Global Study: Most People Highly Value Paper and Print

the bottom line| USER STUDY

Global Study: Most People Highly Value Paper and Print

Recently commissioned by Two Sides, this consumer survey reports global attitudes toward paper and print, as well as toward corporate environmental claims.


      For the paper and print industries, global markets and consumer preferences remain widely diverse and difficult to predict—yet there is at least one major source of agreement: Around the world, people like and want print on paper. This is a central finding of a study gauging attitudes toward the use, attractiveness, and environmental sustainability of print and paper. The study was commissioned by Two Sides, a nonprofit association working to promote the responsible production and use of print and paper. (See sidebar for additional resources.)

To support its initiatives, Two Sides commissioned Toluna Inc. to conduct a 10-country survey in June, 2016 on The Attractiveness and Sustainability of Print and Paper. More than 7,000 consumers were surveyed globally to provideinsight into opinions on the environmental impacts of digital versus paper-based communications, and views on corporate initia-tives forcing people into digital-only communication by eliminating paper-based options.1,2,3,4,5,6 Survey data was split by five different age groups, from the age of 18 to 55 and over. Individuals working in the paper, printing, or allied industries were excluded from the survey.


Survey results showed that 88-91 percent of respondents agreed that, when responsibly produced, used and recycled, print and paper can be a sustainable way to communicate (see Fig. 1.) Likewise, 85-89 percent agreed that, when forests are responsibly managed, it is environmentally acceptable to use trees to produce products such as wood for construction and paper for printing.

These results were very similar across the countries and regions surveyed, suggesting that print and paper products are trusted as long as people believe they are manufactured and used responsibly. In other words, recycling and the use of sustainable forestry practices are likely important factors.

In general, people recognize the positive environmental attributes of paper, with 94-97 percent agreeing that recyclability is an important characteristic of environmentally responsible products. Likewise, 61-76 percent agreed that paper is basedon a renewable resource, and 86-94 percent agreed that new forest plantations are necessary to counteract global warming.

In the US and Europe, there is an opportunity to educate the public about sustainable forestry and the state of forests. Despite the fact that in both the US and Europe forest area has grown in volume in the past 50 to 60 years7,8, 74-76 percent of respondents believed that forests have stayed the same or decreased in size. Only 5-11 percent responded that they have increased in size. Concerns about forestry persist in all five countries or regions surveyed, with 73-78 percent of respondents being concerned about the effect on forests by the production of paper.

The majority of respondents did not know that paper is one of the most recycled products in their country or region, with recovery rates over 65 percent in all regions or countries surveyed. For example, 64-73 percent of respondents believed that less than 50 percent of waste paper is recovered for recycling, and only 5-9 percent believed it tops 60 percent.


There is consumer cynicism related to “go green” claims used by corporations and governments to promote electronic statements and services over paper-based communications. The majority of respondents (80-85 percent) receiving envi-ronmental claims such as, “Go Paperless – Go Green”, or “Go Paperless – Save Trees” believe companies are merely seeking to save costs (see Fig. 2.)

The percentage of respondents that question the validity of these claims ranged from 29 to 57 percent, with the highest responses being recorded in the US (57 percent) and the UK (50 percent), and the lowest in South Africa (29 percent).


In terms of reading preference and tactile experience, people prefer print on paper compared to reading from screen or electronic devices. The surveys showed that 64-80 percent of respondents agree that reading from paper is nicer than reading off a screen (see Fig. 3.) As well, 71-79 percent enjoy the tactile experience of paper and print and agree that, compared to other media, print on paper is more pleasant to handle and touch.

Results indicate that many consumers want to retain the choice of receiving paper statements at no additional cost. For example, 62-79 percent of respondents want the option to continue receiving printed information because it provides a more permanent record. Not surprisingly, 72-77 percent would be unhappy if they were asked to pay a premium for paper bills and statements.

In addition, a surprising 29-49 percent of respondents reported that they don’t have a reliable internet connection and want paper records. These results suggest that millions of people in all regions surveyed still rely heavily on print and paper for their communications. However, these results should be considered gross estimates, given that the survey was conducted online in all countries and regions.

In the UK, the US, and South Africa, 14-35 percent of respondents indicated that they have seen ads related to the effectiveness or environmental friendliness of print and paper. In Australia and New Zealand, 29-30 percent of consumers surveyed have heard about the environmental friendliness of paper and print. In all cases, the majority of respondents believe the information to be useful (81-92 percent) and credible (78-95 percent).



In the UK and the US, 2016 survey results were compared to results obtained in 2011 and 2013, and some positive trends emerged related to the overall environmental acceptance and understanding of print and paper.9,10,11 For example, when consumers were asked “Which is the most environmentally friendly way to read (print on paper or electronically)?,” the following differences were noted between 2011 and 2016:

• For books and magazines, a 2-4 percent increase in favor of paper.

• For newspapers and direct mail, a 6-14 percent increase in favor of paper.

