Corner Office: Hachette Book Group Goes 'Green'
In today's evermore environmentally conscious society, many publishers have implemented "green" practices. Over the past two years, major publishing houses, such as Random House, Simon & Schuster and Scholastic, have joined a number of independent, smaller and midsize publishers in launching formal environmental sustainability policies, reflecting the priority increasingly being placed on being "green" by readers, retail partners and employees.
Most recently (in late 2009), New York-based U.S. trade publisher Hachette Book Group announced a comprehensive environmental policy that provides for a tenfold increase in recycled-fiber usage by 2012, a 20-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, sourcing paper certified from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), ending the use of paper that may impact endangered forests and more.
"We're very pleased to establish Hachette Book Group's new 'green' policy, which demonstrates our commitment to the environment, to the responsible use of natural resources and to sustainable business practice," said CEO David Young in the company's announcement of the new policy. "It is imperative that our industry be mindful of our impact on the planet, and we believe that our progressive policy will encourage other publishers to be equally focused on these important issues."
Hachette's goals include reducing climate impacts, increasing recycled and certified fiber usage, protecting endangered forests, maximizing efficient use of resources, reducing the number of books in landfills, and "greening" the workplace—which it projects will eliminate 86,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
Book Business caught up with Peter Datos, Hachette Book Group's vice president of inventory and procurement, and head of its environmental board, to discuss how this new policy affects Hachette's production costs, internal and external policies, and the importance of going "green."
• How does this new policy affect production costs for Hachette? Will it be more expensive to go "green"?
Peter Datos: It depends on the initiative. Increasing our use of recycled and FSC-certified paper may cost more, but many other initiatives like optimizing basis weights and improving projections of consumer demand will likely save money.
• How does it affect internal policies and goals for the use of postconsumer-waste (PCW) recycled content paper?
Datos: We have several internal paper initiatives already underway, but they are more focused on reducing paper usage: piloting paperless editorial and composition processes, manuscript distribution via e-readers, managed print services, and digital galleys for media and booksellers.
• What about externally—for example, in book manufacturing?
Datos: The paper in our books accounts for over 90 percent of our carbon footprint. Our goal of a tenfold increase in the use of [PCW] recycled paper is one of the most important aspects of our new policy and will influence all of our paper-purchasing decisions.
• How will this affect the bottom line, both in the short term and long term?
Datos: Thanks to a great list of titles, HBG has been able to grow the top line significantly in the past few years. We are also constantly monitoring expenses to ensure that we operate as efficiently as possible. These strategies have allowed us to invest in those things that are important to the long-term health of our company (including the environment) while also increasing our profitability in the short term.
• Has Hachette researched what impact its new policy will have on the environment?
Datos: Yes, there are some really great tools available that helped us understand our carbon footprint, especially those endorsed by the Green Press Initiative. We've calculated that implementing these goals will save more than 267,000 trees annually, or 86,000 tons of greenhouse gases, the equivalent of removing nearly 16,000 cars from the road.
• Is Hachette working with its supply chain to implement the policy?
Datos: We recently completed negotiations with all of our paper suppliers and have built a purchasing plan for 2010 that will allow us to make dramatic progress against our recycled and FSC targets. We are also working closely with customers for whom these issues are important.
• What pushed Hachette to launch a formal environmental policy now?
Datos: This issue is really important to many of our customers, authors and employees. We've been working to develop this policy for some time now—we wanted to commit to the most progressive goals, but also wanted to be sure we could deliver on them.
• What do the plans and practices entail in order to meet the goals set by the new policy?
Datos: This policy is quite broad and will likely lead to a series of initiatives that may impact all parts of our company as well as our supply chain partners. We have an environmental board that is a cross-functional team charged with coordinating all of our environmental initiatives, tracking our carbon footprint and reporting annually on our progress.
• How difficult has it been to find recycled content paper and/or FSC-certified paper?
Datos: Availability of papers with environmental properties has grown dramatically in the last few years. All of our paper suppliers have presented us with environmental options on the PCW-recycled and certification fronts.
• Especially considering today's economy and how tight budgets are for most companies, how can others in the publishing industry feasibly follow suit?
Datos: I think the most important thing to do first is to calculate your own carbon footprint and get together a cross-section of folks who are passionate about environmental issues and/or key decision makers in the affected areas. If you dig into the issues deeply enough, you may find environmental options already available to you that are not being fully exploited.
• What advice would you give fellow publishers regarding increasing environmental awareness in a cost-effective way?
Datos: Don't automatically assume that the environmentally friendly path is more expensive or out of reach. If you gather the facts, you may find something is very easy to do and actually saves you money. Likewise, don't rush out and implement every "green" idea that's proposed—it's important to understand the cost trade-offs and focus on those ideas that have the highest return on investment.