Monday, November 26, 2007

Paper view

A recurrent theme on this blog has been my publishers and their environmental policies, so it was with huge pleasure that I received an email from Hachette Livre UK’s CEO, Tim Hely Hutchinson, containing a press release from the corporation. Here are some of the details…

Hachette Livre UK, the largest publisher in the UK, has committed to “working with environmental organisations to ensure that its policies and practices not only protect the environment but also improve it wherever practical”. (This is a major turnaround: until recently Hachette was reluctant to talk to Greenpeace, let alone actively work with them.)

In order to achieve its goals, Hachette aims to phase out “controversial sources of paper fibre”. When practical, preference will be given to using post-consumer recycled fibre. The company is working to ensure that any virgin fibre is certified by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council).

It’s a tough call to make such a huge shift in policy, so one appreciates that it will take a little time. Nonetheless, the press statement goes on to claim that Hachette is working towards FSC certification on a company by company basis. Little, Brown will achieve certification at the start of 2008, with all other companies – including Headline and my own publisher, Sceptre – following by the end of the year. The overall aim is to move “substantially” all trade publishing to FSC-certified paper by the end of 2009, and to make “major progress” in the same direction for educational and illustrated publishing (a much tougher ask, by all accounts).

Progress doesn’t stop here. Hachette Livre UK has made commitments on ethical trading and recycling from their offices and warehouses, while pledging to cut its carbon emissions by working with the Carbon Trust. Emissions that cannot be avoided are to be ‘off-set’ by contributions to tree planting programmes. (And yes, I know this is a hotly debated policy.)

While running my letter campaign to get Hachette to improve its act, I spoke with Belinda Fletcher, Senior Forest Campaigner at Greenpeace-UK. It reassures me that she has seen fit to write the following for the press release:

“By choosing recycled fibre and paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council for their books, Hachette Livre UK is making great strides towards being a truly forest friendly company. Greenpeace welcomes Hachette Livre UK’s ethical and environmental policy – once implemented, it will be great news both for the environment and for consumers.”

Having written exhorting letters to Tim Hely Hutchinson, I am now in the far happier position of writing him a letter of thanks. Of course, my personal efforts will only have had a small impact; but many writers have expressed similar concerns – which just goes to show that pester power can work.


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