Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Sustainable mail service attracts plenty of takers

October 2009

More than 60 organizations have qualified to use a new ‘Sustainable Mail’ service provided by the UK’s Royal Mail.

To use the bulk mail service, customers must prove they meet social and environmental criteria such as the use of recycled and forest-certified paper in their mailings and the adoption of proper data management practices when they send items.

As an incentive to use the service, prices are lower than for normal bulk mailing – either two per cent cheaper for customers judged to be at ‘entry level’ against the criteria, or almost five per cent for those at a higher level.

Organizations that have recently qualified for the service include BHS, EDF Energy, National Grid, Oxfam and Standard Life Healthcare.

Royal Mail says more than 30 million direct mail items have been delivered through the new service, including catalogues from the home shopping company Lands’ End.
The requirements for the entry level are:

use of recycled fibre from recovered waste paper and/or virgin fibre sourced from a UK government-approved forest certification scheme in all paper products

good data practices’ such as the use of the Mailing Preference Service, which allows potential customers to refuse junk mail

recyclability of all paper elements of a mailing, including window and padded envelopes

a statement or logo, such as ‘recycle now’, on the outside of every mailing to encourage recycling.

Customers aiming for the higher ‘intermediate level’ need to prove that all printers, mailing houses or in-house mailing facilities used to produce a mailing have an environmental management system conforming to the ISO 14001 standard. They must not use ultraviolet varnish finishes or rubber-based adhesives and must state clearly on every item how the addressee can unsubscribe from such mailings for one year.

Matthew Neilson, Royal Mail’s head of environmental solutions, said the service was part of a corporate responsibility programme to encourage responsible behaviour in using the post.

But the company also believes the service will have direct business benefits by increasing its share of the direct mail market. Helping customers to improve their mail targeting should also reduce the number of undeliverable or returned items in the Royal Mail’s system, which will save the company money, he said.

Neilson added that the benefit for consumers should be that they receive more tailored marketing messages through the post and those that they do receive ‘will be very easy to recycle’. Firms that take part will find it easier to meet government targets on recycling.

Decisions on whether  companies comply with the necessary requirements are currently being made by an internal Royal Mail auditing team, but it is working with the Direct Marketing Association and the British Standards Institute to help develop a certification scheme ‘which will significantly reduce the need for internal audit’.

UK & NI Ireland | Product Responsibility

Further Information
3BL Media News
Sign up for Free e-news
Report Alerts
Job Vacancies
Events Updates
Best Practice Newsletter