What Can You Do to Help the Industry Meet Its New Environmental Goals? A Q&A With Book Industry Environmental Council Members Pete Datos and Todd Pollak
Approaching the same problem from different angles, both the book publishing industry and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided one day apart that measures must be taken to reduce America's greenhouse gas emissions.
On April 16, an organization of book industry constituents announced a goal of “reducing the U.S. book industry’s greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020 ... [and] 80 percent ... by 2050.” The organization, the Book Industry Environmental Council (BIEC), was formed by and is now co-coordinated by the Green Press Initiative (GPI), a nonprofit advocacy organization that works to reduce the book publishing industry's impact on the environment, as well as the Book Industry Study Group.
The next day, the EPA formally named six greenhouse gases as pollutants that need to be regulated.
While a Supreme Court case decrying auto emissions spurred the EPA's move, self-examination seems to have prompted the BIEC's efforts. Pete Datos, chair of the BIEC’s greenhouse gas reductions committee and a vice president at Hachette Book Group, and Todd Pollak, BIEC member and program manager for GPI, spoke with Book Business Extra to provide details about the BIEC goals.
Book Business Extra: How and why did you set the goals of reducing the book publishing industry's environmental impact by 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050?
Pete Datos: Many participants in the BIEC felt that setting a goal for the whole industry was an important first step; the sub-committee worked hard to balance the clear environmental needs with what we could do as an industry. ...
Todd Pollak: The committee that worked on developing those goals based the targets both on existing precedent … and then we also looked at regional and state government goals, as well as some targets that had been set by key politicians and lawmakers. ... We also looked at some corporate goals that were made through programs like the EPA Climate Leaders Program. ... The commitments that many of the companies that were participating in that program made would put those companies on track to 20-percent reduction by 2020 if they were to continue to reduce emissions at a similar pace. ... We also looked at data from the scientific community and it seemed that there was a good deal of support for the idea that, at a global, societal level, the goals of 20-percent reduction by 2020 and 80-percent reduction by 2050 were what were needed to avoid some of the worst consequences of global climate change.
Book Business Extra: How will you achieve these goals? What steps can publishers take to help?
Datos: Paper is clearly the biggest component of our carbon footprint as an industry, so anything that helps use paper more efficiently (more recycling, reducing returns, fewer books to landfills, etc.) yields the most significant results. In addition, we can all strive for “greener solutions” in our companies' decisions around product transportation, electricity usage, office recycling efforts and so on.
Book Business Extra: What are your thoughts on the EPA's comments on April 17?
Pollack: ... I think it's becoming clearer and clearer [that], at some point, there's going to be legislation that caps carbon emissions—if not this year, then probably not too far off into the future. And that kind of legislation will actually be an advantage to companies in industries that have taken a look at their carbon footprint and figured out about how to reduce it. And it could harm those that are caught off guard and have not taken the idea of reducing emissions seriously. So, in the context of preparing for what's likely coming down the pipeline, I think this goal puts companies that are taking actions to reduce their emissions and the book industry, as a whole, in a better position.
Book Business Extra: How will this initiative impact production costs in an industry already struggling with those costs, in addition to increased competition and a recession?
Datos: ... Many companies have actually found that they saved money when they made decisions to be more efficient and choose “greener” options. There's a huge spectrum of efficiency initiatives we can work on, from reducing returns to switching off lights when not in use. The important thing is to get started.
Pollack: ... One of the reasons that we decided, when we were setting this goal, that we didn't want to be too prescriptive in defining how the industry would reach the target is because some steps are probably going to be more cost-effective for one company than they would be for another company. And so different companies might look at their own emissions and see that there's one way that makes more sense for them. ...
Book Business Extra: Will adoption of technologies, such as e-readers, help to impact these goals? To what extent?
Datos: It's very hard to measure the impact of new technologies since the long-term environmental effects of these devices are not yet clear … .
Pollack: ... We chose not to take a stand on the impact of e-readers when creating this goal.
Book Business Extra: How do you plan to get other publishers on board with this initiative and where can publishers go to learn more?
Datos: Publishers can go to our Web site, BookCouncil.org, to get more information. ...
Pollak: It's definitely our hope that this industrywide goal will inspire publishers and others in the industry, and even in other industries, to set their own goals and goals for their specific company that are consistent with the target. I think the next step to encourage that will be to outline ... a few different scenarios and detail a few different pathways that are not the only options, but definitely demonstrate a few options to show that the goal is achievable. ... Green Press Initiative also has a section on its Web site, and that includes an overview, but also a guide to reducing greenhouse gas emissions ... [at] GreenPressInitiative.org.