Publishers improving sustainability

medium_2015_Laurel B.jpgThe weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

The need to solve the sustainability conundrum touches all businesses, including publishing, not least in these challenging times. Major brands such as Penguin Random House (PRH) have implemented sustainability policies, with defined commitments to reducing carbon emissions. Until recently, UK based PRH processed around one million books per week. They came into a central warehouse from printers and were delivered to bookshops around the country. It’s very strange that a company this successful and this plugged into the need to streamline and manage costs, is still operating with this model.

Despite a large print on demand blindspot, PRH has been strengthening its sustainability efforts since 2016 when the company established two 2020 Social Responsibility Commitments. These outlined targets for a carbon footprint reduction of 10% and a plan to source all paper used worldwide from certified mills. So far 99% of the paper PRH uses is FSC certified.

PRH is aiming for a 20% reduction in its footprint by 2025, compared to a baseline of 2016. So far progress is being made mainly through infrastructure improvements and the company is transitioning to green energy and hopes by 2022 to have completed this move. Efforts such as switching to LED lights, using light sensors and cutting the use of plastic in warehouses (it’s now down by 46%), are all making a tangible difference. Shredded cardboard is used instead of plastic to secure packed books, for instance. Logistics planning is cutting wasted journeys and ensuring full loads, although it does not appear yet to included digital printing close to bookshops.

PRH also measures the carbon footprint from paper mill to bookshop and is striving to reduce it. The company intends by the end of 2020 to work only with suppliers signed up to PRELIMS labour and environmental standards. This is a collaboration between leading publishers set up in 2003 to encourage environmental and social responsibilities in publishing supply chains.

PRH is owned by Bertelsmann a sprawling media conglomerate with interests in all aspects of media. Bertelsmann has also announced some strong sustainability undertakings. The group aims to be climate neutral by 2030 and recently committed to cut emissions by half compared to its 2018 numbers. In 2018 Bertelsmann sites around the world emitted one million tonnes of CO2, so quite a ways to go, but at least there is a start.

– Laurel Brunner

This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Fespa, Fujifilm, HP, Kodak, Miraclon, Ricoh, Spindrift, Splash PR, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

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