Sustainability and ethical practice are among the IPG’s core values. Publishing has made concerted efforts to reduce its carbon footprint in recent years, but we all know there is a lot more to do before we become a properly sustainable industry. Here’s a summary of our recent work on this urgent issue and what’s to come.

Sustainability Action Group

The IPG’s Sustainability Action Group launched in 2019. Led by Boldwood Books founder and former IPG chair Amanda Ridout and supported by dozens of IPG members, it has steered our work on sustainability and sought practical ways to improve practices. The group meets online several times a year and all IPG members are welcome to sign up (see below). Keep an eye on the events page and ebulletin for details of our next meetings.

The Sustainability Taskforce and Book Journeys Project

In 2021 our Action Group widened into a Sustainability Taskforce that includes our friends in bookselling, distribution, wholesale and printing. The first job of the Taskforce was to start work on the Book Journeys Project, which with the help of environmental experts Carnstone analysed the sources and levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and waste in six typical book journeys, from printer to end-user.

Targets for improvement

The Book Journeys Project found that the overwhelming majority of emissions come from deliveries and returns. This led us to set five targets for meaningful change across transportation, logistics, packaging, printing and shipping, with the ultimate aim for publishers to reach net-zero status in operations by 2040. You can see the targets, and the research behind them, here. We were delighted when the Book Journeys Project received the Sustainability Award at the 2021 FutureBook Awards.

Zero Carbon Toolkit

To help publishers meet the Book Journeys Project’s targets, we worked with Zero Carbon Academy to produce a Zero Carbon Toolkit with lots of ideas and resources for better practice. All IPG members can access it for free on the IPG Skills Hub.

The Book Journeys Project: Phase 2

The second stage of the Book Journeys Project focuses on the end-of-life treatments of books, including returns and pulping. We’ll be sharing the results of research into this area soon.

Localising Printing Project

Another follow-up to the Book Journeys Project is an initiative with HP and several publishers to scope the potential to bring printing closer to home and so reduce transport miles. You can read more about the Localising Printing Project here.

Sustainability Industry Forum

In June 2022 we helped to launch a new Sustainability Industry Forum connecting the IPG and five other trade organisations: the Association of Authors’ Agents, Booksellers Association, Book Industry Communication, Publishers Association and Society of Authors. It’s the first time that our six associations have collaborated in this way, which helps everyone to accelerate improvements and demonstrate our commitments to change. The Forum meets quarterly.

We welcome all comments about our sustainability work or ideas for future activities.

Join our Sustainability Action Group

All IPG members are warmly invited to join our Sustainability Action Group. Signing up requires no commitment to anything, and you may have as much or as little involvement in our activities as you like. When you register, we will update you on our latest meetings and resources.

To join, log in to the website and click the Preferences tab in the My Account section. Tick the Sustainability Action Group box in the Publisher Networks and Action Groups checklist and save your preferences.

Carbon Calculator

We are pleased to have worked with the Publishers Association to facilitate free access to this valuable tool for IPG publisher members, which helps publishers calculate their environmental impacts and identify improvements. For details of how to access the Carbon Calculator, contact the IPG team.