Two Sides South Africa conducted its inaugural research project earlier this year and have now released the findings. This research, based on narrative or story-telling data collection, revealed the interesting but complex relationships that people have with paper and print. This qualitative research tested perceptions that South Africans have about print and paper and will form the basis for future quantitative research projects.
The key objective of this research was to find key and dominating insights into South African perceptions of paper. The amount of data collected via the stories told has led to the unearthing of a far more complex relationship that South Africans have with paper.
However, through the several sense-making sessions and catalysis processes undertaken, the findings were distilled into the following broad categories that encapsulate the most common themes and insights:
HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT
Very few stories revealed how paper is used in everyday life. The fact that we use paper, print and packaging in our homes and as an identifier for almost every retail product that we buy was not mentioned. Rather the stories linked paper to communication and learning almost exclusively.
It is clear that older people (over the age of 27) have a passion for paper that they feel they need to defend. They have an emotional connection with paper and, while being concerned about the environment, seem to have a deeper knowledge as to the sustainability of the industry.
Younger people have a purely functional relationship with paper. It is used as and when required as part of the communication, reading and learning mix.
WASTE AND RECYCLING
Younger people, in particular, are concerned about waste in all forms. Examples such as the wasting of food, time, and water were discussed and there appears to be a strong link between paper use and waste. Many stories talked about the use of paper as being wasteful but little or no discussion on the recyclability or the recycling of paper was evident.
PAPER AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Younger people more especially link paper to the cutting down of trees. Older people seemed better informed about the sustainability of managed plantations although deforestation remains a concern.
The majority of stories, when asked why corporates were switching from paper to electronic communication, seemed to see through the greenwashing by confirming that this was being done to save costs and not to help the environment. Some felt this was being done for convenience and reliability.
As was expected, the vast majority of stories talked of a strong preference for paper in reading, learning, archiving, and even to some extent, business to consumer communication. Social communication is almost exclusively electronic. Texting has trumped letter writing and even telephone calling as a convenient and instant communication medium. Most stories revealed a preference for reading paper magazines and newspapers but online news headlines are important.
Most individuals say they have formed their own opinions about paper. But when probed, these opinions were formed at a young age and stories revealed that families and teachers had a significant influence on these opinions. When discussing paper use, company policy on paper has a strong influence on young professionals and how they use paper. Based on the insights gained from our research project, we are now able to formulate public campaigns that educate and bring the paper, print and fibre based packaging story to front of mind.
Two Sides South Africa urges all industry players who wish to contribute to the work that it is doing to contact them for further information.