Are printed magazines a sustainable branding choice?

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Sustainable magazines

Printed magazines are fantastic branding tools. Consumers love the high-quality, tactile experience that stands apart from the ephemeral nature of digital media. But can they be a sustainable choice?

Printed magazines offer a sensory branding experience. They are fantastic keepsakes that can be kept and treasured for years. That’s why printed magazines have been embraced by purely digital brands, such as AirBnB and the online fashion retailer ASOS.

However, with sustainability creeping up the corporate agenda, can printed brand magazines be a sustainable choice that fits with organisational environmental values and objectives?

The problems with digital

Digital media is, by its nature, ephemeral. Brands have only fractions of seconds for their creative and brand messaging to cut through the digital noise of social media and make a connection with their audiences.

Further, digital isn’t a green option in itself. The ICT industry currently accounts for around three percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is predicted to rise to 14 percent of global emissions by 2040.

Why printed magazines work

Printed media has a unique way of connecting with audiences in our increasingly digital world. Research shows that readers prefer paper to digital versions. This preference is strongest with books, but it’s also high for magazines – 72 percent of readers say they prefer to read a printed magazine.

When we consider that paper is one of the most recycled materials in the world and that the European paper industry is responsible for the growth of European forests over the last two decades, its clear that magazines that are printed onto paper can be a fantastically sustainable branding choice.

How to ensure your printed magazines are sustainable

There are some choices that brand managers should make to ensure that their printed brand magazines are as sustainable as they can be.

First, there is a choice to make about paper. Choose paper with a high proportion of recycled content such as Navigator’s Eco-Logical 75 gm-2. The great news is that paper fibres can be recycled six or seven times over their lifetime. Using recycled paper is the norm. In 2018, paper sourced from recycled stock made up 53 percent of fibre used, with only 43 percent coming from virgin fibre.

The other important choice that brand managers must make is around special finishes. You should avoid anything that prevents the magazine being recycled. This includes mixed plastics, glue dots, glitter and some other specialist finishes. If in doubt, check with your printer. You should also look to use inks made from vegetable oil, rather than mineral oil.

Make sustainable choices around packaging and postage

In recent years, it has become common to wrap magazines in plastic in order to send them to consumers. This serves to protect the magazine, but it is not a sustainable choice. We know that plastic has a nasty habit of ending up in our oceans and our food chains.

Instead, brand managers should opt for more sustainable wrappings such as the gKraft paper one. One option is biodegradable starch-based film. This offers a durable, waterproof cover akin to a plastic wrap, but is compostable so it doesn’t cause the same problems as plastic.

However, not everyone can compost these wrappers. Instead, the greenest choice would be to opt for a paper envelope. This way, you protect your brand magazine and make it easy for consumers to recycle both the wrapper and the magazine when they are ready to.

You should also add a “recyclable” label to the outside of your magazine and your wrapper to explain how to recycle the items and encourage your audiences to do so.

The final step is to find a courier service that is committed to net zero. This should be a key part of any purchasing agreement. Look for clear evidence that the company has a defined road map and is delivering on its net zero goals. In the case of your delivery service, this will mean switching to electric vehicles, green “last hop” modes of transport, and ensuring renewable sources power their electric vehicles.

Printed brand magazines: the sustainable way to make an impact

By making the right choices about sourcing and partnerships, it’s easy to ensure that your printed magazines are a sustainable choice. It’s easier because paper is a natural material that already enjoys a strong closed loop process. With a few tweaks to your sourcing, finishing and packaging, you can ensure that your brand communications align with your corporate sustainability goals.

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