The Green Pages: Publishers Strive to Reduce Their Environmental Impact

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Good to Go Green?

So why are publishers going green? Is it because it’s sensible business policy, because they want to be good corporate citizens, or because their customers are demanding it? Not surprisingly, the answer is a combination of these reasons. Mark Gough, the Environment and Health & Safety Coordinator at Reed Elsevier, says that all of these factors come into play when his company makes decisions about how it produces its products. "All those issues are important—legal, image, moral, and economic factors—all of them are different drivers for what’s driving our business," he says. These factors are not just external or business pressures. At Reed Elsevier, editors have pressured the company to make changes, and there are internal "Green Teams" making suggestions to minimize the environmental impact of how they do business.

Todd Pollak, program manager for the book sector at the Green Press Initiative, also believes it’s a combination of factors driving change. He says, "Part of it is reducing risk associated with using paper from controversial sources, and there
is more demand in general from the public at large for environmentally responsible products." Pollak says a report released by Greenpeace in 2007 called "Consuming Canada’s Boreal Forest: The chain of destruction from logging companies to consumers" named names in the publishing industry that are using paper the report says is "fueling the destruction of Canada’s Boreal Forest to create everyday consumer products." That kind of public exposure also drives companies to make changes. 

Jeff Patterson, CEO at Safari Books Online, a joint venture between O’Reilly Media, Inc. and Pearson that provides an online library of the publishers’ books, says a green sensibility is definitely part of the appeal for customers. "We’re talking about a whole community of people who understand the vast amounts of information they are consuming day in and day out, and they are analytical people," he says. "They are good with numbers and they can intuitively work out that it’s expensive and taxing on the environment to cut down the trees, move the trees to the pulp mill, process that into paper, truck the paper to printing plants [and so forth]." He says Safari offers its customers the ability to get at this information at a fraction of the cost in terms of environmental impact.

Tina Jordan, VP at the American Association of Publishers, an industry trade group made up of book and trade journal publishers, says her group got on board ahead of the curve for a combination of reasons. Part of it, she says, "was in response to the wave and desire to ensure social corporate responsibility among book publishers and their green initiatives." But there was also a more practical reason around getting publishers to agree about paper procurement. "Publishers were all doing their own thing and not getting on the same page with a set of standard practices. We help them get good information to make paper procurement decisions and policies."

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