Society of Authors Begins Campaign to Help Publishing Industry Get to Net Zero
Ah books… the solid feel of holding one in your hands — a portal into the thoughts and feelings of others. Taking it to the park or drifting off while reading before bed — a friend, a confidante, a teacher. An ancient practice that takes us back to a simpler time before screens. Books even have a unique smell — the smell of wonder.
But books, like everything else made by humans, have a carbon footprint.
A new campaign has been launched by The Society of Authors (SoA) to give authors support and ideas about how to talk with their publishers about the sustainability of their books. Called Tree to Me, the aim of the project is to help make sure authors are included in the drive to get to net zero in the publishing industry.
“I’m hugely proud to have published a sustainable book; it is possible. But for that to be the norm rather than the exception, authors need to be able to have clear and transparent conversations with publishers about their impact on the planet. Tree to Me equips them with the starting kit to do just that,” said Piers Torday, author and chair of the SoA’s Sustainability Steering Committee, in a press release from SoA.
Tree to Me provides 10 questions authors can pose to their publishers about the materials — including paper, dust jackets, hardcovers and ink — packaging and energy sources used to manufacture and distribute their books. The questions are meant to inspire discussions about sustainability and the climate crisis, in order to make supply chains greener.
“As an independent author using print on demand, I had no control over the paper or finishes of my book. Once I became aware of the impact of virgin paper pulp on the climate and biodiversity crises I felt I had no choice but to withdraw the paperback from sale,” said Sophie Galleymore Bird, author and SoA Sustainability Steering Committee member, in the press release. “I’m delighted to be part of the SoA’s Sustainability Steering Committee and Tree to Me and hope the changes authors ask for ensure a thriving publishing industry for generations to come.”
In the global effort to limit planetary warming as much as possible, each business, including publishing, has a responsibility to look at and make changes to their practices.
According to the press release, publishers’ responses to the questions will paint a picture of their current business practices and how they plan to make them better in the future.
“The [Association of Authors’ Agents (AAA)] is delighted to support the Tree to Me campaign in endeavouring to create more effective communication on this vital subject. We know that our member agencies and their clients care deeply about sustainability, and we are also aware that the information available can feel confusing and overwhelming. We are delighted that the ten questions at the heart of this campaign will allow authors and agents to better work in partnership with their publishers towards a more sustainable future,” said Claire Wilson, vice president of the AAA, in the press release.
Because of their place in the industry, authors can help drive home the importance of publishers taking responsibility for the environmental impact of the books they produce. Once publishers start to make the needed changes to improve the sustainability of their books, authors can let their readers know about the improvements their publishers are making. The SoA partnered with the Booksellers Association, Publishers Association, Independent Publishers Guild, Book Industry Communications and the AAA to found the Sustainability Industry Forum. It is the first collaboration across all associations within the book industry with the specific goal of fostering open communication in order to improve transparency and accountability, share best practices and reduce repetition of efforts with the goal of helping to tackle the climate crisis.