Sustainability and ethical practice are among the IPG’s core values. In 2019 we set up a new Sustainability Action Group to identify areas where publishing can reduce its environmental impacts and help members make their operations more sustainable. It is chaired by IPG chair and Boldwood Books founder Amanda Ridout.

The Action Group meets online every few months, and has heard from publishers who have led change on sustainability, as well as experts from beyond the industry.

The Book Journeys Project

The most significant work of the IPG’s Sustainability Action Group so far has been the Book Journeys Project. This was launched in early 2021 by a Sustainability Taskforce that included representatives from retailers, distributors, wholesalers and printers as well as publishers. It commissioned sustainability consultants Carnstone to analyse the sources and levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and waste in six book journeys from printer to end-user.

The Book Journeys Project found the overwhelming majority of GHG emissions come from the delivery and return stages. It also identified the opportunity to further reduce packaging waste, especially shrink wrap.

After reviewing Carnstone’s analysis, the Sustainability Taskforce set five key targets for meaningful change:

Target 1: Efficient transportation. Consolidate vehicle loads, reduce the stops in a book’s journey and ensure the most direct routes.

Target 2: Greener logistics. Electrify fleets and achieve zero-carbon transport.

Target 3: Better packaging. Eliminate single-use plastic packaging.

Target 4: Localise printing. Move a high percentage of colour printing for UK and European markets from Asia to Europe.

Target 5: Reach net zero. All companies in the book industry to be net zero operations by 2040.

Each target is accompanied by specific goals and dates by which they should be achieved. You can read these, and a summary of the Book Journeys Project’s achievements so far, here.

The targets of the Book Journeys Project were presented at the IPG’s 2021 Autumn Conference and reported by the Bookseller and in this article on BookBrunch.

In November 2021 the Book Journeys Project received the FutureBook Sustainability Award. We were thrilled that our collaborative work was recognised in this way, and proud to be shortlisted alongside several other IPG members, whose work on sustainability has inspired us all.

Next steps for the Sustainability Taskforce include gathering feedback from publishers and our partners in printing, distribution and retail, and a second phase of research focused on two areas: how books are handled at the end of their life and end-consumers’ journeys.

We are also starting work on a toolkit that will help businesses in their overall quest to be net zero by 2040. We plan to share this with members in early 2022.

Join the 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.

How to join the Group:

  1. Log in to the IPG website
  2. Click on 'My Account' (top-right of screen)
  3. Select the 'Preferences' tab
  4. In the section for Special Interest and Action Groups, click the box corresponding to the Sustainability Action Group
  5. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click SAVE

The IPG Sustainability Award

We are pleased to recognise IPG members’ achievements on sustainability at our annual Independent Publishing Awards. Learn more about the latest winner of the IPG Sustainability Award here.