Eco Libris: Book Industry Announces Carbon Reducion Goals

So what should companies in the industryΒ  do?

The Council recommends three major goals: 1. Increasing average PCW recycled content in books from 5% to 30% for all paper types 2. Reducing the portion of books returned from 25% to 20% and 3. Reducing the portion of books in landfills by 30%. These are definitely good goals but it’s not enough.

The Council is defining here a market shift and such a shift is involved with both risks and opportunities, especially when each company needs to decide on the action plan required to implement these goals. In order to know how to best utilize the opportunities and avoid the risks, companies need not only goals but also a road map that will enable them to make the most out of this shift.

One example for such systematic approach that can take companies safely throughout this shift is the methodology that was developed by Prof. Andrew Hoffman of the University of Michigan and include 8 steps to build a climate change strategy. Here’s a short description of the required steps:

Step 1: Asses emissions profile – what kinds of direct and indirect GHG emissions are being created, from what sources and in what quantities?

Step 2: Gauge risks and opportunities – what risks are posed by emissions from operations and GHG-intensity of products and services? What opportunities can be found to take the company forward?

Step 3: Evaluate action options – what options are available for reducing emissions? Are there any “low-hanging” emission-reduction opportunities? how can climate-related strategies enhance top-line and bottom-line objectives?

Step 4: Set goals and targets – by how much can the company reduce its impact? how can targets be connected to business strategy?

Step 5: Develop Financial Mechanisms – what financial instruments are available to suport GHG reductions? What are the pros and cons of emissions trading for the company?

Step 6: Engage the organization – How can buy-in from the workforce be achieved? how can resistance overcome?

Step 7: Formulate Policy strategy – what are the best ways to influence climate change policy at the state, national or international level?

Step 8: Manage external relationship – what external constituents are important to the success of the climate-related strategies? how should they be engaged?

These steps can of be adjusted to fit each company’s operations, and as you can see from the example of IBM it may work even if you don’t go through all the steps, but one lesson companies hopefully will learn here is about the need to approach climate change systematically to achieve the best results.

Can it work on the industry level or only on a company level?

I believe the logic of the Council is that an industrial effort, in which some of the big players are involved, is the best and most feasible way to shake the industry and move it forward in the right direction. It definitely makes sense, but one thing that should be taken into consideration is that the Council’s move is quite unique – most voluntary climate change initiatives are presented by companies, because they see carbon strategy in terms of competitive positioning – an element that will add value to their unique value proposition. When this initiative is shared by all the competitors, then the competitive element is weakened, unless companies look at these goals as the minimum and not as a cap and will try to excel and move further to meet bolder goals.

What’s missing?

1. I didn’t see any reference to electronic content or in other words e-books. I know that this is a relatively small part of the whole industry and we still need to gather more information on the carbon footprint of e-books, but this is fast-growing niche that should be taken into consideration this way or another. Publishers should have more information about the implications of using more content electronically in terms of carbon emissions and evaluate whether this is a desirable path or not.

2. It will be interesting to learn more about the commitment of the big players in the book industry to these goals – are they all see it eye to eye and are fully committed to these goals?

All in all this is very good news and we’ll continue to follow the developments in the industry closely and bring you updates and analysis to get a better understanding of the big picture.

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