Building a Greener Business – BIC’s Webinar held 12th March 2020

BIC’s Director of Marketing Strategy provides an overview of this seminar-turned-webinar.

The cancellation of LBF 20 did not deter BIC who were due to run a seminar on Building a Greener Business on March 12. Upon receiving the sad news of the cancellation, the BIC team leapt into action to reschedule the already popular event as a webinar. This resulted in 121 delegates registering for the event from 66 organisations and 12 countries making it a truly diverse and international affair. 

It was a fascinating two and half hours: 10 speakers from 10 organisations covering the environmental journey of a book, discussing the carbon footprint of the book industry and the impact of plastics and hearing from leading organisations in the industry as to what they are doing to help combat these pressing issues. Finally, there was an illuminating panel discussion from some of the leading lights in publishing on what the future holds for the book industry in becoming greener and guidance on what organisations can be doing to achieve this. It was a great overview on where we are as an industry and what we need to be doing.  

The starting point was to see what the environmental health of the planet currently is and to look at key global business and personal trends. This was laid out very well by Jo Shaw, Sales Director Book Discovery and Commerce Solutions, Nielsen Book. She outlined how there was no doubt about the scale of the challenge facing us, with recent global events such as the Australian bushfires highlighting this. The impact of plastic was also brought up with the staggering statistic that in 2015 there was more plastic by weight than there are humans in the entire planet! Online shopping is also a threat with the UK sending 1.9 billion parcels in 2019. The good news is that consumers are waking up to this and looking for organisations to be more sustainable and 81% will pay more for this. The maxim of ‘Healthy for Me, Healthy for We’ is gaining traction. Future sustainability is here to stay and businesses that can respond to, and deliver, against this will grow.

Next, we heard from Lisa Farrato, Customer Service Director & Director of Environment and Sustainability, CPI Books and Fiona McIntosh, Orion Group Production Director, Orion Books who told us about the impact of the manufacture of books on the environment. 190 million books were sold in the UK in 2019 with 2.7-4kg of CO2 per book. That is the equivalent of 190,000 African Forest Elephants! A staggering statistic but when viewed as part of the UK economy as a whole, book sales only contribute 0.09% of carbon. Still, we need to do better as an industry and there were some great suggestions from CPI and Orion and the other speakers on how to impact this. CPI work on the basis of four key principles – use green energy where possible, try and have zero waste going to landfill, reduce carbon footprint and always look to promote the circular economy. They work to the four ‘R’s – Remove, Reduce, Recycle and Re-Use where possible and have found this to be effective. Examples include looking at paper suppliers to ensure they are as sustainable as possible, trying to eliminate where possible animal products from production materials – such as glues, inks and cover mounts – and eliminating where possible non-recyclable materials. They are aspiring to produce books vegans can embrace – exciting times indeed!

We then worked our way further through the supply chain hearing from Stephen Day, formerly Senior Vice President, Supply Chain, Global Operations at Pearson PLC who talked about the environmental challenges of maintaining inventory as 80% of sales on average come from a small percentage of inventory. Holding large amounts of stock, and ultimately pulping, are serious challenges to lowering carbon costs; operational changes to manage this are essential. Stephen believes we are in an environmental revolution with the far-reaching impact of the industrial revolution arriving at the speed of the information revolution. Neil Springall, Head of Operations, Penguin Random House Services UK (PRH) gave us an inspirational presentation with practical examples of what they are doing to reduce waste and plastic use. PRH are using a multi-use pallet lid to eliminate the plastic wrapping of pallets that can be tracked using RFID codes. So far, this has reduced their inbound plastic waste by a massive 85%. They are also using new shredding equipment to turn waste cardboard into recyclable packing and will be carbon neutral by 2030. Finally, we heard from Kate McHale, Campaign Manager, Waterstones on the myriad measures booksellers are taking with paper bags, recyclable gift cards and a reduction in till receipts.

Having looked at the environmental journey of a printed book and some of the great initiatives industry leaders are employing to tackle their carbon footprints we turned to the future via a panel discussion with leading lights from the industry namely: Victoria Bostock, Sales Director, Leo Paper Products UK Ltd; Meryl Halls, Managing Director, The Booksellers Association of the UK & Ireland Ltd; Brian O’Leary, Executive Director, Book Industry Study Group (BISG) , mediated by Karina Urquhart, Executive Director, Book Industry Communication (BIC) Ltd. The general feeling was that in order to share and demonstrate progress, it was important to create a baseline, however basic, against which we might measure progress. It is very important to recognise that green consumers want to know (often in detail) how the industry is dealing with environmental issues. The book industry’s supply chain underpins how green the book industry is now, and how green it can be in the future. Particularly with printed books, it is in the supply chain that the most impactful changes are possible. Minimising plastic use is a key part of this as is joined up thinking and co-operation globally. ‘It’s a good time to be a supply chain organisation’, was how Brian O’Leary put it during the session and BIC is providing global leadership in this key area. The rise of the eco consumer is very important to this journey and they expect organisations to lead and make the necessary changes to reduce their environmental impact. The final word was had by Victoria Bostock who wryly observed that ‘Books are not a single use item’!

Nick Poole, Chief Executive, The Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals (CILIP) summarised the learnings from the webinar reminding us that every part of the supply chain needs to be scrutinised. Sustainability and eco consumers are here to stay and the book industry needs to reduce waste, use more green energy and promote the circular economy. Involving staff is very important to maximise green efficiencies and we need to be able to monitor our position and not only measure our progress and successes but shout about and share them. International collaboration and sharing best practices are vital as this needs to be a concerted effort. BIC and BISG as already dedicated supply chain organisations for the book industry are at the heart of leading this issue. Nick encouraged delegates to sign up to BIC’s green mailing list and highlighted that the green agenda is woven through all of BIC’s activities and committee work.  It was evident from this session that BIC is focussed on continuing its great work in bringing the industry together to find the best supply chain solutions, prioritising its green agenda both at home and internationally,  and making all findings available to a wider audience.

You can watch the Webinar in full for free, below:

To join the Green Mailing List, please click here

To access more information on the Webinar including presentations and speaker bios, please click here.

To learn more about BIC and becoming a BIC member, please click here.


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