DMA to Sign New Defra Deal

by Michael on 31 August, 2011

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) is about to sign a new agreement with the Government in a bid to reduce the industry’s impact on the environment. The Voluntary Producer Responsibility Deal is the result of months of discussions between the DMA and Defra.

The proposed agreement reflects the current Government’s current targets to move towards a zero-waste economy and reduced carbon emissions. It will build on the success of a similar agreement with Defra in 2003, which set recycling targets for the direct marketing industry.

The detail on the DMA website is restricted to members, but here is some background and some statistics.

Sometimes, perception and reality can be some distance apart – direct mail currently accounts for just 0.4% of unrecycled waste, compared to say 9.2% for newspapers.

In 2003, the Direct Marketing Association and Defra agreed a target of 70% of direct mail to be recycled by 2013. The industry reached and passed this target in 2009, with 76% of direct mail being recycled. This in turn led to a new set of targets prior to 2013.

The DMA launched a new environmental standard, PAS 2020, specifically for direct marketing. It isn’t as rigorous as ISO 14001, but it is industry specific and so more focussed. And one of the new targets is that 40% of all direct mail is PAS 2020 compliant by 2014. The actual target for recycling is only slightly higher at 80%, and in fact the focus has switched to wastage reduction.

By wastage reduction, we mean better targeting and better use of suppression files such as the Mailing Preference Service (which now has 5 million people registered), but also better data cleaning to remove gone aways and undeliverables. The target is a 25% increase in the use of suppression files by 2014. PAS 2020 is part of a carbon reduction initiative, and the industry will develop carbon calculators by the end of 2014 to form the basis of the next agreement after that.

Of course, direct mail is a successful business, accounting for £16 billion in sales, employing 280,000 people and providing 25% of Royal Mail’s volume – and effectively subsidising the universal postal service.

This doesn’t make direct mail a good thing environmentally, but it is nothing like as harmful as common perceptions, and has done a great deal to get its house in order – and a lot of the source material is pulp left over from tree felling for other uses such as building, and nearly all is from sustainable or recycled resources. More trees are planted every year than felled in the UK, and a lot of this is down to the wider paper industry.

And for perspective, some comparisons:

  • Disposing of a year’s worth of direct mail for one person generates as much greenhouse gas as growing two and a half apples.
  • According to a Gartner study, the global IT industry, including email, generates as much greenhouse gas as the world’s airlines.
  • The total annual carbon footprint of direct mail per adult is 2.8 kg, which is the equivalent of driving 7.7 miles in a car or 34 seconds on a long haul flight.
  • Email has a carbon footprint of 21.2kg per annum for each UK web user.
  • On line search has a carbon footprint per annum of 10.6kg per search user.

Of course, email has much higher volumes, but it also has much lower opening rates.

Sources: Direct Marketing Association & Mail Media Centre

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