‘We Are Clear on Our Responsibility’; Publishers Set Course for Sustainability

“[Young people] want to align with brands that share a vision and a mission with them and they’re willing to pay more for that—and that’s where sustainability comes into play,” growth strategist Robyn Duda said last year. “If we don’t start doing it now, there’ll be a disrupter that comes in and turns things upside down.”

AI has been grabbing all the headlines lately, but a Washington Post front page this week surely caused eyes to widen: World Near Cataclysmic Threshold, U.N. Warns. “Beyond that threshold, scientists have found, climate disasters will become so extreme that people will not be able to adapt.”

Coincidentally—or not perhaps—today Questex “unveiled its roadmap to reducing global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for both the company and its events.” Called Quest Zero, it will aim to “drive positive change across the communities it serves and live up to its mission to serve the communities that are helping people live longer and live better.” See their Quest Zero Visitor Tips here.

“Although we are a mid-market company in terms of overall revenue, we do have a significant business in the events industry,” Paul Miller, CEO, Questex, said in a statement. “We understand the economic and social benefits of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time, we are clear on our responsibility to minimize the climate impacts that the live events industry generates. Our team is passionate about this topic, we are proud of the strategies we have put in place and we are committed to transparent and accurate reporting.”

While AI users will have to ensure that diversity is accounted for, similar warnings have been sounded for sustainability. “We know that the journalism and information space as a whole is looking for spaces for sustainability, so if we don’t have unique and diverse voices in these rooms, how do we know what to solve for?” asked Sherrell Dorsey, founder and CEO of The Plug, last year. “How do we think creatively about the solutions on the table?”

Here are more sustainability initiatives among publishers:

Set goals. In 2021, Bauer Media published its Sustainability Playbook. Included are ways they are “Influencing Sustainability” in their Lifestyle, Outdoors, B2B Automotive, Fashion & Beauty, and Audio brands. “Sustainability has become a key strategic focus for us because we recognize the leadership role media plays in driving sustainable behaviors,” head of strategy Kaushala Ratnayake said. “Shifting towards a sustainable publishing industry is not something any company can do alone so we really invite this movement towards working with publishers that have clear sustainability goals and targets.”

Offer incentives. The American Chemical Society’s Scientific Advancement division is leading the ACS Campaign for a Sustainable Future Initiative. The multifaceted initiative will include a campaign promoting sustainability, increased advocacy for sustainability research funding, and expanded efforts to modernize the chemistry curriculum for 2- and 4-year colleges to include a focus on sustainability. There will also be a prize for international collaborations. “The impact that we’ll have is creating a future chemistry enterprise workforce that’s trained in sustainability concepts,” ACS COO LaTrease Garrison said.

Cut energy use in offices. Bloomberg Media has made the commitment to bring its Net Zero plans forward to 2025. Half of the firm’s existing energy already comes from renewable sources. Only 12.5% of its emissions come from publishing operations, but it is seeking a further 10% reduction in energy use across its offices and 5% in its data centers. The remote revolution may help this happen.

Assist journalists. The Oxford Climate Journalism Network (OCJN) is a new program at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Its mission is to help journalists and editors develop their coverage of climate change, and support leaders in identifying the issues involved in reporting on the climate crisis. The network is free to join and is open to working journalists, employed or freelance, covering any beat, not just environment and climate.

Reinvent and reimagine. “Reduce, reuse, recycle is no longer enough,” said Pum Lefebure, co-founder of Design Army and jury president at Cannes LIONS—an event focusing on key advertising trends and innovations that publishers need to know about. “We have to rethink, repurpose, reinvent and reimagine. We have to constantly set new standards for creative solutions.”

Create specific jobs. Recurrent—their publications include Popular Science, Field & Stream, Saveur, etc.—has three pillars on their homepage: Editorial First, Audience Obsessed and Sustainability Focused. “Coverage across Recurrent brands emphasizes products, technologies, and policies that could shape a more sustainable future, for the longevity of the planet and its ecosystems.” Last June they established two new roles—VP of sustainability and sustainability commerce editor—to solidify the company’s commitment to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives.

Set ad guidelines. Conde Nast has new advertising guidelines in place as part of its sustainability commitments. It will now only accept ads from energy companies that promote renewable energy products. The company also aims to be entirely carbon neutral by 2030 and use only renewable energy in its offices globally by 2025.


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