Direct mailers need to stay on the front foot

The proactive approach to dealing with playground bullies, “hit them before they hit you”, could be an aphorism applied to the direct mail industry’s relationship with the Government in regard to environmental waste.

Russell Parsons
Russell Parsons

I will just clarify that I am not accusing the Government of bullying, or the industry of being bullied, but in exceeding the recycling targets set by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) the direct mail industry has signalled its intention to stay on the front foot.

To recap, a report by the Direct Marketing Association and Royal Mail claims that 76.5% of direct marketing material is now recycled, ahead of the 2009 target of 55% agreed between the industry and DEFRA in 2003.

Even more impressively, the recycling rate also beats the 2013 target of 70%.

Heady stuff and something of which the industry should be proud.

The industry has launched a number of initiatives since 2003. Environmental standard PAS2020, the Royal Mail’s Sustainable Mail initiative and the expansion of the DMA best practice guidelines to cover environmental impact have all contributed to the success to date.

Subscriptions to the Mail Preference Service have increased by 21% since 2003, to more than 4.5 million householders, while almost 200,000 households have joined unaddressed mail opt-out schemes.

All of this has been supported by improved analytics that has led to better targeting.

Much has been done but the nation’s propensity to cry foul when it comes to the perceived barrage of what it is derided as “junk mail” – as demonstrated by the outcry that accompanied the lifting of the limit on the number of unaddressed mail items Royal Mail postal workers can deliver – means there is still plenty to be done.

The DMA, Royal Mail and DEFRA have agreed a new “responsibility agreement” that will aim to further improve targeting, suppression and recycling.

Clearly local authorities and other producers and deliveries of direct mail also have their part to play, but the main players need to stay ahead of expectations to show consumers that they are serious about their responsibilities, or otherwise their brands will suffer.

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