At Frankfurt: IPA Stages Its Second ‘Sustainability Summit’

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The Publishers Association’s Dan Conway called sustainability ‘the issue we will all be judged on in the future.”

International Publishers Association president Bodour Al Qasimi addresses the IPA’s ‘Sustainability Summit’ as former president Michiel Kolman looks on, October 19. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Roger Tagholm

By Roger Tagholm | @RogerTagholm
With Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

See also: 
IPA, FEP: A Climate-Crisis ‘Publishing 2030 Accelerator’
London Book Fair: IPA Focuses on Sustainability
Our Coverage of Climate-Crisis Issues

Al Qasimi: ‘To Move Forward as One’
Frankfurt’s second “Sustainability Summit,” hosted by the International Publishers Association (IPA) drew a standing-room-only turnout, underlining the seriousness with which the world book publishing industry is now addressing the issue.

Publishing Perspectives readers will recall the October 4 announcement of what may well be world publishing’s most aggressive response to the crisis yet, the establishment of the “Publishing 2030 Accelerator,” signatories to which agree to hold each other to account. Our article on still very young effort here.

As Dan Conway, the new CEO of the United Kingdom’s Publishers Association, put it: “This is the prevailing issue of our time and it’s the issue we will all be judged on in the future.”

IPA president Bodour al Qasimi told the audience of trade visitors, “Sustainability requires the entire industry to move forward as one.

“It requires the commitment of every publisher and every link in our value chain from every market in the world, from production to packaging, to wholesaling, to distribution, to retail stores and libraries.

“And most importantly it requires that we, the publishers, are aware of our critical role in this subject.

“We’re much more than just providers of information. We have an important role to play also in decarbonizing our industry and finding new pathways through which we can generate the kind of transformation we need to be more sustainable.”

Conway: ‘The Prevailing Issue of Our Time’

Bodour Al Qasimi speaks in the light of a screen projection at IPA’s Frankfurter Buchmesse ‘Sustainability Summit.’ Image: Publishing Perspectives, Roger Tagholm

As recently as April’s London Book Fair, the IPA leadership and many member-associations were focused on the SDG Compact, as it’s called. (“SDG” for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.)  The newly established “Publishing 2030 Accelerator” picks up the pace and commitment considerably.

The good news signaled by speakers in this Frankfurt event is that such action is being taken.

In a passionate, energetic address, Rachel Martin of Elsevier talked about that Amsterdam-based publisher’s “carbon label” initiative, which can tell a consumer what weight of C02 a book carries.

“She talked about “carbon disclosure” and transparent reporting of such details.

Jorg Engelstadter of Canon echoed former IPA president Richard Charkin’s comments of years gone by about the absurdity of shipping books across the world. He has a vision of print files being sent to printers around the world, an international print-on-demand network.

Finally, Conway also flagged up “carbon benchmarking,” which allows companies to compare themselves with their competitors.

One thing seems certain: next year’s Sustainability Summit will need a bigger room.


Our Frankfurter Buchmesse Show Magazine now is available to our world readership in a free digital download online. The magazine originally appeared in print on the Messe Frankfurt for trade visitors as Frankfurt Book Fair opened October 19.

The magazine features extensive coverage of issues and trends that led discussions and debates at the trade show this year, along with interviews, profiles, and commentary in this strongly attended Frankfurt year. Click here for your download (PDF).

More from Publishing Perspectives on the climate crisis is here, more on sustainability is here, more on the International Publishers Association is here, more on the Federation of European Publishers is here, and more on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the global media partner of the International Publishers Association.

More on the still-ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

About the Author

Roger Tagholm

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Roger Tagholm is based in London and has been writing about the book industry for more than 20 years. He is the former Deputy Editor of Publishing News and the author of Walking Literary London (New Holland) and Poems NOT on the Underground (Windrush Press).

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