Will Your Sustainability Efforts Stack Up?
Most publishers are relatively tone deaf to adversarial activist campaigns. And so far, large, mainstream publishers have been only lukewarm in their response to voluntary multi-stakeholder collations like the Green Press Initiative/EPA Resource Conservation Challenge, which is calling on publishers to improve their ecological footprint. But, it will be increasingly difficult to ignore the growing number of institutional investors that are calling for big business to address the sustainability challenge.
Socially responsible investment funds and indexes that employ sustainability performance ratings now represent in excess of $2 trillion in holdings. The influence of these funds is rising as they are rapidly moving from the margins to the mainstream, with the advent of funds like the Vanguard Calvert Social Index (VCSIX) and the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes (DJSI).
Institutional investors and other stakeholders will increasing call on publishers to adopt voluntary codes of sustainability conduct, such as the:
• United Nations' Global Compact,
• Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES),
• Global Reporting Initiative (GRI),
• Global Sullivan Principles, and
• The International Chamber of Commerce's Business Charter for Sustainable Development and its 16 principles for environmental management.
These codes of conduct encourage companies and organizations from different industrial sectors and cultures to work toward common goals in addressing environmental and social issues. Endorsing companies are asked to espouse shared values and integrate them into their internal policies, procedures, training and reporting structures. In addition, they are asked to document their progress toward sustainability and regularly report on their social, economic and environmental performance.
Given the importance of literacy and education in addressing the challenges of sustainability, publishers are by no means exempt from the call to action. Some publishers point to the number of titles that they publish on the topics of sustainability, environmental stewardship, conservation and ethics in defense of the industry's commitment to these issues. Others point to their philanthropy and their support for education.