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Member communications carbon footprint


In March 2021, WPF Committee set a goal for the Pension Fund to have net zero carbon emissions across all investment portfolios by 2050.  To achieve this target we are continuously considering our impact and trying to reduce our carbon impact not only in terms of investments but also operationally.

As part of this, last year for the first time, a one-page summary of the annual report was created and issued to the fund membership via email.

For comparison, the following example is used to estimate the carbon saved by this format over a traditional printed campaign.

The assumptions used in this example are that the one-page document would have been printed on 80gsm stock (standard draft paper) and distributed by Royal Mail.

The total carbon of this is shown to include postage, however before Covid-19, this footprint would have been minimised by utilising employer networks, with only around a third sent by post to pensioner members.

The Environmental Paper Network's Paper Calculator(tm) is a web-based tool which allows users to calculate and compare the estimated environmental impacts of different paper choices using a science-based methodology grounded in life cycle assessment (LCA). The results from this Calculator are shown below:


Environmental impact estimates were calculated using the Environmental Paper Network Paper Calculator Version 4.0. For more information visit standard calculation output (PDF) [166KB] (opens new window)  and  recycled calculation output (PDF) [166KB] (opens new window) .

Full analysis shows detail on other environment impact factors, the metrics above only highlight the more tangible elements and present them in visual form for illustrative purposes.




for 16,000 letters0.28
Email Equivalentless 4g C02e per email0.06
Total Difference (i.e. tCO2e saved by digital distribution over paper copy)0.87


Assumptions and footnotes

The metric equivalent has been adjusted to account for the area difference between Letter: 8.5 x 11 inches (215.9 x 279.4 mm) and A4: 210 x 297 mm (8.27 x 11.69 inches).

The number of typical trees assumes a mix of hardwoods and softwoods 6-8" in diameter and 40' tall (25cm in diameter, 12 meters tall). Calculated collaboratively by Conservatree, Environmental Defense Fund, and Environmental Paper Network.

The average car emits 11,013 pounds of CO2e in a year

The difference in internal staff cost/footprint of producing a printed campaign versus email/web content are assumed to be negligible.

The footprint of an email has been estimated at about 4g (0.14oz) CO2e for a regular (non-spam) email (source: Berners-Lee). This would seem a reasonable assumption given that the impact of emailing is likely to be higher now due to the increasing size of smartphones, but Wiltshire Pension Fund email campaigns are made bandwidth efficient by hyperlink rather than attaching large files or graphical content.


The above exercise shows that using recycled paper (which is made of around 10% recycled paper typically) reduces overall impact to some extent; but this may not be apparent across some of the figures due to rounding.

Another critical aspect of the paper communication process is whether mail received is recycled or sent to landfill. In the case of paper pension fund communications, those members opting in to receive printed Annual Benefit Statements or Deferred Statements are unlikely to discard and more likely to file as an important document.

For full details of the types of member communications that are issued, please see the fund Communication Strategy. For members signed up to "My Wiltshire Pension", the default is for paperless communications.

Compared with the absolute carbon emissions of the Wiltshire Pension Fund investments, (51,881 tCO2e) emissions related to member communication (0.87 tCO2e) represent an incredibly small percentage in proportion, but any savings compound with frequency and time and count towards achieving net zero goals.

Whilst paperless communications clearly have environmental benefits, the use of technology is not carbon free either. Even though digital means has meant that campaigns which otherwise may not even have been considered economical on a cost basis, Wiltshire Pension Fund takes a considered approach to communicating non statutory and news items, bearing in mind the needs and interests of its members. For more information on member communications, please see the Wiltshire Pension Fund member website.



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