By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
See also: Richard Charkin: A Climate-Crisis Response Checklist for Publishers
A Pledge to ‘Hold Each Other Accountable’As the southwestern coast of Florida in the United States reels this morning (October 4) under the impact of Hurricane Ian—at press time, at least 101 people are dead—the timing seems painfully right for a joint statement from the International Publishers Association (IPA) and the Federation of European Publishers (FEP) on behalf of 17 initial signatories, with IPA and FEP providing a steering group.
Called the “Publishing 2030 Accelerator,” its interest is in accelerating publishing’s execution on sustainability, relative to the climate crisis. It’s based in a manifesto announcing the signatories’ ambition “to drive systematic change within the publishing sector,” a one-year project intended “to support and test early-stage ideas that will positively contribute to the wider publishing sector’s sustainability.”
This development follows the involvement in 2021 of these NGOs and some of the signatories with the COP26 programming in Glasgow. At the upcoming Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 19 to 23), a presentation will be made to the association membership of an initial output from the accelerator program.
This newly announced program is described as having “three initial workstreams”:
- Calculating the carbon footprint of an individual book
- Distributed printing
- Reimagining the accounting of revenues
Output from the effort is to take the form of “whitepapers, case studies, and initial concepts” to be made available on a COP26 site maintained by IPA.
At the Core of the Accelerator: Urgency
The key verbal dynamic driving today’s announcement of accelerated climate-crisis response is found in the program’s five-point manifesto.
A very short precede reads: “To everyone who believes in the power of the written word, we believe it is the role of everyone in the publishing ecosystem to put sustainability at the heart of our business and operations to ensure that the book, in all of its forms, continues to drive progress toward a sustainable future for both people and planet.”
The actual challenge, of course, might best be captured in Point 3: “The time for talk is over.” White papers, case studies, and initial concepts may, in fact, seem to involve a lot of talk. Whether this program can then make those outputs actionable will be the question, something its leadership clearly understands. The ultimate energy of the commitment required in an exercise of this kind, then, is found in Point 5 in which the signatories pledge to “hold each other accountable.”
There are two co-chairs of the program named today, both very familiar to Publishing Perspectives‘ internationalist readership, both of them former presidents of the International Publishers Association, Michiel Kolman and Richard Charkin.
In a comment for today’s announcement, Amsterdam-based Michiel Kolman, the Elsevier senior vice-president for research networks and co-chair of Workplace Pride, says, “The time to act on climate is now. Last year we started the dialogue at the first ‘Sustainability Summit,’ which took place at Frankfurter Buchmesse.
“We must now turn our words into action, and I welcome the Publishing 2030 Accelerator as a way to test our assumptions and move the conversation onward toward solutions that will make our industry have positive impact on the planet.”
Elsevier has moved quickly among some of the international industry’s largest players to develop its response to the climate crisis and articulate actionable steps.
And Richard Charkin, formerly of Bloomsbury Publishing and Oxford University Press, now heads his own press, Mensch Publishing, and is a columnist for Publishing Perspectives. (We will hear from Charkin further here on this new initiative, following the release of this announcement.)
Charkin says, “What our industry must do to address our climate impact entails fundamental and sometimes challenging rethinking.
“This requires buy-in from all sectors, all jurisdictions, and all participants at every level and in every function. Aging publishers like me need to embrace and encourage those changes which will make books and journals ever more sustainable for following generations.”
In addition, we hear today from the incoming president of the International Publishers Association, Karine Pansa, who says, “If our sector is to find way to tackle the climate crisis with the required urgency then we need multiple lines of action.
“It’s great to see the volunteers for this accelerator willing to test things for the benefit of the whole sector and bring us all closer to achieving the international climate targets.”
And Peter Kraus vom Cleff, president of the Federation of European Publishers, says, “All European citizens and entrepreneurs need to develop and implement new solutions to address climate challenges.
“The pooling of initiatives from all parties in the publishing value chain is an essential step in making our actions even more ecologically responsible.”
Those who have committed to the Publishing 2030 Accelerator at the time of our announcement today are:
- Alicia Cifre, Canon, Spain
- Andy Hunter, CEO, Bookshop.org, United States
- Angus Phillips, director, Oxford International Centre for Publishing, United Kingdom
- Aran Hansuebsai, Chulalongkorn University Press, Thailand
- Dalia Ibrahim, Nahdet Misr Publishing House, Egypt
- Jesús Badenes del Rio, CEO, Planeta Group, Books Division, Spain (*see our note below relative to Frankfurter Buchmesse)
- José Manuel Anta, managing director, International Publishing Distribution Association (IPDA), Spain
- Jörg Engelstädter, founding manager, Future Book Forum Canon, Germany
- Ignacio Conde Vancells, president, Grupo Planeta, Spain
- Laura Di Giuseppe, Tandem Collective, United Kingdom
- Marc Freitag, head of business development digital, Livonia Print, Germany
- Michiel Kolman, senior vice-president Research Networks, Elsevier, the Netherlands
- Rachel Martin, global director of sustainability, Elsevier, the Netherlands
- Richard Charkin, Mensch Publishing, United Kingdom
- Peter Fisk, GeniusWorks, United Kingdom
- Tino Waegelein, Canon, Germany
- Wolfgang Lübbert, Arctic Paper, Germany/Sweden
*You’ll note that Barcelona’s Jesús Badenes del Rio, the CEO of Spain’s powerhouse Planeta Group’s books division, is one of the signatories to the new Publishing 2030 Accelerator. Badenes will be Publishing Perspectives’ guest in a special Executive Talk with Porter Anderson on Frankfurt’s opening day in the Frankfurt Studio at 12 p.m. CEST.
This year’s Frankfurt Studio in Hall 4.0 (turn left as you enter from the Agora) will have seating for a live audience. Do join us. Here’s more information about that event.
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 coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.