A new survey conducted by the Green Book Alliance found some shifts in sustainability practices of publishers and book manufacturers compared to a survey conducted in 2020-21.

The most pronounced change, and one likely tied to shifts in work practices that occurred during the pandemic, was a decline in business travel and an increase in video conferencing. Fifty-two percent of respondents to the 2023-24 survey said that their company had reduced business travel over the last three years, and 68% said they had increased the use of video conferencing in an effort to offset their carbon footprint. The cut in travel was particularly notable since only 34% of respondents in the 2020-21 survey said that their company had cut travel due to environmental concerns.

Another sustainability-friendly practice from the Covid era that many companies are still using is the hybrid work schedule. Fifty-three percent of respondents said that their company is continuing to make hybrid work available to employees.

In a broad question about how they have lowered their environmental footprint in the last three years, 77% of respondents said that they have reduced their overall material waste. The most recent survey added a question about print-on-demand, and 51% of respondents said that they had upped their use of POD since 2020. Greater use of POD was a particularly popular actions taken by publishers to reduce their carbon footprint in terms of transporting books, with 61% naming that printing option as an important practice.

Sustainability practices that appear to have lost some popularity since 2020 include the use of 100% post-consumer recycled paper for printing books. Thirty-seven percent said they use recycled paper in the most recent survey, down from 51% in the earlier survey. The decline mirrors the use some U.S. publishers have reported, which they attribute primarily to the difficulty in finding recycled paper.

The practice of using carbon offsets has cooled among many companies, and that seems to be the case for publishers and book manufacturers as well. Forty-seven percent of respondents said that they have no offset options, up from 31% in 2020.

The Green Book Alliance was formed in 2020 by the Book Industry Study Group, BookNet Canada, and the U.K.’s Book Industry Communication to improve international sustainability practices in the book publishing industry. Its 2023-24 survey drew responses from 57 companies, down from 71 in 2020-21 and participants were from seven countries in the newest survey, down from 11. Companies in Australia, Canada, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. took part in both surveys.