DMA Tells Members to Ignore ForestEthic's Environmental Survey

The Direct Marketing Association is urging its members not to respond to a questionnaire distributed by environmental organization ForestEthics.

The survey, Environmental Exam for Catalogs, was mailed in October to catalogers and features 30 questions about the type of paper they use and their efforts to introduce recycled-content stock.

DMA president/CEO John A. Greco Jr. sent a letter Tuesday to Jim Ford, policy director at ForestEthics, informing him of the decision. According to the letter, the DMA believes the questionnaire doesn't take into account the numerous ways in which catalogers demonstrate environmental responsibility. An example would be the elimination of undeliverable addresses from their mailing lists.

The DMA decided to write the letter because it had received calls from several members expressing concern about the type of information the survey was seeking.

“Many catalog companies, in particular, have long-standing relationships and work cooperatively with a variety of environmental groups. Further, many companies have embarked on programs that track the sourcing of materials, improve air and water quality, and increase the use of recycled content,” Greco wrote.

The DMA also is concerned that the questionnaire asks companies to reveal sensitive information that they might not want their competitors to possess. Also, the letter expressed the DMA's concern that the United States needs to increase its rate of paper recovery — which stands at 50 percent — to ensure a reliable and affordable supply of recycled paper.

“This questionnaire does not present a full picture of the earth-friendly practices that marketers employ and their benefits to the environment,” Greco wrote. “As such, the DMA believes that this questionnaire is the wrong approach for gauging marketers' commitment to the environment.”

Tzeporah Berman, program director at ForestEthics, expressed disappointment with the DMA's decision and took issue with one of Greco's statements. A 50 percent recovery rate “is enough to dramatically increase the percentage of recycled fiber in catalogs today,” Berman said. According to Berman, the issue is that recycling mills are going out of business because there isn't enough demand for recycled paper.

Many catalog companies that received the survey have responded, Berman said. The results will be tabulated and a general analysis, as well as grades for the companies that participated, will be published in the near future.

“The point of the survey is to see just how much is changing and to encourage other companies to take action on these issues,” Berman said.

To read the survey, go to

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