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Climate crisis: Publishers can lead by example

The media are an important resource on the journey to raise awareness of environmental issues. But taking a closer look, the publishing industry is, in itself, a contributor to the issues that tackling the climate crisis is aiming to eradicate. While the print sector is gradually putting in place mechanisms to use more recycled paper and employ fewer toxins in the process, a large part of press activity is now conducted online. Digital media is booming, but how does this impact the climate crisis efforts?

Some publishers have considered changing the type and volume of energy required to power people’s devices when it comes to reading time. But the rapid expansion of the digital environment is leaving behind a significant carbon footprint, raising more complex challenges. According to The Guardian, the internet accounts for eight percent of the UK’s total energy consumption, with the majority of the emissions being triggered by accessing online content. Based on The Shift Project, the carbon footprint of gadgets, the internet and all systems supporting them is responsible for around 3.7 percent of global greenhouse emissions – similar to the amount produced by the global airline industry during normal operating times.

An estimation of the digital footprint relies on many different factors and variables such as readers’ behaviour patterns, data farms, service providers, device manufacturers, the activity of media companies and more. By taking a look at these, it should be noted that the majority are out of publishers’ control, so industry-wide collaborations are vital to put in place in an attempt to lower the global digital footprint.

The way the content is sourced, produced and delivered is just as important as the planet friendly messages the content provides. Raising awareness of the importance of reducing a carbon footprint and actively trying to alter behaviours so people and organisations can lower theirs are key.

But are publishers prepared to pursue the exposure of environmental topics at all cost or address the message’s digital impact and aim to reduce the volume of communications? Does this endeavour present an ethical dilemma or is the reality more stark than that?

In the crudest sense, there is no dilemma; businesses that fail to adapt to the climate crisis will fail to exist. The planet has a finite amount of resources, and increasingly, new recruits are looking to work with businesses that are addressing their own impact on the planet and society. They want to work with companies that are doing more good and are doing this from a place of authenticity and transparency.

The challenges we face and the changes needed are in some cases overwhelming, but starting somewhere is more impactful than pretending it’s not an issue that needs addressing. The initial step is to firmly have sustainability and your environmental impact on the agenda for every meeting for every business function. Start by asking, what can we do better for people and for the planet? What can we change now and what can we change between now and 2030, within the UN’s Decade of Action?

The pulp, paper and print industry is one of the leading sectors when it comes to renewable energy and mitigating carbon impact. The industry is relatively energy-intensive, but it also has a proven commitment to energy efficiency and is Europe’s biggest industrial user of renewable energy.

Publishing businesses, whether digital or print, need an in-depth understanding of the carbon intensity of different publishing methods and then need to make strategic decisions to reduce this carbon intensity to zero, while still being able to communicate knowledge to drive change.

All publishers distribute knowledge, which is key to solving all the challenges we face, most significantly the climate crisis. This is an opportunity for the industry to lead by example and inspire others to do the same. 

One of our Planet Mark members, Impress Print Services, has an Environmental Lingo page on its website to help demystify the terms and jargon used, educating its customers and demonstrating its commitments to reduce its environmental impact and increase its positive social impact.

Microsoft, in its 2020 Environmental Sustainability Report, stated that it believes there is a massive opportunity for the technology sector to improve the way the Earth’s natural resources are managed, and this can be true of all sectors.

The Exponential Roadmap Initiative brings together innovators, scientists, companies and NGOs, with the mission to halve emissions before 2030 through exponential climate action and solutions.  In its 12/12 report it states that “every day, tech companies influence the decisions of 4 billion consumers, so with great power comes great responsibility. The digital revolution can help halve carbon emissions by 2030. E-Commerce platforms can support social responsibility and create incentives for low-carbon consumption. Half of all advertising is digital, advertising can change behaviours, so let’s promote sustainable choices and healthy lifestyles.”

In Ericsson’s Guide to Digital Footprint, it states the ICT (Information and Communication Technology) sector’s carbon footprint could be reduced by over 80 percent if all electricity consumed came from renewable energy sources. Beyond carbon footprint, digital technologies are powerful tools, and used well, they provide opportunities to accelerate decarbonisation in line with societal goals.

You can begin your journey today looking at how to improve the impact of your business on the world around you, and influence those in your sphere by looking at three pillars: People, Technology and Nature.  Look at your business model and approaches and uncover ways to build resilience and future proof your business.

We cannot solve the climate crisis alone but collectively we can make a meaningful impact, so take your supply chain on the journey with you. At Planet Mark we do this through a three-step process of Measure, Engage and Communicate and help businesses to align with the UN SDGs, a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.

On average, Planet Mark certified businesses make a 12 percent cut in absolute carbon emissions per year through reductions in energy, waste, water, travel and procurement. By measuring their carbon and social data with rigour, businesses can report their progress with confidence and consider key areas where improvements can be made.

Building up your knowledge and sharing with others is hugely powerful too. Find out facts and inform and educate yourself, your teams and your wider network.

We’re in a time of exciting change; where businesses, individuals, cities and countries are welcoming a zero-carbon revolution, allowing a cleaner and healthier planet for us and future generations. Businesses which embrace this brighter future will not only future-proof their company but will also improve efficiencies, cut costs and attract and retain the best talent.

Claire Walmsley Moss
Head of Marketing, Planet Mark

Planet Mark believes we must all work together to embrace sustainability. We work passionately with organisations to empower their people to halt the climate crisis and improve society in everything they do. We do this by supporting forward-thinking businesses in their sustainability goals and certifying their achievements. When you see a Planet Mark certified member, you know that they are driving continuous positive change through their actions, people and reach.