BIC Webinar – How the Trade is getting Greener

PRH, Hachette, Waterstones and others contribute to LBF event, transferred online

The Book Industry Communication (BIC) seminar Building a Greener Business, due to have taken place at the London Book Fair on the morning of Thursday 12th March 2020, was quickly and successfully convened as an online seminar instead, with the same speakers and programme.

Sponsored by HP and Nielsen Book, the session traced the environmental journey of a book from printer to consumer. Jo Shaw, sales director at Nielsen Book Discover & Commerce, set the scene with a snapshot of the environmental health of the planet. Even though the EU now has a range of directives to reduce the use of single use plastics (SUPs), plastic production, which in 2015 produced the equivalent of more than the total combined weight of everybody on the planet, is due to quadruple by 2050. Only 45% of all plastic packaging is recycled, and the rise in online sales means that the UK may well miss its current recycling target by more than a decade. While the vast majority of consumers – 81% – say the environment is of high importance, many do not recycle consistently, although plastic is now top of the green agenda, and less packaging is a key issue that everyone needs to address over the next few years.

Cut the glitter

Lisa Faratro, customer service director at printers CPI, said that the company was now sending nothing to landfill and that, taking the mantra “Remove, Reduce, Recycle and Reuse”, CPI was even recycling the plastic used to wrap books. Efforts are also being made to recycle and/or reuse material such as foil, laminates and embossing, but glitter remains a problem – it is a material that Hachette is no longer using, said Fiona McIntosh, Orion production director.

Stephen Day, ex svp of supply chain at Pearson, noted that the amount of book miles travelled was an unrecognised environmental cost, with the industry incentivised towards over-production. Possible solutions include moving towards zero inventory and on-demand printing; simplifying and standardising product types; moving production nearer to where the customers are rather than centralising it; and improved management of work flows and data (the collection and dissemination of which takes huge amounts of energy).

Neil Springall, head of operations at Penguin Random House Services, said that PRH had set out to achieve a 75% reduction in SUPs and aimed to be carbon neutral by 2030. So far, there has been a reduction of 85% in the use of inbound SUPs, but outbound SUPs had only seen a 50% reduction. One solution had been the purchase of specially designed caps for use on book pallets instead of shrinkwrapping, an effective though expensive option; PRH was trialling reusable shipping cartons for indie bookshops. Springall extended an open invitation to anyone who would like to visit the Colchester site to learn more about the green initiatives PRH is putting in place.

Waste not at the Hub

At the bookshop end of the supply chain Waterstones has already addressed many customer-facing sustainability issues, said Kate McHale, Waterstones campaign manager. This included replacing all plastic carrier bags with paper bags that could be re-used up to four times before being recycled, and no automatic till receipts, with many other initiatives also in hand and with the amount of plastic waste at Waterstones’ Hub now being looked at – 9 tonnes had been eliminated from the supply chain so far this year.

Meryl Halls, MD of the Booksellers Association, said that the BA’s Green Bookselling Manifesto, launched last summer, had drawn a positive response from the trade. The manifesto included recommendations to stop sending out unsolicited book proofs and marketing materials to booksellers, and had contributed to a trade-wide conversation on how best to affect change. The conversation is international, with both the American and Australian Booksellers Associations working with the BA on the initiative.

Nick Poole, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), urged everyone to join in this industry-wide initiative to measure the current situation, to share best practice, and to affect change collectively, recommending signing up to the BIC Green Supply Chain mailing list and the BIC Green breakfasts.

Useful links from BIC

Building a Greener Business webinar recording
BIC’s Green Supply Chain mailing list
Seminar presentations
Seminar programme
Seminar speakers

See this article on the Bookbrunch website, here.


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