Carbon output: what publishers can do

Michael Sturges, PPA Sustainability Advisor

The recent Extinction Rebellion protests and school climate strikes have set the topic of climate change right back in the centre of everyone’s agenda. Here, you can find out the simple step publishers can take to monitor carbon emissions

Just as the Blue Planet effect has made the use of plastics socially unacceptable, David Attenborough’s recent BBC documentary Climate Change: The Facts has seriously awoken viewers to the need for immediate action to reduce and mitigate the effects of emissions of greenhouse gases.

Unthinkable a month ago, it now seems increasingly likely that the call to declare a climate emergency will be heard. This will need to then be backed up with urgent action if global warming is to be kept below the critical level of 1.5°C of warming. This objective will require global emissions to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching “net zero” before 2050.

Such rapid decarbonisation will have massive implications for the supply chains and economies within which all businesses, including publishing, operate. It is essential that PPA members understand and start to prepare for these changes.

Whilst many sectors remain unprepared and this wake-up call comes as a shock, the PPA has been proactively helping members to understand the implications of climate change in their supply chains for more than a decade. Members participating in PPA’s Sustainability Action Group (SAG) have been working with the PPA’s Carbon Calculator to understand the drivers and pinch-points behind the carbon impact of their products and services.

Publishers working with the PPA Carbon Calculator have found that factors significantly affecting the footprint include the type of paper used, the pagination of the publication, their specific distribution model, and the unsolds level for newsstand magazines. For example, one publisher was surprised to learn that the greatest share of the carbon footprint for their flagship publication was due to overseas subscriptions, with emissions from airfreight dominating their emissions profile.

Other publishers were taken aback to learn that the carbon impact of their digital services is dominated by the energy consumed by the reader. Since, they have implemented design solutions in their websites that make consuming their content more energy efficient for the reader.

By measuring and understanding their corporate and product carbon footprint, these businesses are better prepared to face the new challenges that they and their suppliers will face in the light of the drive for a carbon-free economy. Now is the time to act. If your business would like to learn about its carbon impact of its publishing activities, sign up now for the PPA’s carbon calculator (available free to PPA members). 


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