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Read the facts below to learn more about consumer preferences and choice related to paper-based communications, and how increased digitization is negatively affecting many people.

The Digital Divide

In the U.S. in 2018, internet adoption gaps remain based on factors such as age and education. Those with less than high school graduation, 65% used the internet compared to 84% for high school graduates and 97% for college graduates. For those 65 years and older, 66% used the internet compared to 87% for ages 50-64 and 97% for the younger age groups.

Source: Pew Research Center, 2018. – http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/internet-broadband/ 

Impacting the most vulnerable

The CRTC’s 2016 Communications Monitoring Report (CMR) shows that lower-income households are spending three times more on broadband expenditures, as a percentage of their annual income, than the average Canadian household.

Source:  CRTC, 2016. – https://crtc.gc.ca/eng/publications/reports/rp1612221/rp1612221.htm

Not everyone can afford home internet

In the U.S., 45% of adults with annual incomes of less than $30,000 were home broadband users. This compares to 67% for those with incomes between $30,000 and $49,999 and 87% for over $75, 000.  In Canada, 64.4% of families in the lowest income quintile (the 20% lowest earners) used the internet at home compared to a national average of 86.9%.

Sources:
Pew Research Center, 2018 – http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/internet-broadband/
CRTC, 2017 – https://crtc.gc.ca/eng/publications/reports/PolicyMonitoring/2017/cmr2017.pdf

Limited Internet Access

In the U. S., 58% of those living in rural areas are home broadband users compared to 67% in urban areas and 70% in suburban areas. In Canada, approximately 18% of households do not have access to fixed broadband Internet access services at the CRTC target speeds.

Sources:
Pew Research Center, 2018. – http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/internet-broadband/ 
CRTC, 2016. – https://crtc.gc.ca/eng/publications/reports/rp161221/rp161221.htm

Online fraud is a major issue in North America

In the U.S., there were 16.7 million victims of identity fraud in 2017, a record high that followed a previous record in 2016. Criminals are engaging in complex identity fraud schemes that are leaving record numbers of victims in their wake. The amount stolen hit $16.8 billion last year as 30 % of U.S. consumers were notified of a data breach, an increase of 12 % from 2016. For the first time, more Social Security numbers were exposed than credit card numbers.

Source:  Insurance Information Institute, 2018. – https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-identity-theft-and-cybercrime

Ulterior Motives

Most (71%) consumers agree that when they are told that switching from paper to digital is better for the environment, it is because the sender wants to save money.  73% agree that government, banks and other organizations want to persuade them to ‘go paperless’, but it’s not ‘paperless’ because they regularly have to print out documents at home if they want a hard copy.

Source: Toluna and Two Sides North America, 2017 – http://twosidesna.org/Survey2017

Sustainable communication

In a multimedia world, responsibly sourced paper and print can be a sustainable way to communicate. Paper is made from a natural resource that is renewable, recyclable and compostable. These features, combined with the North American paper industry’s advocacy of responsible forestry practices and certification, use of renewable, carbon-neutral biofuels and advances in efficient papermaking technology, make paper a product with inherent and unique sustainable features.

Source: Two Sides, 2018 . – http://twosidesna.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2018/06/Paper-is-one-of-the-few-truly-sustainable-products3.pdf 

Digital Exclusion

In Canada, consumer advocacy groups are taking aim at the telecommunications company, Koodo, for its 2018 decision to stop offering wireless customers the option of receiving a monthly paper bill. They argue that, even in the digital era, many Canadians, including seniors and low-income earners with no home internet, often require or prefer paper bills.

Source:  CBC, 2018. – https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/koodo-telus-paper-bills-seniors-piac-crtc-1.4703338  

Consumer's want choice

90% of survey respondents in the U.S. agreed that consumers should have the right to choose how they receive communications (printed or electronic) from financial organizations and service providers.  57% agreed that if a financial organization or service provider forced me to go paperless, they would consider switching to an alternative financial organization or service provider.

Source: Toluna and Two Sides, 2017 – http://twosidesna.org/Survey2017

Indigenous people are hardest hit

Broadband is vital, but key gaps in availability and adoption remain. The testimony of First Nations communities demonstrated that these are the most disadvantaged communities with respect to broadband Internet access.

Source: CRTC, 2016. – https://crtc.gc.ca/eng/publications/reports/rp161221/rp161221.htm

Is digital always more cost-effective

According to a case study by Danish company Natur-Energi A/S, new customers paid their bills significantly later if they receive their invoices by email, compared to physical mail. Natur-Energi also discovered that sending invoices via email increased their overall costs due to increased customer service costs, i.e. 59% of customers receiving e-bills had to be sent a reminder or contacted by phone, while only 29% of customers receiving the invoice via mail required a follow-up message.

Source:  Fresh Data, 2013. – https://twosidesna.org/US/Can-paper-bills-be-more-cost-effective-than-e-bills/  

Greewashing

As a result of a global education campaign led by Two Sides since 2012, over 1112 North America companies (and over 335 globally) have changed or removed misleading green claims (ex: go paperless – go green) used to promote electronic services over paper-based communications.  A majority of these companies are Fortune 500 corporations.

Source: Two Sides North America, 2018 – http://twosidesna.org/anti-greenwash-campaign/

Household paper recycling

A total of 65.8% of paper products were recovered for recycling in the U.S. in 2017.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that more paper products are recovered for recycling than any other material including plastics (9.5%), glass (27%) and metals (34%).

Sources:

American Forest & Paper Association, 2018. – https://www.paperrecycles.org/statistics/paper-paperboard-recovery
EPA, 2016. – https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-11/documents/2014_smmfactsheet_508.pdf 

The growing e-waste problem

In 2016, 44.7 million metric tons (Mt) of e-waste were generated globally.  The U.S. generated 11.3 Mt in 2016. The U.S. and Canada produce around 20 kg of e-waste per inhabitant per year and collect approximately 20% of the total e-waste generated.

Source:  International Telecommunication Union, 2017. – https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Climate-Change/Pages/Global-E-waste-Monitor-2017.aspx

Comparing environmental impact

ICT (Information and Communications Technology) greenhouse gas emissions relative contribution could grow from 1.6% in 2007 to over 14% of the global GHG inventory by 2040. In comparison, the combined pulp, paper & print sector is one of the lowest industrial emitters at 1% of the world’s GHG emissions.

Sources:
Belkhir, L. and A. Elmeligi, 2018 – http://www.electronicsilentspring.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/ICT-Global-Emissions-Footprint-Online-version.pdf
Ecofys, 2015 – https://www.ecofys.com/files/files/world-ghg-emission-flow-chart-2012_v9-c-asn-ecofys-2016_02.pdf

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