The issue is no longer whether there is a need for us all, in our businesses and in our private lives, to change the way we behave, but the speed at which we can change. It is now clear that, given the pace of global population growth and increased prosperity, there are not enough ‘earths’to sustain our current lifestyles without a combination of rapid technical innovation and significant behavioural change.
Like most people, I’m giving a great deal of thought to this at home. But the biggest impact I can have is at work. As managing director of a company that produces almost 100 million magazines a year (that’s 40,000 tonnes of paper), many of them polybagged, I have a responsibility to listen to and understand the science and to act decisively.
The magazine industry as a whole also has a duty to respond as well and has already been taking a number of important steps.
We must only use paper that we know comes from sustainable sources. BBC Magazines recommends the use of FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper. BBC Wildlife magazine was, in fact, the first consumer magazine in the world to carry the FSC label a number of years ago and another major step for us was having Radio Times FSC certified.
We have recently announced that two-thirds of our 40-strong portfolio will be printed on FSC paper by this autumn.
The critical point, however, is that any publisher examines carefully the source of the fibre in the paper they use and seeks independent corroboration to ensure that none can possibly contribute to the destruction of the world’s forests or areas of high conservation value.
We also need to address and reduce wastage in the supply chain and do all we can to limit unsold levels.
Working with wholesalers and retailers we should support any initiatives that discourage unrealistic distribution levels and resist changes to the supply chain that would add to the miles travelled by magazines.
We must ensure that both unsold copies and so called ‘post-consumer waste’are sent for recycling and not to landfill. I’m pleased to say that virtually 100 per cent of unsolds are now recycled and we have a target agreed with the Government to play our part in raising the proportion of post-consumer waste to 70 per cent by 2013.
Plastic wrapping on certain titles is a major concern and the technology is now available to ensure we use nothing but biodegradable polybags. We need to ensure that we are not covermounting anything that can contaminate the magazine recycling process and we need to work with all of our suppliers and partners in the supply chain to measure and set meaningful targets for the reduction of our extended carbon footprint.
Internal environmental housekeeping should also be paramount at publishing houses. Like many companies, BBC Worldwide is already examining opportunities across the business to greatly reduce its energy usage and carbon emissions.
Magazines are fantastic products and have a tremendous part to play in extending people’s understanding and appreciation of these very issues. And properly managed, their ‘green’credentials are strong.
But the emphasis is on responsible management. Our customers would expect nothing less, and our children and grandchildren will ultimately be the beneficiaries.