Our Indusry's 'Green' Leaders
A look at pioneers in improving the industry's environmental impact.
When San Francisco publisher Chronicle Books decided to improve its environmental impact, it didn't waste any time. It formed an internal eco task force and spent 2004 researching its paper options with its U.S. and Asian printers. It enlisted its merchants and mills in the process. And it pushed all of its suppliers to join in its commitment to print on better paper. As a result, it was able to obtain eco-friendly paper without paying a higher price.
By 2005, Chronicle was ready to make a formal commitment to the goals of the Green Press Initiative (GPI), a nonprofit program that supports publishers in shifting their paper practices to preserve endangered forests and natural resources.
Shona Burns, Chronicle's executive director of production, aims to have 45 percent of all of the company's titles on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (as meeting the best practices in forest management) and on post-consumer-waste (PCW) recycled paper in 2005. She is also committed to having 75 percent of the company's kids' titles achieve the same goals in 2006.
But is Chronicle Books an exception among today's book publishers? Is environmental innovation really happening? On what scale? Are more eco-papers available? Is there any real demand for them? And, the most important question for bottom-line conscious publishers, can eco-efforts translate to savings?
A Close-Up on Demand
According to Mark McCready, senior consultant with Jaakko Pöyry Consulting, and the GAPTRAC Planning Service, which tracks paper usage by end users, there is no estimate of how much of the approximately 550,000 tons to one million tons of book paper used annually (coated and uncoated in the juvenile and adult trade market) is recycled paper. In fact, many publishers don't track their use of recycled paper. But large trade houses produce many titles each year on recycled paper—both freesheet and groundwood.
Vincent Liguori, vice president of paper purchasing for Random House, says he has not tracked this information in the past, but expects that he will in the future.
Despite the lack of large-scale tracking, there are some statistics that demonstrate recycled paper usage and its impact. Last year, the Greenwillow Books imprint of HarperCollins published a book called "Ida B," which has sold well and been reprinted several times. To produce this book, approximately 130,000 lbs. of New Leaf 100-percent PCW recycled paper was used in 2004. In one year, that title alone saved 1,560 mature trees and other natural resources.
University presses—the most proactive industry segment using eco-papers—also have been somewhat active in tracking their usage. Cornell University Press used approximately 400,000 lbs. (picture 10 40,000-lb. truckloads of paper) of 30-percent or higher PCW recycled paper last year. The major portion of that was printed on 50-percent or higher PCW recycled paper.
Thirteen university presses have made formal commitments to the Green Press Initiative, and for the handful that report their usage to GPI, the total usage of 30-percent or higher PCW recycled paper for 2004 was 1.4 million lbs. (35 truckloads). There are a total of 126 members of the Association of American University Presses, and about 15 of those are the same size or larger than Cornell. On that scale, eco-tonnage can add up quickly.
Independent Publishers Push Eco-Friendly Production
The Publishers Marketing Association (PMA) is an association of independent publishers with 3,500 members. Most PMA members publish only a small number of books per year, but in aggregate, they represent significant paper use. In 2004, PMA officially endorsed the recommended standards of the GPI to their members to encourage them to shift their production practices.
Kent Sturgis, publisher of Epicenter Press and the current president of PMA, has used approximately 24,000 lbs. of 100-percent PCW paper since making a pledge to Green Press Initiative in February 2004. Sturgis was able to meet the highest standard (100-percent PCW recycled paper) quickly partly because of his own commitment, but also because his printer, Transcontinental in Montreal, offered him a 100-percent PCW recycled sheet at parity with an equivalent virgin house sheet. This is another excellent example of how the publisher/printer partnership can advance environmental innovation quickly. Sturgis expects to print 12 more titles on 100-percent PCW recycled paper in 2005.
Rudy Shur, publisher of Square One Publishers and a member of the PMA board, used 113,000 lbs. of 30-percent or higher PCW recycled paper in 2004. That may increase since Square One is one of the fastest growing independent publishers in the country, according to Publishers Weekly (March 7, 2005).
Shur partners with Verde Press, which positions itself as a "green" printer, for all his titles. Beyond offering environmental papers, Verde also uses vegetable-based inks and converts its film-developing chemistry to an aqueous-based format. It extracts silver from the chemicals when processing film, and at the completion of each job, it recycles all waste papers and discarded aluminum plates.
Changing Your Eco Ways
For publishers looking to change their environmental impact, GPI can be a valuable resource. Publishers who participate in GPI make a formal commitment to eliminate the use of endangered forest fiber within three to five years. (You can read the standards at www.GreenPressInitiative.org/ standards.)
After just three years, more than 80 publishers are participating in the initiative and have formal policies in place. Others are using the GPI standards as a guide for developing their own internal paper policies. In 2004, those of GPI's participating publishers who report their usage indicated that they used over 4 million lbs. of 30-percent or higher PCW recycled paper.
