Phone Book Industry Makes Environmental Advances, Still Needs Improvement in Sustainability
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Posted by: Suzy Whalen
Product Stewardship Institute Report Card outlines industry best practices, grades directory publisher performance
Boston, Mass. — Is the telephone book – once a common and useful tool in every household – still around? Even in the digital era, the answer is yes. And in the past year, telephone directory publishers took steps to reduce the environmental impacts of their products. But they continue to fall short in key areas, according to a new report card published by the nonprofit Product Stewardship Institute (PSI).
The 2015 Sustainability Report Card of Telephone Directory Publishers evaluates 13 publishers against benchmark best practices on three categories of sustainability: providing easy access to opt-out programs (i.e., the ability to choose not to receive a phone book), using sustainable paper and ink, and supporting recycling programs. All 13 publishers allow residents to opt out of receiving directories, and 12 facilitate opt-out awareness by promoting it on the covers of their print directories or on their websites. The Berry Company and Names and Numbers provide financial support for community recycling infrastructure, and Dex Media, Local Edge, and Hagadone Directories claim to use 40% or higher recycled content paper. Even so, 7 out of 13 publishers still received grades of D+ or lower for shortcomings in sustainability and transparency.
“PSI applauds those phone book publishers who took the initiative to improve their sustainability practices,” said Scott Cassel, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of PSI. “Unfortunately, many publishers have not lived up to their corporate social responsibility to reduce paper waste by fulfilling all opt-out requests, using recycled-content paper, and contributing financially to recycling programs, all of which would decrease greenhouse gas emissions that impact climate change.”
The 2015 report card expands upon PSI’s first Sustainability Report Card published last year. This year, PSI compiled information from publishers’ websites, phone calls and emails to industry representatives, print directories from across the country, and the Local Search Association’s (LSA’s) 2014 Sustainability Report. Unfortunately, despite repeated appeals from PSI and a petition to the industry signed by over 5,400 residents requesting greater transparency and improved environmental practices, only 2 out of 13 publishers responded to PSI’s requests for information. Dex Media and Hibü/Yellowbook instead referred PSI to the LSA Sustainability Report; both of these publishers, as well as LSA, denied requests for more information to address the report’s unsubstantiated claims.
“The reality is that in this digital age, many consumers turn to the Internet rather than phone books for communication information. A huge number of unwanted phone books are ending up in the trash every year - an unnecessary waste of our resources and our time,” said Natalie Nava, Community Engagement Associate at the Story of Stuff Project. “Phone book producers have a huge role to play in helping to reduce this waste stream by allowing people to opt-out of receiving phone books easily and conveniently.”
In its report card, PSI highlights the successes – and limitations – of publishers’ attempts to make yellow pages more sustainable, including:
- 11 publishers provide links to opt-out programs on their website, but without reliable tracking systems, many people continue to receive phone books despite opting out.
- 7 publishers claim they use recycled-content paper, but only four specify a percentage.
- 3 publishers use paper from “sustainably managed forests,” but none identify a specific certification program (such as Forest Stewardship Council certification).
- 10 publishers list recycling information on their website or books, but only two provide financial support for recycling infrastructure.
“PSI’s report card shows directory publishers have a clear responsibility and many opportunities to further reduce their environmental impacts through the increased and reliable use of recycled paper, and paper with credible certification of responsible forestry,” said Joshua Martin, Director of the Environmental Paper Network. “Today, leading companies that put their brand on large volumes of paper and packaging know that what’s in your paper matters, and it’s an essential question to consumers.”
Looking to learn more? See PSI’s fact sheet as an introduction, or read the full Report Card.
About the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI)
The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) is a national, membership-based nonprofit committed to reducing the health, safety, and environmental impacts of consumer products across their lifecycle with a strong focus on sustainable end-of-life management. Headquartered in Boston, Mass., PSI takes a unique product stewardship approach to solving waste management problems by encouraging product design changes and mediating stakeholder dialogues. With 47 state environmental agency members, along with hundreds of local government members from coast-to-coast, and 110 corporate, business, academic, non-U.S. government, and organizational partners, we work to design, implement, evaluate, strengthen, and promote both legislative and voluntary product stewardship initiatives across North America. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.