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“Not only an altruistic endeavor but also a commercial one”: How publishers are tackling climate change, driven by growing readers’ concerns

Climate change is a growing concern for readers across the world. Almost seven in ten (69%) people consider it to be a very, or extremely serious problem, according to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2020

“Attention may be focused today on the immediate threat of coronavirus,” writes Simge Andı, Research Fellow, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. “But this does not reduce the underlying dangers of climate change. The role of the news media is critical in influencing levels of public concern.”

The report also notes that there is a significant minority in the US, Sweden, and Australia that dispute this. Around one in ten (9%) respondents in the Reuters study do not see climate change as a serious issue while around one in five (19%) say they are somewhat concerned. 

“Driven by the concerns of consumers”

However, due to the overall consensus on the seriousness of climate change, many publishers are making efforts to deal with the issue through better coverage, as well as making their operations sustainable.

“Publishers are showing more readiness to address the climate change issue within the industry,” says Stefanie Eichiner, Manager, Sustainability at UPM Communication Papers. “Sustainability has long been a big topic for us, but in the past 6 to 12 months, we have seen a spike in customer interest centred around climate change.”

“Greater consumer awareness and demand to deal with companies that are considered sustainable are also pushing publishers to address climate change,” adds FIPP contributor, Jon Watkins.

For publishers, this means that tackling climate change becomes not only an altruistic endeavour but also a commercial one, as audiences increasingly seek to buy from sustainably-minded companies. 

Jamie Gavin, MD, inPress Online

FIPP has released a new whitepaper, Publishing and climate change: How the industry is taking action, in collaboration with UPM. The whitepaper, authored by Watkins, looks into how some of the world’s leading media companies are tackling climate change through sustainable practices.

It presents insights and shares examples of best practices and innovative solutions from across the industry, using multiple case studies.

Publishers and their suppliers are increasingly recognising that future compliance with sustainability targets will be driven by the concerns of consumers and not merely statutory or institutional regulations. 

Jon Watkins, Author, Publishing and climate change: How the industry is taking action

No longer a ‘tick-box’ exercise

Climate change and sustainability efforts are no longer a ‘tick-box’ exercise, says Tom Reynolds, Production Director at TI Media, which publishes Country Life, Horse & Hound, and Homes & Gardens. “Finding more and new ways to be sustainable is now a strategic part of the business,” he adds. “And that is definitely in part being driven by our readers’ desire to buy from companies that are sustainable. We saw that first-hand when consumers directly asked us to replace polywrap with paper wrap.” 

News UK also replaced polybags with biodegradable wrapping for The Times and The Sunday Times in 2019. The move, according to the whitepaper, is a part of the company’s pledge to remove all single-use plastic wrapping by 2020. Other publishers that have made the switch include National Geographic and The Guardian.

Condé Nast Spain, has developed its own Environmental Management System – certified by ISO 14.001: 2015 – to take responsibility for its use of natural resources. The publisher’s long running program to drive sustainability and help offset climate change has helped it achieve a 20% decrease in electric energy consumption. It has involved:

  • Transition to energy efficient printers. 
  • Installation of self-regulating light sensors that allow for optimisation of electric power consumption.
  • Reduction in the stock of non-PEFC paper up to 10% (PEFC paper: Certified Paper for the Print, Packaging, and Publishing Industries). 
  • 11% decrease in colour copies. 
  • 100% reduction in gasoil consumption by company vehicles. 

Mother publisher, Condé Nast, aims to become entirely carbon neutral by 2030. It has shared its first five-year sustainability strategy (2020-2025) which covers all areas of its business. 

The strategy is structured in three phases, which involve incremental improvements across four key areas:

  1. Reducing emissions;
  2. Engaging suppliers and working with partners; 
  3. Using more sustainable materials; and 
  4. Becoming a voice for change.
Source: Publishing and climate change: How the industry is taking action

The more immediate goals, to be achieved by the end of 2021, include: 

  • A reduction in corporate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20% 
  • Reduction in print and digital supply chain emissions by 10% 
  • Transitioning to 100% internationally certified paper 

The publisher plans to remove all fossil-based, non-recyclable plastic packaging from publications across all Condé Nast markets by 2025. 

The whitepaper also looks into how Axel Springer and Hearst are working to become more sustainable. “It is clear that publishers are ramping up their approach to sustainability and climate change initiatives,” writes Watkins. 

“There is a collective professionalising of approaches, all geared to ensure that companies do their bit to help protect the environment, and in turn protect their businesses and the interests of their consumers.”

“Of course, as is still the case in pretty much all sectors of industry, the media world still has a long way to go if it is to forge a truly sustainable future, both environmentally and financially,” comments Jamie Gavin, MD, inPress Online

“Nonetheless, perhaps unsurprisingly for an industry that is built on meeting the contemporary needs of audience, strong steps already appear to be in place.”

The full whitepaper can be downloaded from FIPP
Publishing and climate change: How the industry is taking action

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