The Hachette Book Group, which has had good overall success in reducing its carbon footprint in recent years, saw a reversal last year, which the company attributed to the strong demand for print books.

Large cutbacks in office electricity, business travel, and other pandemic-related impacts helped HBG's carbon footprint, excluding paper-related impact, fall by 34% last year compared to 2019, the company noted in its annual environmental progress report. But since about 95% of HBG's carbon footprint comes from paper, its overall footprint rose by 2%, because the publisher “printed significantly more books in 2020 than we did in recent years,” the company said.

In other areas, HBG maintained the status quo, including sourcing 100% of its paper from FSC (Forest Stewardship Certified) and SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) fiber. And for the fifth year in a row, HBG’s fiber testing on its books found that none came from at-risk areas or tropical hardwood forests.

Like all publishers, HBG continues to struggle to find enough recycled paper to use to hit its recycled paper goals. As a result, in 2020, recycled fiber was 9.2% of HBG’s overall paper usage—the same as in 2019 and substantially below its 2020 target of 20%.

Last year, HBG moved to 100% eco-friendly paper fill for shipping cartons, and early in 2021, the company installed new Boxsizer technology in its warehouse. According to HBG, Boxsizer cuts cartons to fit their contents more tightly, reducing the amount of carton fill needed as well as shipping volume and damages, and “resulting in a greener, more efficient method of shipping books.” The impact of that shift was not included in HBG's 2020 results.

In 2021, CEO Michael Pietsch said the company will update its carbon footprint measurement methodology to align with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, in line with the approach recently adopted by parent company Hachette Livre. "It is my hope that everyone at HBG will join me in making environmental sustainability an even higher priority in all we do,” Pietsch said in a statement.