recycling. The DMA’s
“Recycle Please” and “Green 15” programs offer strategies for all industry partners –
marketers, fundraisers and suppliers.
Many individual companies that work with nonprofit organizations also have taken a lead
role in making fundraising more environmentally conscious. For example, Quadriga Art,
LLC, a global direct marketing provider, implemented a Sustainable Production Initiative
that addresses conservation in all phases of a marketing campaign. The company’s
manufacturing plants have energy efficiency retrofits, there is limited reliance on airfreight,
and clients are provided certified paper choices and recyclable premiums made from
natural, biodegradable or renewable materials.
Some direct marketing providers, such as Xpressdocs, have worked to earn the Chain of
Custody certification from the Forest Stewardship Council, considered to have the world’s
strongest system for guiding forest management toward sustainable outcomes. Xpressdocs
not only incorporates recycled papers and environmentally friendly inks, the company
continually inspects every aspect of its business in order to remain as environmentally
responsible as possible. Measures include reducing paper and metal waste and solid and air
pollutants, and decreasing its carbon footprint through low-energy lighting and state-of-
Sustainability has taken a backseat the past few years as direct marketers and nonprofits
struggled through the weakened economy. However, more consumers than ever are
demanding evidence of “green” operations with everyone they do business with, including
the charities they support. A direct mail fundraising piece without a “please recycle” logo is
distasteful to today’s donors, who are apt to ask how many trees were cut down for the
Therefore, direct marketers are once again acknowledging the reality that their campaigns
are not only viewed as wasteful, but damaging to the earth as well, and are ramping up their
efforts to go green. The industry is not alone: Gartner, the world's leading information
technology research and advisory company, predicts that sustainability will jump to the top
of all corporate concerns between now and 2015, becoming one of the top five priorities for
60% of major Western Europe and North American organizations. Green marketing is no
longer considered a fad; it has become an integral part of best practices for most major
corporations, and eventually will be equally embraced among direct marketing
There are multiple resources, including the DMA and U.S. Postal Service, for direct
marketers and nonprofits seeking strategies to reduce waste and conserve energy. Most
direct marketing companies have implemented the most obvious measures, such as printing
on both sides of paper, allowing customers to opt out of mailings, and designing recyclable
mailings with water-based inks, uncoated paper stocks and windowless envelopes.
But the efforts and execution must go deeper and penetrate all operations of the
organization. Organizations must become skilled at regularly purging and updating their
mailing lists to reduce duplication and waste; using research to more effectively target
donors; and making sure that their sources are from forests managed with practices
certified by independent, third-party organizations such as the Sustainable Forest Initiative
and the Forest Stewardship Council.
Addressing environmental concerns throughout the design and production process of a
campaign will optimize the environmental impact of your direct marketing operations.
IWCO Direct, a provider of integrated direct marketing strategies, suggests the following
measures to eliminate waste in a fundraising campaign:
1. Coordinate and communicate. Make sure that creative and production staffs work
closely with your printer to make optimal use of the press sheet or roll. Ask printers
for recommendations on changes that can reduce paper waste.
2. Consolidate as you create: Consider all components of each direct mail package and
look for ways to incorporate multiple components on one sheet.
3. Keep an eye on production timelines: If art files arrive late, printers are often forced
to use less efficient equipment or sheet sizes in order to meet deadlines.
4. Carefully manage your inventory: See if you can use aging inventory for make-
readies. Also, look to a total package supplier that will recycle make-ready rolls
between press, personalization and bindery to reduce paper waste.
5. Scrub your mailing lists: Data cleansing and address hygiene processes are measures
that decrease the amount of undeliverable-as-addressed mail, reduce paper waste
and save postage costs.
At face value, adopting multi-channel marketing strategies will improve sustainability by
reducing paper demand and print volumes; however, a disciplined lifecycle analysis of true
environmental impacts will illuminate new sources of environmental impact that stem from
the digital marketing mix. While paper is a renewable resource that uses a high percentage
of renewable energy in its production, digital media is heavily reliant on fossil-based energy
production from coal and natural gas. The multi-channel shift and the resulting "e-waste"
from digital devices requires marketers to double down on their commitment to taking a
holistic, data-led approach to measuring and mitigating lifecycle environmental impacts.
Green ordering and online proofing are other conservative measures, reducing energy and
product demands and boosting efficiency.
Personalization – targeting messages to donors’ desires – allows organizations to print
fewer but more relevant pieces, reducing waste without reducing brand impact.
Ultimately, even the smallest changes can go a long way to ensure that campaigns are more
sustainable and less wasteful. Even the commitment to evaluate direct mail quantities is a
good start, providing organizations with data they can use to create a more balanced and
less wasteful marketing program.
The CWF continues to evaluate additional ways to improve its sustainability. It has even
taken conservation efforts beyond its own corporate walls by supporting and maintaining
natural walking trails adjacent to its facility so people can enjoy walks with wildlife and
nature. The CWF’s commitment and comprehensive approach to sustainability is a solid
example of how organizations – which seek donors who want to make a difference in the
world – can also be a vehicle for making a difference in the world.
About Quadriga Art, LLC: Quadriga Art, LLC is a global company providing nonprofit
organizations, fundraising agencies and commercial brands with innovative direct
marketing campaign solutions that produce extraordinary results. For more than seventy
years, Quadriga Art has helped clients raise money and create connections. The breadth of
Quadriga Art’s services and work spans 25 countries, and more than a billion of its direct
marketing packages reach targeted prospects, donors and consumer markets annually. The
company has more than 3,500 employees in offices New York, New Jersey, Maryland and
Amsterdam. Honour China, Quadriga’s world-class manufacturing facility, is ISO 9001
Certified. More information about the company is available at www.quadrigaart.com or by