Last year, Bank of America set out to follow a scientific method and seek independent review of a life cycle assessment study to calculate the comparative carbon emissions and water consumption impacts of digital statements compared to paper statements. The results of the study guided them to confidently inform customers that for those focused on reducing their carbon footprint and water consumption, these customers can choose to receive statements in digital form.
Bank of America states in the report’s Executive Summary that it recognizes that the comparative greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and water impacts from paper versus electronic statements depend greatly on the specifics of the production, transportation, use, and disposal systems. Therefore, the company commissioned this study to determine the difference in GHG emissions and water consumption from the life cycle of their company’s specific statement delivery systems, including mill data from its three primary paper suppliers.
The primary finding of the cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment is that, based on the assumptions of the study, available data, and under a scenario where 25% of customers print their online statements at home, the reduction in GHG emissions between paper and online statements is estimated to be 67 g CO2e and the reduction in blue water consumption (BWC) is 0.25 gallons of water per statement.
The study found that if all of Bank of America statements mailed in a year (551 million statements) were delivered online instead of mailed as paper statements, this would result in a reduction of approximately 37,000 metric tons of GHG emissions and 136 million gallons of blue water consumed when using electronic instead of paper delivery. This is approximately equivalent to the GHG emissions from the electricity use in 5,500 United States homes in a year (USEPA, 2017) and the water contained in 206 Olympic swimming pools.
The life cycle assessment was completed by WSP USA. For questions, contact Bank of America. Neither the Environmental Paper Network or its members were involved in this study in any way. You can also read Bank of America’s complete paper procurement policy here.