I ran across a curious little story in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about how a simple Securities and Exchange Commission rule change is saving money as well as paper, and trees. All they did was stop requiring mutual funds to distribute full-length prospectuses and annual reports to investors by snail mail.
Those packets, which investors rarely read, required an estimated 400,000 trees to produce last year. The new rules allow companies to send four- or five-page summaries instead of 40- to 50-page reports as long as the full reports are available online; they also allow investors to opt for only electronic deliveries of the reports. And they save an estimated 39,000 trees a year, as well as $147 million in printing and mailing costs.
The article doesn’t get into the fossil fuel emissions of distributing fund reports, but if all investors went digital, there would be savings there, too. Fidelity Investments has proposed that the SEC make electronic delivery the default option, so investors would instead have to opt into paper delivery. Personally, I just don’t like getting a ton of paper in the mail that I have to file away … for that elusive day somewhere in the future that I’ll devote to reading annual reports.