Saturday, April 21, 2007

Paper tigers

Back in December, I wrote about my publishers and their ecologically unsound paper policy. Here’s a reminder and an update…

Greenpeace is running a campaign to encourage UK publishing houses to stop sourcing paper from ancient forest regions and to develop ancient forest friendly solutions, including the use of recycled paper and virgin fibre certified to the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Greenpeace has had considerable success with its campaign, with over 40% of the book publishing industry having now introduced forest friendly procurement policies.

Unfortunately, Hachette Livre UK, which controls 17% of the publishing industry, is refusing to join the movement. It continues to source virgin fibre from ancient forest areas such as those in Finland, as well as using pulp from Russia, where illegal logging practices are rife. Hachette is also printing books in South East Asia and has failed to demonstrate that these are not linked to the destruction of Indonesian rainforests.

It isn’t easy for a large company to change its policies; but by making a long-term public commitment, Hachette could send a clear message to the industry that this is the direction the company wants to move in. This is roughly what I wrote in a letter to Hachette CEO, Tim Hely Hutchinson. In his reply he assured me that my next novel, Serious Things, would be published on FSC paper. At the same time, Hachette Livre UK has signed up to a new industry initiative called PREPS. This initiative only commits the company to identifying where it is sourcing its paper fibre and does not commit it to moving towards recycled and FSC certified papers in the long term, as all of the other major publishing houses have done. So there is still much lobbying to be done.

Now it would be fair to say that I am a very wee minnow in the well-stocked Hachette pond. To this end, I have written to more substantial authors asking them to add their names to the campaign. So far, only the philosopher A.C. Grayling has responded and my thanks go out to him. I wait in hope of hearing from some of the others, who include David Mitchell, Kate Mosse, Ian Rankin, Martina Cole, Maeve Binchy and John Le Carré.

A quick update: 24/04/07. This morning one of the best known authors in the UK sent me an email. I was thrilled to learn that he is already an active supporter of the Greenpeace paper campaign and has taken substantial steps to ensure that his own novels are published on 'sustainable' paper. The author's efforts predate mine and were independent of my letter - which just shows that demand for change is real.


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