Concerns about the environment are on the rise and consumers expect brands to be responsive to climate change, according to this article in the Wall Street Journal. For some, the direct mail marketing pieces they find in their postal mailboxes seem wasteful. Though the printing industry has made great strides in their efforts to be more environmentally friendly, the average consumer is not aware that most of the mail they receive is made from recycled paper. Many consumers vaguely connect direct mail pieces to deforestation. These often misguided perceptions can affect consumer attitudes about brands and impact sales.

A healthy percentage of U.S. consumers believe companies should reduce their impact on the environment. Millennials are especially concerned. 83% of millennials ages 18-34 say it is important to them that the companies with whom they do business align with their values. Your clients cannot ignore the connection between environmental stewardship and brand loyalty.

As a result, many organizations have adopted policies to lower the impact their company has on the environment. As a print/mail service provider, talking with your clients about how you can help them meet their ecological goals in a visible way could be a good customer retention strategy.

Some tactics for reducing mail's impact on the environment also decrease the number of pages or mail pieces manufactured. For an industry that gets paid for the volume they produce, mail piece reduction is a tough move to make. However, mail-producing organizations can take several steps that help their clients be more environmentally responsible while simultaneously supporting the long-term goal of encouraging the continued use of direct mail.

Here are a few tactics print/mail service providers can use to lessen the environmental impact of the mail they produce.

1. Target Better

Help your clients trim their mailing lists to exclude individuals unlikely to respond to the offer. Filter out unqualified prospects, remove deceased and incarcerated individuals, drop records with undeliverable addresses, and update the information for people who have moved.

Ask your clients for information about the customers in the mailing, such as each customer’s last order date and the average size of their order. Data such as this allows you to eliminate some names from the mailing list or to alter the offers according to client-specified criteria.

You can recover some of the revenue you forego from trimming the mailing list by offering billable data enhancement services that allow you to augment your clients’ mailing lists. Add data that allows you to segment and personalize the mail pieces, a move which will raise conversion rates. You can acquire data such as age, gender, estimated income, and home ownership from outside sources and append the information to the mailing list.

2. Reduce Size

Use less paper by reducing the size of the mailers or inserting less content in the envelopes. Find ways to turn flats into letters or letters into postcards. Move some information online and add QR codes to allow consumers easy access to the details that you’ve removed from the mail piece.

You can lessen the paper used for each mail piece by reducing page counts or by switching to selective insert processing or digitally printed onserts. Remove courtesy reply envelopes for customers who sign up for auto-pay. Another tactic is turning two mailings into one using techniques such as householding or transpromo.

Sometimes simply reducing font sizes, narrowing margins, or re-wording boilerplate text can shorten a mail piece by an entire page. Each recipient’s envelope should contain only materials relevant to them. Over time, the savings in paper, envelopes, and other environmental effects of smaller mail pieces add up.

3. Highlight Efforts

Let customers and prospects know the marketer has taken the environment into account in the design and reach of their direct mail campaigns. Tell them what other environmental steps the company has taken. Give them an opportunity to opt out of future mailings or switch to electronic delivery. Encourage them to recycle the mail pieces after they are finished with them.

Your clients are thinking about how to improve their environmental reputations. The direct mail campaigns and transactional documents your company manages for them can play a part. With just a few eco-conscious adjustments, you can help clients reach their environmental goals while still maintaining (or in many cases improving) the ROI on their direct mail campaigns.

Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants creates content for the document industry and helps document operations build and implement strategies for future growth and competitiveness. Learn more about his services at and Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, or send him a connection request on LinkedIn.