On September 21, 2019, The Economist published its climate issue, marking an inflection point for the title’s editorial coverage of sustainability and global warming.
From that point on, the team decided that the subject of climate change should be included in every section to reflect the pervasive importance of the topic.
It is a move that reflects the important responsibility media owners have to influence change on this urgent subject through their content.
As Marina Haydn, the title’s EVP Sustainability, points out: “The biggest gamechanger for sustainability in publishing really lies with how we write about the climate issue and how we report about it. A stronger awareness that this is a topic that needs to flow into every article could be the way that publishers could make the greatest difference,” she said.
At the same time, The Economist is one of the many publishers bringing the challenge of sustainability inside the organisation, looking to “walk the talk” through carbon-reduction strategies.
At a PPA Live! Webinar, Marina joined Rob Ryan, Managing Director of Operations at Dennis, and Daniel Witte, a Partner at environmental management consultancy Carnstone, to discuss how publishers are tackling this challenge. The speakers shared ideas and inspiration to help other publishers seeking to take on the climate issue within their own businesses.
Rob Ryan, Dennis
- Be proactive in your supply chain and be selective about the partners you work with. “You have to really drill down on your suppliers’ credentials and how they can help you meet your own sustainability goals.”
- Minimise plastic use. In August 2019, The Week Junior went directly from being polywrapped to ‘naked’. Not only did this positive message help grow subscriptions, it also amplified the company’s environmental credentials. By early Q4 2021, Dennis expects to have zero polywrap for any subscription magazine.
- Get an understanding of your short, medium and long-term goals. For a business of your scale, what are the sustainability levers you can pull to reduce your environmental impact? Small steps can be the most important.
- Don’t rush it and get things wrong. Plan and be clear about the steps you are going to take. Make a statement and stand by it.
- Having communicated what you plan to do, keep people informed on your progress and what you plan to do next.
Marina Haydn, The Economist
- Embed sustainability into the overall business strategy. At The Economist it has become a decision-making factor and part of incentives that leadership teams are measured by.
- Rigorously measure across entire value chain and devise a reduction strategy accordingly. This has led The Economist to establish a 2025 target for the substantial reduction in carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
- Invest in renewable energy. Marina says this is “not happening quickly enough” overall, and even if a business is not directly in control of its own energy supply, purchasing renewable energy certificates is an effective mechanism for driving up demand.
- Use sustainable materials and manage waste. The Economist is distributed on biofilm wrap in the UK and ‘naked’ in the US while the process to remove plastic is ongoing in other territories.
- Focus on innovation. The Economist is implementing carbon-management software for real-time tracking of emissions to understand impact factors that need more attention.
Daniel Witte, Carnstone
- Focus on the indirect Scope 3 emissions across your value chain, which can make up 70 – 95% of your carbon footprint. Partner with suppliers to share goals and encourage impact reductions – this may provide the fuel for innovation.
- Look to the Science-based Targets initiative (SBTi) for guidance, which provides goals for 1.5% reduction in warming.
- Be selective. There are so many sustainability challenges that a business can tackle, so it is better to focus on the two or three that make a material difference to you and your customers.
- Huge ‘moon shot’ statements are needed, but there is also a need for clear plans that have more immediate implementation targets.