The spectre of eTree is casting a far smaller shadow over the printing industry than first expected, despite Computershare and Landcare Australia boasting that the initiative has doubled in size since its inception earlier this year.
The new scheme encourages major corporates to communicate with the shareholders electronically rather than through print, and was estimated that it will gouge around $300m of print from the struggling national printing industry.
In advance of the official launch of eTree in March 2004, 14 of Australia’s top corporates, representing 5.5 million shareholders, joined as foundation members and agreed that, as part of their membership, they would donate $2 for every shareholder who gave their permission for the company to send all documents electronically.
Since the launch four months ago, eTree has more than doubled in size in terms of participating companies, with 41 Australian listed companies on board, but fallen well short of a blanket switch from paper to electronic communication, with only slightly more than 150,000 shareholders giving their permission for e-communication. Still, 150,000 is a sizable amount of print.
While this has translated into the planting or planned planting of around 500,000 trees, it still creates a potentially growing earnings drain on the printing industry. Computershare expects that many more companies and shareholders will follow suit over the next year or two.
The tragic situation is that much of the Australian printing industry already sources its paper from suppliers that utilise pulp from renewable or recycled resources. It has been proven that the growing of plantation timber to create such papers is actually beneficial to the environment, so in reality, this exercise can be seen, and is seen by the industry’s major bodies, as being counter-productive.