Indigo Books & Music is stepping up its green initiatives. Canada's biggest book retailer is asking publishers to report whether or not their books are published on recycled paper or paper that has been certified to come from sustainably managed forests. This information is now being made available to consumers looking up books at computer kiosks in Indigo stores and on the Indigo Web site. Indigo’s director of sustainability Michelle White, explained that the company wants “to work with the publishing industry and use our environmental policy and our request for this environmental data to act as a catalyst for change and make the publishing industry and book industry more sustainable.” In addition to encouraging the protection of forest resources, White said, Indigo wanted to “provide a certain level of transparency to our consumers.”

In addition to the usual descriptions and information provided about titles, people looking up a book on Indigo’s in-store computer kiosks or online will also be able to look for one of three logos, said White. One shows that the book is printed on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the second shows that FSC-certified papers that also contains recycled content was used, and the third shows non-certified post-consumer recycled content, she said.

The initiative is an international first for a major book retailer, said Nicole Rycroft, executive director of the environmental organization Canopy (formerly Markets Initiative), which has worked for the past 10 years to help publishers, printers and paper producers adopt better environmental practices. Rycroft said she expects the initiative will make a big impact on consumers. “There’s a significant crossover in the people who read books and the people who care about environmental issues,” she said. “Generally, the way those numbers go, the more books people read buy, the more strongly they feel about environmental values.”

Indigo is adding the logos to its book listings as publishers submit the data. As the information about the paper used become more widely available, Rycroft thinks it will influence the choices consumers make. “Having that information available across Canada and online will be something that I think book lovers across the continent will start to look for,” she added.

Rycroft also advised Indigo while it was developing a broader environmental policy, which includes greening its own operations as well as that of the supply chain. Indigo has set an ambitious goal of reaching 50% of recycled paper content in books within five years.