There was also an 18 to 19 percent increase in respondents agreeing that print and paper can be a sustainable way tocommunicate when used and produced responsibly (2013 vs 2016).

Improvements in perception about paper and print may be due to consumer ad campaigns operating in the UK and the US focused on the sustainability and benefits of print and paper. These include the No Wonder You Love Paper campaign operating in Europe and the Paper and Packaging Board – How Life Unfolds campaign in the US.12 Between 2013 and 2016, US survey results show that roughly three times more respondents saw ads related to the effectiveness and sus-tainability of print and paper (35 percent in 2016 vs. 12 percent in 2013), and the large majority rated the ads as credible and useful.

In the US, a more detailed analysis of the data showed that younger age groups (under 45) had a stronger acceptance of digital media than older age groups (over 45), but there is a resistance to being unwillingly moved to online communica-tions. In addition, the level of awareness of 18- to 24-year-olds was generally lower than the overall survey results for questions regarding recycling and the state of forests.


There is a clear preference for print on paper across all countries and regions, likely indicating a more fundamental and human way that people react to the physicality of print on paper. Many prefer paper-based communications to digital options for a variety of reasons, including ease of reading, tactile experience, and a lack of internet access. These findings may also be partially explained by neuroscientific studies that have shown that our brains have a much more emotional and meaningful connection when we read on paper versus screens.13,14

The large majority of survey respondents recognize that paper-based communications can be a sustainable way to com-municate when produced and used responsibly. The concept of well-managed forests to produce forest products also seems to be accepted by the majority. However, concerns about environmental impacts still persist and should be addressed by more education on the industry’s progress and performance in the areas of sustainable forestry and recycling. The overall level of awareness for these topics was low in all countries and regions.

Phil Riebel is president of Two Sides North America, Inc. Other contributors were Martyn Eustace, Jonathan Tame, and Greg Selfe, Two Sides UK; Deon Joubert and Zama Zulu, Two Sides South Africa; Kellie Northwood and Victoria Fratin, Two Sides Australia; and Fabio Mortara, Two Sides Brazil.


1 Two Sides North America, 2016. The majority of U.S. consumers value paper and disagree with digital-only communications. Press Release, July 21, 2016.
2 Two Sides UK, 2016. Global Survey: Consumers still love print and paper but environmental misunderstandings persist. Press Release, July 28, 2016.
3 Two Sides Australia, 2016. Global Survey: Consumers still love print and paper but environmental misunderstandings persist. Press Release, July 2016.
4 Two Sides South Africa, 2016. Global Survey: Consumers still love print and paper but environmental misunderstandings persist. Press Release, July 22, 2016.
5 Two Sides UK and Toluna, 2016. The attractiveness and sustainability of paper and print – The UK consumer’s view. July 2016. .
6 Two Sides Australia and Toluna, 2016. The attractiveness and sustainability of paper and print – The New Zealand consumer’s view. July 2016.
7 European forests grew by a total of 44,160 km2 between 2005 and 2015 (UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 2015).
8 U.S. Forests have increased by 58% in wood volume and 3% in area over the past 60 years (USDA Forest Service, 2012).
9 Two Sides North America, 2012. Research Shows Americans Still Prefer Print and Paper Communications, but Misconceptions about Environmental Sustainability Remain. Press Release, January 13, 2012.
10 Two Sides North America, 2013. Most U.S. Consumers Want the Option to Receive Paper Bills and Statements. Press Release, July 31, 2013.
11 Two Sides UK and Toluna, 2013. Paper bills and statements – a real necessity in a digital world. July 2013. .
13 Two Sides North America, 2015. Neuroscience Shows Benefits of Paper.
14 Two Sides North America, 2015. Studies Show Consumers Embrace Information on Paper with Greater Effect than Digital.

Two Sides Offers Resources

Two Sides is a global independent, nonprofit organization created to promote the responsible production, use, and sustainability of print and paper. Its members span the entire print and paper value chain, including forestry, pulp, paper, inks, and chemicals, pre-press, press, finishing, publishing, printing, envelopes, and postal operators. Two Sides is active globally in North America, Europe, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, and Colombia.

In recent years, Two Sides has successfully coordinated a global antigreenwash campaign that has resulted in more than 165 corporations—including many Fortune 100 companies—removing from their communications slogans like “Go Paperless – Go Green” or similar anti-paper claims often used to promote lower cost electronic services and products.

One of Two Sides’ trademarks is its series on “Myths and Facts about Print and Paper,” which is summarized in a booklet available in several languages. The booklets—plus other materials such as fact sheets and infographics related to the sustainability of print and paper—are available at the various country websites listed below:

Australia –

Brazil –

North America –

South Africa –

United Kingdom –

Fig. 1 Fig. 2 Fig. 3 Survey findings may be partially explained by neuroscientific studies that show our brains have a much more emotional connection when we read on paper.