London Book Fair 2024: Our Top Ten Takeaways on Sustainability!

London Book Fair 2024: Our Top Ten Takeaways on Sustainability!

Many important topics were discussed across the three days at London Book Fair, and one ever-pressing issue is “sustainability”, and what publishers and industry professionals are doing to address it. See below our key takeaways from the various panel talks we attended on sustainability: 

  1. The Publishing Declares Pledge, created by the Publishers Association has 184 signatories to date, across publishers, writers and illustrators, suppliers and booksellers – so there is a big commitment to take action on the climate, educating and advocating on sustainability – with the goal to be Net Zero emissions by 2050 at the latest! 
  2. Now 3 years on from declaring the pledge, signatories need support on how to achieve the pledge – a part of that is education, upskilling and sharing common knowledge. Larger publishers may have bigger budgets to make change, but smaller publishers may be able to do things quicker and try things out – each can learn from one another and it’s important to share this knowledge. 
  3. The biggest area for emissions in publishing is in the supply chain, but it can be tricky getting data from printers to be able to measure the carbon impact. One way to address this is by putting processes in place, and conducting supplier visits and audits. 
  4. Targets are often set to use FSG certified paper, the trademark for sustainable forestry. However, there may be other things to consider, FSG might not take into account biodiversity, for example. 
  5. Digital is another area which can be difficult to measure and is definitely an increasing area for carbon emissions as technology develops, however it’s still not anything close to fossil fuel usage so whilst an eye should be kept on it, it’s not an area for concern as of yet. 
  6. So how can we implement sustainable best-practises day to day within our teams? Look to the decision makers, people in production, editorial and design who will be making decisions around finishes - they will need to stay informed on what better, more sustainable, options are out there, to be able to take into account sustainability when making those decisions.
  7. How do we communicate the importance of sustainable working practises to those stakeholders with concerns around costs? It can also be tricky to look to charge a higher price for a book, if size and weight has been reduced. However, the eco credentials of a book could give a reason for customers to purchase it; consumers are environmentally aware and research has shown that people will pay more for products which are badged ‘eco-friendly’. This also extends to staff, and authors, so may lead to attracting more talent to the workforce and authorship.
  8. Print-on-Demand can provide an excellent solution in a lot of cases, in particular with regard to reducing waste – no pulping of books! Also commercially speaking, having titles always ‘available’, without the need for huge warehouses to store an excess of books nor the energy required to move them to where they need to be – they can be printed nearer to the end customer. 
  9. In terms of transporting books, aside from making vehicles electric there isn’t much else that can be done - lorries, and sea freight will be better for emissions than air freight which are exponentially higher than the alternatives. 
  10. There may be adjustments needed for Print-on-Demand, such as having the same size trim for more titles, reconsidering whether jackets are needed. This of course wouldn’t work for all titles and wouldn’t be advisable for a bestseller, but it can give you an indication of how well a title is performing and how many more might be needed, and whether it’s better to move to a more traditional print model or not. 

Whilst there is still some way to go, already there is an incredible amount of work happening across the industry to tackle sustainability. Throughout the London Book Fair it was reassuring to hear from publishing professionals whose roles were solely focused on sustainability, or it had become a large part of their remit. 

If you need help recruiting for sustainability focused roles, do get in touch to brief us, or if you’re looking for your next opportunity, do reach out with your CV! 

Sustainability Hub Sign at LBF




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