It is important for suppliers to realize how much the small and mid-size publisher has been underestimated in its overall impact. According to a report by the Book Industry Study Group, an organization that conducts industry research on behalf of publishers, booksellers, libraries and vendors, called "Under the Radar," total projected revenue from small and mid-size publishers (defined as under $50 million in sales of books and rights) in 2004 is $14.2 billion. That compares with roughly $22 billion generated by the largest trade houses.
Suppliers See Long-Term Growth
Another indication of development in the industry is the response by the mills and printers. In the past three years, 14 new environmental papers have hit the market with more to follow. Jeff Mendelsohn, president of New Leaf Paper comments, "Unlike events in the '90s when recycled paper demand rose and fell precipitously, we see a long-term growth trend in demand for recycled paper. The commitment of publishers, printers and paper companies runs much deeper than ever before."
The range of offerings is expanding, as is publishers' level of satisfaction with performance. Papers like Glatfelter's Natures Book 50 percent PCW and New Leaf EcoBook 60 have gained momentum in 2005. Besides recycled, FSC-certified fiber (fiber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as meeting certain environmental sustainability standards) is becoming more available.
According to Michael Washburn, vice president of forestry and marketing for the Forest Stewardship Council, "In the past two years, we have grown at about 25 percent per year both in the U.S. and globally. It is fair to expect this rate to continue in the coming year. Currently, we [have certified] 13.6 million acres. In Canada, the acreage is currently about 13 million and may double in the next year given current commitments to certify."
Domtar was one of the first North American paper manufacturers to embrace the FSC certification standard. According to Doc Maiorino, Domtar's vice president of sales, publication and corporate accounts, "Domtar has pledged to certify all of its controlled forests (where permitted by law and subject to the completion of two pilot projects) to the FSC standard by the end of 2006, and it is recommending FSC certification in other forests it does not control." He adds, "Domtar has certified more than 185,000 acres of forestland since 2000 and received [FSC] 'Chain of Custody' certification for most of its pulp and paper mills, as well as the Domtar Distribution Group."
Of the 16 printers on GPI's list of eco-resources, most stock 30-percent PCW recycled paper, a third stock 50-percent, and another third stock 60-percent.
A few U.S. publishers stock 100-percent PCW recycled papers, and all the Canadian printers listed with GPI do as well.
The premium for recycled stocks is averaging roughly 5 percent, which is lower than in the past. Several more printers will join the Green Press Initiative stocking list this year.
Where possible, acting as a collective will move pricing and availability along faster. The Green Press Initiative is one resource with a cooperative-pricing agreement for recycled papers. It's also happening within individual segments of the industry:
• the Association of American University Presses' Eco Task Force led by Deborah Bruner of Cornell University Press and Anthony Crouch of University of California Press
• the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, where Baker Book Publishing and its printer, Bethany Press International, have partnered to lead the way for this segment
• the Catholic Book Publishers Association, with leadership coming from Frank Cunningham at Ave Maria Press
What Is Causing the Shift?
This time around, the movement in eco-publishing stems from the demand side. More than in the past, publishers are taking a proactive stance in regard to environmental responsibility.
Another example of publisher-initiated progress occurred when the California Publishing division of Avalon Publishing Group Inc., Emeryville, Calif., made a formal commitment to follow the GPI goals. Jane Musser, the production director, included the goals in her bid requests to suppliers to underscore the seriousness of the company's intentions. One of Musser's printers, Malloy Inc. in Ann Arbor, Mich., has recently begun stocking a wider range of environmental-paper offerings in response to customers like Avalon California.
Publishers just won't take no for an answer: If no eco-friendly papers are available at comparable prices, they're pushing harder to get them. Some are doing this individually, and some collectively as part of industry associations that, as a group, have significant buying power.
If you haven't explored your options for improving your environmental impact since the '90s, or never, you will likely be pleasantly surprised at what you find. But if you don't, you should also realize that it can't hurt to ask for it.
3 Simple Steps to Becoming More Eco-Friendly
Publishers who have taken steps to improve their ecological footprint agree on the key steps to creating real change:
1. Develop a formal, written policy or statement, guided by the Green Press Initiative's recommended standards.
2. Get an internal commitment to the new paper goals.
3. Communicate your intentions to suppliers so they have time to respond with new papers and better pricing.
- Avalon Publishing
- Bethany Press Intl.
- Chronicle Books
- Cornell University Press
- Domtar Paper
- Evangelical Christian Publishers Association
- Forest Stewardship Council
- Green Press Initiative
- Malloy Inc.
- New Leaf Paper
- Publishers Weekly
- Square One Publishers
- The Book Industry Study Group
- Transcontinental Inc.
- University of California San Diego