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Saving Paper – A 3rd Quarter 2013 CSR Report

July 22, 2013

Paper is a biodegradable, renewable, sustainable product made from trees. Growing and harvesting trees provides jobs for millions of Americans. Working forests are good for the environment and provide clean air and water, wildlife habitat and carbon storage. Thanks to improved forest management, we have more trees in America today than we had 100 years ago. The Wall Street Journal, March 31, 2011

Yet, cutting usage of paper remains an important environmental goal, and at American Express, we have taken several measures over the past seven years to reduce both the use of paper and the weight of the paper stock that we do use.

The majority of the paper we use comes from integrated mills, which harvest and replant their own trees on a continual basis. In addition, trees are harvested for the home building and furniture industries, with some of the remaining scraps purchased by the paper industry.

Our paper-related eco initiative began in 2005, with a review of our paper program and our merchant/mill relationships. Our Direct Marketing Excellence group created an Eco Team to evaluate competitive mail best practices, and we reduced the paper weight of our direct mail reply envelopes by 17%, saving up to 1,500 million pounds of paper annually.

In 2006 – 2007, our Membership Rewards catalog moved to a smaller format, and we tested new types of paper. Working with our primary uncoated paper source, we created an American Express-specific paper stock, 55# opaque, which we successfully tested and rolled out in U.S. Consumer Card acquisition programs. Changes in paper stock and reductions in paper weights had no impact on business results, but they yielded significant cost savings, reductions in paper consumption, and our carbon footprint.

In 2008 - 2011, we continued to validate the environmental certifications of our paper sources and key print suppliers, began using the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo on acquisition mailings, and incorporated the following tagline on our reply envelopes and statement remit envelopes: "American Express will recycle this envelope." In addition, we reduced our mock card paper weight to realize 250,000 pounds or 17% savings in annual paper tonnage.

In 2012, through format reengineering, we reduced the number of direct marketing print formats from 28 down to 7 and postcard/self mailer formats from 30 variations to 5, and we reduced paper weights from 80# to 70# and from 70# to 60#. For acquisition mail alone, paper tonnage was reduced in excess of 720,000 pounds.

At year end 2011, over 50% of our uncoated paper was 70# or higher. By the end of the first quarter 2013, 80% of uncoated paper usage is now on 60#. We continue this momentum with migrations to 55# paper.

American Express continues to find creative solutions with both external and internal partners working to identify ways to reduce paper weights without impacting business results in a competitive environment. During the seven years of this paper initiative, we have saved over 10 million pounds of paper, which has helped reduce solid waste and aided with an overall reduction in our carbon footprint.

If you have a question or comment, please share it here. Alternatively, you can follow me on Twitter at @timmcclimon and comment there.

P.S. Did you know that a 20 percent reduction in paper weight can equal a 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions for paper manufacturing?


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