Google’s Go Paperless initiative has come under fire from a campaign led by the paper industry which accuses the search engine business of greenwashing and breaking federal trade regulations.
Two Sides, which represents companies in the forestry, pulp, paper and printing sector, has sent an open letter to Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt calling on the company to reconsider its Go Paperless in 2013 campaign which it claims is promoting its services as environmentally preferable to print.
The program – which sees Google partnering with Fujitsu as well as the companies behind the online services HelloFax, HelloSign, Manilla, Expensify and Xero – launched at the start of the year.
And Two Sides claims the search engine giant is making “spurious and unattributed” environmental claims.
“Such greenwash marketing is not only damaging to corporate reputations but also increasingly, we consider, in flagrant disregard of advertising standards such as those of the US Federal Trade Commission and Defra [in the UK],” said the open letter.
“We read with some incredulity the news of Google’s encouragement to consumers to ‘Go Paperless in 2013’. This initiative is accompanied by pictures of trees and US recycling data that presumably is intended to highlight the environmental benefits that will arise from ‘going paperless’.
“While the products and services delivered by Google are to be admired, this new initiative is clearly another example of a self-interested organization using an environmentally focused marketing campaign to promote its services while ignoring its own impact upon the environment.”
Two Sides points out the significance of Google’s own environmental impact, citing its power use, emissions from Google searches, using Gmail and watching YouTube – and the power used in data centres in general.
According to the group, which represents firms in 12 countries, reading printed documents can be more environmental friendly than reading on screen, if pages are read more than once or by several people.
It also points out that paper is made from wood, which is a sustainable and renewable product. In the US more trees are grown than are harvested and forest cover in Europe is now 30% larger than in 1950, it says.