HONORABLE MENTION – Canada Post awards 2022. Below is our submission.

Sustainability Leadership Through Research, Sharing Information and Action

Prime Data has taken a comprehensive approach on a number of fronts in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions created by the production of direct mail.

As a foundation for our strategy in 2021 Prime Data chose to better understand the GHG emissions of our mostly widely produced direct mail – letters for charitable fundraising. We conducted a study of the GHG emissions from our employee’s commute to work, our facility, the paper we use, the trucks we engage to deliver mail to Canada Post Gateway, as well as the GHG emissions reported by Canada Post in their annual report.

This GHG Inventory report (available here) forms the basis for our understanding of the relative emissions in various parts of the production process. We’ve incorporated this into a sector-wide information sharing initiative. We’ve created a short video to introduce the subject on YouTube and posted it on our website, across social media channels LinkedIn, Facebook as well as emailing the study to our clients and contacts in the charitable direct mail sector. We’ve also been panelists, presenting it live to industry organizations such as NAMMU and the Sustainable Mail Group for discussion and peer-review. We’ve also shared it with our European customers who are already a bit ahead of North America in their approach to reducing emissions. We hope that by sharing this widely, we can encourage discussion and further research into this area that will result in a better understanding of the best ways to reduce emissions in direct mail production.

We’ve already planned a series of three other reports to be published in 2022:

  • How much GHG emission does it take to raise a dollar for a charity? A comparative approach to understanding email and printed mail GHG emissions in the context of non-profit fundraising.
  • What steps can be taken to reduce the GHG emissions of direct mail? A practical approach to assessing your choices when choosing paper, print and the use cases of direct mail.
  • What could we do in a year to lower the GHG emissions of our work? Prime Data takes on the challenge of lowering in-plant emissions and providing lower emissions options to it’s clients and assesses the impact after 12 months.

To become more engaged in sector-wide issues, the president of Prime Data, Steve Falk, joined the Sustainable Mail Group and volunteered as the Chair of the Communications Committee. In this role, he will liaise with leaders in the sector interested in sustainability issues and also be moderator of the LinkedIn channel for this group, assist with the growth in membership and the promotion of events, and the writing and production of the quarterly newsletter.

With this as a baseline, we plan to chart our ability to reduce emissions in 2022. It’s very likely we can reduce emissions by 22% in 2022, which is our goal. It’s also our goal to positively affect not only our own practices but those of our clients, other members of the sector and our vendors too. And that includes Canada Post!

We’ve already taken some in-plant steps to reduce energy use.

  • Lighting has been changed to LED’s from incandescent bulbs
  • Installed weather stripping and timed thermostats to improve consumption.
  • Upgraded existing weather stripping on doors
  • Installed dock door cushions and air curtains to reduce heat loss in winter.
  • Encouraging our staff to work remotely whenever possible is also a way of reducing the GHG emissions impact of the daily commute to work.

The next steps will be helping our clients select paper stock that has the lowest GHG emissions released during production. The inventory study we conducted showed that over 85% of the emissions were from the paper. We will be encouraging our customers to have lower GHG options in their paper selection since this is the area which will have the fastest impact. Helping our customers with options that will allow them to choose papers with higher post-consumer content is part of the process. Our customer-facing staff and project managers are being trained to understand that there are options and that we have a goal to reduce our carbon footprint by 22% in 2022.

Our proposals and estimates will start showing the GHG emissions of selected paper stocks as well as the usual weights, thickness and size. And, when available, we’ll be suggesting alternatives with lower GHG emissions so that clients have choices. We will also be adding the estimated GHG emissions of the fundraising direct mail (DM) pieces we produce on quotes and proposals with the hope that this information will help to change attitudes and practices.

We’ve also researched GHG Offset Credit options that would allow a customer to purchase offset credits against the estimated emissions from their mail. These discussions will be initiated with our larger clients in 2022.

We’ve had a successful start and we’ve got an ambitious target for the coming year. Prime Data is proud to be actively showing leadership through research, information sharing and action toward reducing GHG emissions in the direct mail sector.