Guest blog: Making customer communications greener

Guest blog by Lucy Klinkenberg-Matthews, Head of GRC (South) and Sustainability, Paragon Customer Communications

Guest blog by Lucy Klinkenberg-Matthews, Head of GRC (South) and Sustainability, Paragon Customer Communications

Sustainability has never been of greater importance to businesses, with the coronavirus pandemic only having served to underline the need for change. Lucy Klinkenberg-Matthews, Head of Sustainability for Paragon Customer Communications, talks about some of the key aspects of creating greener customer communications.

The World Economic Forum has used this unprecedented moment to once again stress that we all must now start “laying the foundation for a green, circular economy that is anchored in nature-based solutions and geared toward the public good”.

This plea follows the WEF’s Global Risk Report 2020 which saw climate-related issues dominate all of the top five long-term risks in terms of likelihood. “Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation” is this year’s number one long-term risk by impact and number two by likelihood, as per the report. Alongside the risks, the next decade brings tremendous opportunity.

Consumers are already stepping up to the appeal to do better. In McKinsey’s recent sustainability survey, 57% of consumers said they have made significant changes to their lifestyles to lessen their environmental impact, and more than 60% reported going out of their way to recycle and purchase products in environmentally friendly packaging.

Consumers are demanding that enterprises do the same and think about the environmental impact of their business decisions.

Employees, too, continue to push for a world in which businesses and governments mirror that same commitment to society, putting people ahead of profits and prioritising environmental sustainability.

In one survey, three-quarters of millennials indicated they consider a company’s social and environmental commitments in deciding where to work, and two-thirds said they would not accept a job somewhere without a strong sustainability program.

Is your business ready for change?

Every business is on their own sustainability journey. Unlike consumers who can change their purchasing habits overnight, the lead time for enterprises is much longer. The first step is acknowledging that there’s no time like the present to take those first steps.

In the early 2000s, IKEA’s then-President, Anders Dahlvig, confessed that the company wasn’t ready, and didn’t really understand how to put sustainability into strategic context. But the company was thinking about environmental questions — and so it started, putting one foot in front of the other until making a bold commitment to reduce its carbon footprint in 2008.

Now, IKEA is able to set itself specific targets such as ensuring “all IKEA products [are designed] with new circular principles, with the goal to only use renewable and recycled materials in our products by 2030”.

How green are your customer communications?

Everything that your business does from here needs to be viewed through the lens of sustainability, ideally with specific and individual targets for each department.

Now, you might not have given much thought yet to the environmental impact of your customer communications. But the people on the receiving end of them – your customers – might be one step ahead of you and already considering whether or not they are environmentally friendly.

If an unsolicited piece of direct mail was to land on their doorstep, they might look down on it unfavourably, as opposed to just paying it no mind as they would have done previously.

So, as you set about reducing your carbon footprint, it’s vital that you are able to measure the carbon impact of your communications, shedding light on where improvement can be made and the size of those gains. You’ll need that transparency across your organisation and your supply chain.

That’s as true of digital communications as it is with print. While print is sometimes painted as the devil of the piece, it’s largely produced using sustainable materials, while playing a crucial part in the circular economy.

Digital, too, has a carbon footprint – a significant one at that. The carbon footprint of our gadgets, the internet and the systems supporting them account for about 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions, according to some estimates. And these emissions are predicted to double by 2025.

Mapping the carbon footprint of digital communications is much more difficult than print because the underlying technological systems are hugely complex and constantly shifting. But work is taking place to do just that with a degree of accuracy.

Taking that first step

If this has got you thinking about the sustainability of your customer communications, the first solid step towards delivering them more sustainably should start with:

1. Measuring the carbon impact of your communications and identifying hot spots, including unnecessary and surprise communications from legacy systems or duplicated comms across channels

2. Working with a communications partner with similar sustainability goals and the capabilities to deliver on them.

You’re not going to achieve sustainable communications overnight. However, you can take a big stride by letting your communications partner lead the way for you and help you to accelerate towards your goals.

For more information visit:


The views, opinions and positions expressed within guest blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the BSA.