Ahead of COP26: Elsevier Joins the 2040 Climate Pledge

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The signing of the Climate Pledge this summer by Amsterdam-based Elsevier sets it on course to ‘accelerate the action needed to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.’

Starlings on December 8, 2020, in Elsevier’s home market, the Netherlands, as sunset signals roosting time. It’s believed that their murmurations help protect the birds from raptors. Image – Getty iStockphoto: AGD Beukhof

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Bayazit: ‘Already Net-Zero for Our Own Direct Emissions’
As we continue to look to world publishing for its positions on the climate crisis in the run-up to November’s UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26), we note today (September 3), Elsevier’s stated commitment to a net-zero goal on carbon emissions by 2040.

The organizing entity setting the 2040 date for many corporations’ interest in this, of course, is the Climate Pledge, founded in 2019 by Amazon and Global Optimism. The Climate Pledge effort is to have signatories reach that net-zero goal on carbon emissions 10 years in advance of the COP target of Paris Agreement’s ultimate target, 2050.

“The scientific consensus is clear,” says Kumsal Bayazit, CEO of Elsevier in a statement on this summer’s signing of the Climate Pledge in accord with the company’s parent, RELX.

Kumsal Bayazit

“Climate change is happening,” she says, “and we all have the responsibility to make the future sustainable for our planet. At Elsevier we’re already net-zero for our own direct emissions and by signing the climate pledge I’m confident we can rise to the challenge and accelerate the action needed to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.”

Last year, Elsevier was net-zero for its own direct emissions (Scope 1 and 2) and business travel (part of Scope 3).

In case you’re not familiar with the “scope” terminology involving emissions, these are categorizations of greenhouse gas emissions used across international industries as they work to limit planetary temperature increases to well below 2 degrees Celsius—with a topline goal of hitting an increase limit of 1.5 Celsius at the very least.

In simplest divisions:

  • Scope 1 covers fuel combustion, company vehicles, “fugitive” emissions
  • Scope 2 covers purchased electricity, heat, and steam
  • Scope 3 covers Purchased goods and services, business travel, employee commuting, waste disposal, use of sold products, transportation and distribution (both up- and downstream), investments, and leased assets and franchises

Clearly, Scope 3 outlines the most potential for employee/workforce participation in reprogramming the various impacts a company’s operations may have on the environment.

Luff: ‘We Know There Is Much More To Do’

A graphic created by Elsevier for its climate-change response efforts indicates that in 2019, air travel made up 63 percent of its carbon emissions. By 2030, the company wants to see an average nine metric tons of emissions per flier reduced to 2.5 metric tons. Image: Elsevier

By joining the Climate Pledge alongside other signatories, Elsevier has publicized its own accountability, housing that commitment, logically, in the company’s corporate responsibility programming.

It lists these tasks as those being undertaken to set targets and conceptualize goals ahead. We’re quoting here from the company’s literature:

  • “Set a clear target to reduce carbon emissions resulting from business travel by 50 percent before 2025, based on a 2019 baseline, saving around 10,000 metric tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) emissions annually
  • “Establish an ambitious climate action program focused on sizing and reducing indirect emissions from suppliers (Scope 3 emissions)
  • “Form a climate advisory board of distinguished research experts to help identify the challenges and explore best practices and initiatives that will accelerate progress in climate change research
  • “Leverage its data analytics capabilities to map the net-zero pathways in renewable energy with its latest finding due to be released in October 2021
  • “Focus on our leadership in publishing content on sustainability science and by launching interdisciplinary journals covering climate science such as One Earth and The Lancet Planetary Health
  • Create Sustain, an employee-driven resource group to further embed sustainable principles and practices throughout the company

In its media messaging on climate action, Elsevier points to its support of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including becoming an early signatory to the SDG Publishers Compact created by the UN and  the International Publishers Association (IPA).

Elsevier has also activated an SDG tool on SciVal, its web-based analytics product which provides access to the research performance of global research institutions and their researchers. The SDG tool enables researchers to investigate, understand and analyze SDG research globally to develop existing partnerships or identify potential new opportunities for collaboration.

Nick Luff

Nick Luff, CFO of RELX, is quoted, saying, “Between 2010 and 2019, thanks to the efforts of colleagues across our business, we achieved a reduction of 52 percent in our carbon emissions.

“But we know there is much more to do to limit climate change to 1.5⁰C.

“By making a commitment to net zero through the Climate Pledge, we’ll continue our work on tackling climate change through our own operations, and by meaningful engagement with our suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders.”

At Hoek van Holland, July 30, 2016. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Tas3

More on Elsevier is here, more on climate change and crisis response is here, and more on academic and scholarly publishing is here

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.