May 11, 2012
On Monday, the Local Search Association released the third annual sustainability report which examines the industry’s performance over the previous year with relation to its social, environmental and even economic impact. This year’s report was of particular interest considering all of the change occurring in the local search landscape on a nearly daily basis as well as the recent changes that occurred at publishing giant AT&T. How was the industry association going to address the perception of its primary product in the face of an increasingly environmentally conscious consumer base? Here are five observations that stood out in the 24 page document.
1) The Yellow Pages industry is highly committed to improving its “environmental image.”
We’ve all seen the now-common image on the internet of the soaked mound of directories still partially wrapped in plastic sitting outside of an apartment building. It’s become one of the standards of the anti-Yellow Pages bloggers who love to tout just how wasteful print directories are of our natural resources. To counter this, a good portion of the 2012 Sustainability report is dedicated to the industry’s environmental efforts. There are spotlight pieces on the efforts of SuperMedia, DexOne, R H Donnelly, and YellowPagesGroup.
2) Directories are being recycled.
According to a 2010 EPA study, the recycling rate on “newspapers/mechanical papers” is 71.6%. This is ahead of steel cans (67%), yard waste (57.5%), aluminum cans (49.6%), and glass containers (33.4%)—many of which have municipal (and even curbside) collection in American cities. According to the same report, only 20% of all electronic search-capable devices are currently recycled. It is important to note that Yellow Pages are now classified in the same category as newspapers by the EPA; previous reports considered PYP its own category—which amounted to less than 1% of the municipal solid waste stream.
3) Directories are more eco-friendly than meets the eye.
Print directories are manufactured using North American wood pulp, old newspapers, recycled phone directories, vegetable-grade inks, and even vegetable-based glue. That means that nearly every component of the directory is produced using either sustainable environmentally-safe resources or previously generated materials. In other words, directories that are typically produced and distributed annually are manufactured using materials that may be replaced naturally or efficiently.
4) Directory paper use is down by 9%.
Over the past two years, the industry has been committed to only delivering print Yellow Pages directories to consumers that want to receive them. Through the implementation of YellowPagesOptOut.com, a national industry-led website, consumers are able to choose which directories they would like to receive from a list of all available local publications. Apparently, those efforts are working and have helped to contribute to a reduction in the number of directories published.
5) The Yellow Pages industry is committed to improving the image of their product.
In recent years, the Yellow Pages industry has reacted to the claims of wastefulness from bloggers and environmentalists with all of the conviction of someone who was above the fray. There were advocates of the product that spoke on behalf of the industry but official rebuttals were few and far between. Yes, the industry reacted to the anti-Yellow Pages legislation that was proposed in both Seattle and San Francisco and managed to garner some press for the positive effects of the product but such efforts always felt a bit reactionary. With the third publication of this report, it would seem that the industry is really committed to talking about their efforts FIRST.
Some may argue that this report really doesn’t say anything of major import and, to some extent, those critics would be correct. What is important is that the sustainability report represents a continued shift in attitude and direction for an industry that was once predicted to be vanishing in the face of search engines and digital media. Once content to be the “only game in town” when it came to connecting local businesses and consumers, the industry is presenting itself as part of the discussion of environmental responsibility instead of a target. The Local Search Association is part of the solution and not part of the problem.
The entire Sustainability Report for 2012 may be viewed here.