In its first comprehensive report in four years, the Rainforest Action Network has given 10 leading children’s book publishers generally high marks for the actions they have taken to protect the Indonesian rainforest and other endangered forests. According to the report, RAN’s analysis of recent data from the 10 publishers’ American divisions, “suggests a progressive trend in a sector, that while still in transition, is demonstrating a strong commitment to social and environmental responsibility.”

By putting pressure on paper manufacturers and other suppliers to improve their timber harvesting techniques, the amount of controversial fiber contained in their books has decreased “dramatically,” the report states. To verify that paper manufacturers are avoiding trees from endangered forests, eight out of the 10 publishers covered by RAN now have independent fiber testing for their books.

The report, titled A New Chapter for the Publishing Industry, also contains profiles of the 10 houses and where they stand in various environmental practices. Disney, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Scholastic, and Penguin/Pearson were all cited as leaders in different areas. The report noted however, that Random House, which had once been a leader on the environmental front, has fallen behind in recent years. The report noted in particular that RH has not provided a public update or revision to its paper policy targets since it adopted them in 2006. Since Penguin/Pearson has had “a good policy, clear performance targets that are made public” and “strong protocols on verification and implementation of is policy”, RAN urged PRH to adopt the Penguin/Pearson paper policy and systems.

A PRH spokesperson called RAN’s criticism of Random House “harsh.” The spokesperson contended that RH “is applying rigorous benchmarks and guidelines with its book-production partners, resulting in environmentally sustainable bookmaking.” As the company continues to integrate the Penguin and Random House functions, the spokesperson added, PRH “will be formulating a high-standard and comprehensive Penguin Random House policy that we can proudly implement to advance our environmental commitment.”

Simon & Schuster was a second major house that RAN found has slipped in recent years. Like RH, RAN said S&S needs to update its paper policy since its targets are out of date. RAN urged S&S to “improve transparency and reporting and take proactive steps toward the implementation and verification of its Indonesian forest commitment.”

An S&S spokesperson said the company, "takes seriously our goal of being an environmentally responsible publishing company," and that it is "committed to manufacturing using sound environmental practices including, but not limited to, the elimination of controversial fiber sources, including fiber from Indonesia and/or endangered or old-growth area." The spokesperson added that S&S makes its goals known "to our vendors by including language to this end on our purchase orders and in our RFPs, we conduct random fiber testing on imported books, and require full disclosure of the country or origin and fiber basket for all grades of paper used in our books. We also meet with all of our suppliers on a regular basis to reinforce these practices."

Overall, however, the RAN report said the changes made by the 10 publishers (which also included Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Candlewick), should show other publishers and paper manufacturers that it is possible to move to responsible paper practices.