We’re back with another installment of our special 5 questions with series of publishers going green.
This time around, we’ve had the honour of interviewing EJ Hurst (Sales Manager) and Julie Raddysh (Publisher) from New Society Publishers.
Based in Gabriola Island, B.C., New Society Publishers has been a leader and activist for sustainable publishing for the past 40 years and counting — they’re a certified B corporation, are carbon neutral, print exclusively in North America on sustainable paper, and more.
Read EJ and Julie’s answers to our questionnaire below.
Why green your publishing? What are some of the business reasons that led your company to incorporate environmental sustainability as a goal?
It is imperative. Business will only thrive on a stable, healthy planet populated by educated people living in safe communities.
Although there are several economic reasons to embrace sustainability, these are no longer the driving reason we need to embrace environmental sustainability as a fundamental business goal. COP26 has shown us that we need to do more than just rely on governments and legislation to help stop catastrophic climate change. The business and economic structures of our nations need to adapt and adapt quickly. Net Zero commitments made at COP26 are now a fundamental organizing principle for businesses even though the system change required to support these pledges is not yet in place. This is where the publishing industry, like many, is poised for innovation. First the commitment to reaching Net Zero and then planning the path to get there.
If a potential 1-2 meter sea level rise, the current 150,000 deaths annually from extreme climate change impacts, the threat of island nations disappearing beneath the sea within 80 years are not enough to motivate changes to your business model then let's talk about supply chain disruption, paper shortages, increasing transportation, and paper costs.
New Society’s vision, to provide the world with fundamental tools to help build a just and ecologically sustainable society, is essentially unchanged in the past 40 years. We have always been mission driven. In business terms, we have benefited from this in several ways. Our supply chain is short and relatively secure from paper supply to printing and shipping, our employees are invested in the work of the company and staff turn over is nearly non-existent, for several years we had the enviable position of being the leading publisher operating in a unique niche both in terms of our publishing content and product, we have a loyal customer base who purchase from us because of our sustainability and social commitments. Our company is thriving despite current challenges and continues to grow financially year over year.
Of the green initiatives you have implemented, which one made the biggest impact?
Printing on 100% post-consumer paper. We switched to printing our books on 100% post-consumer paper in 2002. Publishing studies have shown that this single change reduces our carbon footprint by 60% compared to a publisher printing on virgin paper stock. The majority of the carbon footprint of publishing comes from the cutting of forests and the pulping of paper. Recycled paper stock eliminates this impact. Printing in North America is our second-largest impact on carbon emission reductions.
We’d love to combine recycled paper printing with print on demand (POD) in other countries. Opportunities at this point are limited and this is an area we look forward to seeing innovation and change driven by collective action on the part of publishers.
What resources or tools have you used to benchmark and keep track of your company's environmental impact? And how do you know when you’ve been successful with your initiatives?
New Society is a Certified B Corps, has signed the Net Zero 2030 commitment with the B Corps Climate Collective, is a signatory of the UN Publishers Compact and we are creating an Environmental Management System.
Through the B Corps rigorous assessment process, our company operations are reviewed and scored. During the process, we identify areas for improvement and change. The B Corps Assessment is linked to the UN Sustainable Development goals so we use the same process to look for areas for improvement based on those goals as well. For more information about the UN Sustainable Publishers Compact, please see this short video from our Publishing Director Sue Custance.
Our draft environmental management system (EMS) came out of this review process and was identified as a place we could improve. We will be using it to track our actions related to the B Corps and UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Our EMS at this point is very simple and we are keen to meet with other publishers developing something similar. We are not a Fortune 500 company, our business model is quite simple and the manufacturing of our product is done by a third party. This means that often the questions posed to us by the assessment processes of B Corps and UN Sustainability Goals need to be interpreted to our smaller scale. I mention this so that others are not intimidated by the scale of the B Corps Assessment or other environmental standards they might be looking at. Think outside the box, translate the language in a way that applies to your work and consult with the administrators of whichever standards you are working towards. It is easier than it seems. Try not to get bogged down in the complexity of issues if they don’t apply to your work.
How do you investigate the sustainability of your supply chain partners (distributors, retailers, printers, shippers, etc.)? Is having supply chain partners that also support environmental sustainability important to you?
We review our printers’ for their environmental sustainability standards. We are currently working to evaluate our packaging, shipping, financial, and web-based partners through a process of in-house review, creating purchasing policies and a questionnaire for suppliers. Environmentally sustainable supply chain partners are fundamental to our mission.
An image of The Edible Ecosystem Solution by Zach Locks. It's a full colour book printed with vegetable based inks on 100% post consumer recycled paper stock on the press at Friesens printing company.
What roadblocks do you face within the industry when trying to implement sustainable practices? What broader industry commitments need to be made to make the book industry more environmentally sustainable?
The biggest roadblock we are currently facing is sourcing recycled paper for POD titles. Our US distributor is Ingram and they are diligently driving their publishers toward their Lightening Source POD program. It makes excellent business sense from the warehousing and shipping perspective and would be even better sustainably if recycled or alternative papers were available.
BONUS: We all know that achieving these goals is an ongoing process, but what do you think are some quick wins for organizations or even individual employees?
Quick wins will depend on your individual lifestyle and your business practices. I would suggest doing a carbon footprint assessment for your business which will identify the areas where you can have the greatest impact and what actions will shift the needle the most. There are several companies who provide this service or you can do a simple assessment in house.
However, for almost all publishers, the answer will be including recycled paper content in your print runs. The Paper Steps, created by Canopy Planet gives a description of 4 steps to sustainable paper.
Final tip, it doesn’t have to be big or complicated, just get started and you will be able to figure it out as you go along.
Thank you, EJ and Julie, for taking the time to answer our questionnaire! Keep your eyes peeled on our blog for more interviews with publishers going green and ways that you can reduce the environmental impact of your work.
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