Big News on the “Green” Front
Environmental advocacy groups were likely breaking out the champagne as Random House Inc. (www.RandomHouse.com)—the world’s largest English-language trade book publisher and the U.S. division of Random House, the largest trade book publisher in the world—announced its plans for a tenfold increase in its use of recycled paper. The company says that within four years a minimum of 30 percent of the uncoated paper it uses to print the majority of its U.S. titles will be derived from recycled fibers (as opposed to its current 3 percent).
The announcement marks the most substantial environmental initiative in the company’s history, and considering the fact that Random House Inc.—whose imprints and divisions in the U.S. include Bantam Dell, Crown, Doubleday Broadway, Knopf, Fodor’s Travel Guides, Random House Children’s Books, among others—purchases approximately 120,000 tons of paper for book production a year, it will have a significant impact on the environment.
Many in the industry are applauding the company’s move, not only for its obvious environmental benefits, but for the fact that the company—which publishes many of today’s most popular titles, such as “The DaVinci Code,” “The Year of Magical Thinking” and “The Husband”—was not deterred from improving its environmental impact by some pretty substantial costs.
According to Peter Olson, chairman and CEO of Random House worldwide, the paper initiative will be a multimillion-dollar investment.
Jeff Rechtzigel, the company’s vice president of supply chain operations, explains, “As we achieve our recycling goals, we will see an increase in our paper costs. This increase will vary by paper grade and by mill because adding recycled content often adds steps to the paper-making process, such as acquiring and de-inking post-consumer waste,” he says. “Based on the mix of papers that we use and conversations with our mill partners, we estimate this to be a multimillion-dollar investment. Over time, we expect increasing book industrywide commitments to papers with recycled content will help fuel the evolution of mills, processes, and technologies that are most efficient at incorporating recycled fiber, which will limit the difference in cost.” ―
Stuart Applebaum, Random House Inc. chief spokesman, comments, “Doing what is right for the environment is very important to our colleagues, many of whom have long urged Mr. Olson, and other senior Random House Inc. executives to take a more active pro-ecological stand regarding the recyclability of the paper that comprises our books,” he says. “Authors and readers also often look to Random House to lead the way in offering solutions to challenging publishing issues. As a financially successful company, we want to make a long-term investment in an environmental opportunity that will benefit all of us.”
Details of the Initiative
So, why 30 percent for the company’s new recycled-fiber use goal? The company says it based its decision on guidelines advocated by environmental organizations and on the company’s assessment of paper availability and capacity.
It plans to implement its goal in steps, with 10 percent of the company’s paper purchases next year containing recycled fiber. In 2008, that will jump to 15 percent, and in 2009, it will jump to 20 percent.
In 2007, the company also will purchase more coated paper (used for its glossy-stock titles, such as cookbooks or art books) that uses recycled content—upping its percentages to 5 percent for next year, and a minimum of 10 percent in 2008.
According to Random House Inc., the “great majority” of new titles and backlist reprints will contain recycled paper within four years—how much each title will contain will be left up to the company’s individual publishing groups.
“At Random House Inc. each of the publishing groups and their divisions have always had the final determination of the paper selection and design for each of their books, working in collaboration with the publishing operations and their production staff. That decision-making very much continues unchanged with our new paper policy,” says Applebaum.
David F. Drake, the company’s former director, publishing operations projects, comments, “From bulk to hue, there are significant design considerations associated with paper selection, and these design decisions remain the sole purview of the editorial and publishing groups.”
Drake—who recently left Random House to pursue his doctorate, but continues to assist in an advisory capacity in the implementation of the paper policy he helped set—adds, “As the availability of recycled content can vary between papers, these design decisions will influence the allocation of recycled content across our titles. In implementing our environmental policy, we will ensure that we attain our targets in aggregate while preserving the publishing groups’ creative freedom for their individual book and publishing programs.”
As for where Random House will shop for paper to suit its new goals, according to Rechtzigel, “As we fully implement the policy, we intend to work with many of our current suppliers to enable us to achieve our goals. Should the need arise, we will engage in discussions with suppliers new to us as well,” he says.
The company also seems to be intending to make its new paper content known to consumers. “We internally are currently discussing prospective wording we might use in our books to identify the use of recycled fibers,” says Rechtzigel.
The industry’s New
Random House announced its new policy on May 16, coincidentally just days before the Green Press Initiative’s (GPI) announcement during Book Expo America of a new Book Industry Treatise on Responsible Paper Use, which defines goals (similar to those set by Random House in its new policy) for improving the book industry’s environmental impact.
GPI (www.GreenPressInitiative.org), an industry organization that helps publishers improve their environmental impact, developed the treatise with input from 25 publishers, book printers, paper companies and merchants, and established the goals for increasing the average use of recycled fiber from the industry’s current 5 percent to 30 percent by 2011. Like Random House’s effort, this effort also will have significant environmental impact if fully realized. According to GPI, it would conserve 524 million pounds of greenhouse gases—in other words, the equivalent to keeping 45,818 cars off the road each year. It also would save the equivalent of 4.9 million trees, 2.1 billion gallons of water, and 264 million pounds of solid waste each year.
While GPI is just starting its push to sign on supporters of the treatise, some have already signed it, and 105 U.S. publishers and two book manufacturers have already developed policies consistent with the treatise’s goals, says GPI.
Rudy Shur, president of Square One Publishers—a Long Island-based independent publishing company—says his company was involved in developing the treatise and has signed it. “It’s a benchmark, a target to shoot for that didn’t exist before,” says Shur.
And Random House’s new policy is likely to stir the environmental waters.
“Random House has set the bar for the rest of the major multinationals,” says Tyson Miller, GPI program director.
While Random House’s goals seem to coincide with those being set by the treatise, the company has not committed to endorsing it.
“Our conversations with the Green Press Initiative and the others involved with the treatise have been very informative and beneficial, as have been our conversations with several mills. GPI has been a valuable resource and ally in this initiative, and we intend to maintain that dialogue, continuing to actively engage in a wide-ranging give and take about many of the issues they raise,” says Drake. “We have committed to implement many of the goals we and GPI have discussed; at present, we have not committed to become a signatory.” ―
Regardless of whether or not the company signs on the dotted line, its new initiative is significant to the cause. “Random House’s policy is sort of symbolic of the book industry nearing a critical-mass point whereby there will be some wide-scale transformations if other multinationals follow their lead,” says Miller. “Random House understands the value of corporate social responsibility and is putting it into practice, and that’s something all publishers should consider doing.” BB