Field: Google’s Paperless Push Is 'Irresponsible'

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The assertion that paper use automatically equals environmental damage is a tired argument and is no longer defensible. Marked improvement in paper and print manufacturing has redefined the impacts this industry has on the environment. Today's savvy consumers are not easily duped by unsubstantiated claims focused on vilifying an entire industry; particularly when those pointing the finger are positioned to reap monetary gain as a result.

Google Drive recently joined forces with HelloFax, HelloSign, Manilla, Expensify, Xero and Fujitsu ScanSnap in launching a campaign entitled "Go Paperless in 2013" under the guise of improving the environment. Many paper based industries are in an uproar over the move.

As a Montana based e-commerce commercial printing company, we have a vested interest in green printing practices and sustainability. We love our mountains, rivers, and gorgeous big skies. We are driven toward continuous improvement. We are 100% wind-powered; utilize vegetable-based inks, recycle, and lead the industry in sustainable operations.

We also are somewhat partial to paper. We take to task Google Drive, and the other chief players on the paperless crusade, for willfully ignoring the facts with regard to paper's sustainability and for their failure to address their own significant environmental impact. Why not launch a campaign we can all get behind, like "Go Green in 2013" which would address the whole picture, not just a narrow segment of usage?

The "Go Paperless in 2013" crusade has oversimplified what it means to be environmentally responsible. This good-guy, bad-guy routine is getting old. The reality is that both electronic and paper based industries can, and do, coexist in the business world.

Both impact the environment. Both need to work toward continuous improvement. Environmental responsibility does not mean that you are "paperless." In fact, an intellectually honest comparison of business communication methods will indicate that paper is often the more sustainable choice. The facts about the sustainability of paper are well documented in this open letter to Google Chairman of the Board and CEO Eric Schmidt. Get the full story behind how far the print industry has come in this informative flip book.

Yes, we agree; when it makes sense to go paperless, for example online banking, by all means do so. But don't overlook the fact that the energy your devices are consuming to check your account status multiple times are also having an impact on the environment.

The "Go Paperless in 2013" campaign lacks evidence and support for the entire strategy. It reminds me of an even less informed version of Toshiba's notoriously failed No-Print Day. Not only does the new "Go Paperless in 2013" campaign lack factual integrity, it smacks of insincerity. Each of the "Go Paperless" companies is positioned to reap financial benefits by shunning the use of traditional communication methods, like paper. If these companies are altruistically motivated, then why not focus on what their own industry is doing to take corporate responsibility for the multiple billions of kilowatt-hours of electricity they and their products consume per year?

As an e-commerce company, our relationship with Google is well-established and mutually beneficial. Google is a fantastic company that adds obvious value to businesses across all industries. However, their alignment with the "Go Paperless in 2013" campaign is curious. We are surprised by what we consider an irresponsible stand which flirts with violating the FTC's "Green Guides" that lay out rules for marketing environmental language and claims. With respect, we urge Google and their partners to seriously reconsider their campaign as its premise is flawed.

We are not cheerleading the waste of paper nor are we shunning the legitimacy of digital business solutions. However the declaration that going 100% paperless is the ultimate answer for businesses looking to be environmentally responsible is in itself irresponsible.

Andrew Field is the President and CEO of Montana-based and CNBC-YPO Chief Executive Network Member.

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