For
30 years now–yes, it has been that long–we have all heard about how the shift
to personal computing would lead us to the nirvana of the paperless office.
Since the creation of the Internet, we have heard about how networks would cut
down on direct mail marketing and how cutting down on the use of paper would
inevitably be good for the environment, with less trees destroyed for paper and
less waste clogging landfills.

Well,
paper has stubbornly maintained a role in the office, though its use is finally
starting to decline, and direct mail has continued to play a very viable role
in many companies’ marketing strategies and for good reason. That said, there
can be no doubt that waste in direct mail can have a significant impact on the
environment. By some estimates, as much as four million tons of unwanted direct
marketing material is deposited in landfills every year. And while that might
represent less than one percent of the total, it is still a lot.

So
what to do? Consider this. According to a British study, in the first six
months of 2008, 53 percent of all households received mail addressed to
somebody who had moved or died. In total, according to the study, more than 100
million pieces of misaddressed mail were delivered a year. And the numbers get
worse. As much as 30 percent of all mail sent has an error in the address, by
some estimates. The local knowledge of the postal delivery person can
compensate for some of these mistakes.

So
in addition to all its other benefits (80 percent of consumers say they are
more likely to do business with companies that cut down on unwanted mail, for
example), high quality mailing list data is good for the environment. While
there are many obstacles in the way of generating high quality data, the good
news is that most direct marketers are aware of their responsibility to the
environment. Improving the quality of their mailing data is an important step
in their efforts to go green.

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