Since the Book Industry Study Group published its benchmark study "Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts" in March 2008, on publishing's impact on the environment, the industry has made important strides in improving its environmental record. "I'm pretty pleased with how publishers have responded," says Tyson Miller, executive director of Green Press Initiative, about publishers' efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. Still, much work needs to be done in circumstances that are much tougher than existed a mere 31 months ago.
The Great Recession and the rapid shift of the industry from print to digital has dramatically altered the publishing landscape and changed business models, forcing publishers to implement sustainable business practices as margins tighten and houses balance print and digital operations. And the changes in the economy have made it more difficult, and expensive, to buy recycled fiber, the key ingredient for many who study the question of making publishing more environmentally friendly. Random House, for example, one of a handful of large publishers to have a paper policy, has had to extend the time frame to reach its objective of using 30% of its uncoated paper grades from recycled fiber.
Originally, Random had set 2010 as the year to hit the 30% target, but has since recalibrated. Now, says Michael DeFazio, v-p, director, production planning and paper, and co-chair of the Random House Green Committee, Random expects to hit the 30% mark in 2013; interim goals are 22.5% for 2011, and 25% by 2012. DeFazio cited the lack of good, affordable recycled paper as a major hurdle in hitting its original goal. Earlier this year, Scholastic reported that its use of recycled paper rose to 19.8% in 2009, from 15.1% in 2008, but use of FSC-certified paper declined to 17.3%, from 19.7%. With more FSC paper available this year, Scholastic remains on track to hit its target of having recycled paper make up 25% of its paper use by 2012 and to have FSC paper be 30%, also by 2012. The Hachette Book Group, the most recent major trade publisher to adopt an environmental policy (in November 2009), also hopes to reach its target of using 30% recycled paper by 2012 and upping its FSC use to 20%. But Pete Datos, v-p, inventory and procurement of HBG, and chair of the Book Industry Environmental Council, acknowledges that the paper market "has become more volatile." While some areas of going green will pay for themselves, using more recycled paper is almost certainly going to cost more, Datos says.
Higher costs are something John Sargent has built in to Macmillan's new sustainability efforts. Macmillan doesn't have a paper policy with announced targets and dates, but the company is in the final stages of doing an analysis that Sargent says will dramatically alter the way Macmillan operates, from creating galleys through selling remainders. By January, Sargent expects to have a good understanding of the specific issues that will allow the publisher to develop a long-range plan. "We want to set a 10-year target that will reduce our carbon footprint by a large percentage," Sargent says. "It will touch every business process." According to Sargent, sustainability is now one of Macmillan's core missions, along with sales and profit growth.
While there are many variables to consider when adopting an environmental policy, Sargent says the clearest place to draw a line "is at the forest." Many publishers agree, especially concerning endangered forests. Karen Romano, v-p, director of production and manufacturing at Simon & Schuster, says the company is much more aware of where its suppliers are getting their timber from and last month added a provision in its contracts with overseas printers requiring them to eliminate the use of paper from controversial sources, or that may contain fiber from endangered and old growth forest areas. Thanks to better tools from both the AAP and BIEC, S&S "knows its supply chain better. We know what is in our fiber basket and where the fiber comes from," she says.