Publishing and the Environment

"Sustainability has never been so important"

Even in an age where publishers are doing more and more online, print is still a crucial part of the industry, and is even growing in many regions. So, for publishers climate change and its impact on the forests are hugely significant.

In September of 2013, the IPCC report and shortly afterwards, Typhoon Haiyan, illustrated the importance of the environment and its ramifications for people from all sectors and industries. In particularly for publishing, who depend so much on forestry, this was a stark reminder that the environment sits at the heart of what we do.

Yet even in a country as green and leafy as the UK there are concerns. The impact of Ash dieback, which has already made its arrival felt in Britain, has been joined with other menaces such as the emerald ash borer which has now been found in Russia. This species of beetle has been responsible for killing millions of ash trees in North America, and is now threatening Europe’s forests too.

More broadly, the regulatory environment continues to evolve – mandatory greenhouse gas reporting for UK listed companies is now a feature in annual reporting. At an EU level, the illegal timber law is in force, and while printed material is outside its scope, this will no doubt be subject to review.

With so much at stake, and with huge implications not just for our industry, but for all industry, sustainability has never been more important. It is therefore no surprise to see that progress has been made in eradicating paper coming from unknown sources, with the share of tonnes from known sources of participating publishers in the PA’s production survey at 95%.

Publishers also have a proud history of working together on responsible paper purchasing. There are now 24 leading publishers that make up the PREPS (Publishers Database for Responsible Environmental Paper Sourcing) membership and the PREPS database includes information on the country of origin of the wood fibre and how forest sources have been managed. Information on carbon and water practices continues to be added. Labelling continues apace, and publishers are now setting their own standards based on the PREPS system. Tools such as Book Carbon, which can drive efficiency and deliver environmental benefits, are available for publishers to use, while the PA Environmental Review Group continues to play its role as a forum for publishers to keep abreast of and to discuss environmental developments.

This commitment to progressive paper purchasing reinforces to retailers, subscribers and printers that these issues are important and are continually being addressed. Our success can be seen by the figures from the Publishers Association website, a 10% increase to 286,702 tonnes of paper over the year this has been more than matched by the sustainable attitude of UK publishers. In 2013, 271,486 tonnes of paper came from known sources, while use of unknown sources decreased to 2,784 tonnes of paper, an 87% decrease on 2012 figures. In fact over the last five years there has been a 96% decrease in the use of unknown paper sources in UK publishing.

The importance for publishers of the environmental impact affecting the print sector then cannot be understated. You might even say, if you’ll forgive the pun, that our response to the paper we use speaks reams about us as an industry.

About the Environmental Review Group

The purpose of the Environmental Review Group is to spread awareness within the book industry of the environmental impact of publishing. The group aims to encourage action in every area of the business to reduce waste and adopt environmentally friendly business practice. It was jointly formed by the Publishers Association and benefits from input from the Booksellers Association and printers. Peter will speaking at the Green Arts Literature event, taking place 25th June 2014 at Free Word.

Sustaining Creativity