An update on our environmental impact

As a producer of physical products, carbon emissions are one of the biggest environmental costs of the Press doing business, and our impact is not insignificant. The environment is something that all of us here care deeply about, and we aim to continuously improve the sustainability of our own operations and influence others. In this article we’ll update you on how things have gone over the last year, and what we are going to be doing in the months to come. 

For the first time at the end of the 2021/22 financial year, we performed an assessment of our operations, the materials we use and our transportation costs to determine the carbon emissions (CO2e) associated with our business. The study put our CO2e at 36 tonnes, and we added another 7 tonnes (20% of the modelled total) because we had several estimates in the model. We offset the total in full with Verra-accredited afforestation and biochar production.

We’ve now completed the project for the 2022/23 financial year and having been through the process already, we were much better prepared and had much more accurate input data. The good news is that, because our data has improved, we only need to add 5% contingency to the total modelled emissions. The not-so-good news is that with the more complete data set we’ve established that our emissions are higher than we thought they were: around 78 tonnes of CO2e.

The biggest difference in the totals is due to the fact that we have now been able to model the emissions of every book sold much more completely. If you bought a book directly from our web shop, we’ve modelled the emissions for delivery from the warehouse to your postcode. If you bought the book from a shop, we’ve modelled the emissions from the warehouse to the shop. This is done by weight and the distance the book travels. It’s worth noting that these emissions fall into Scope 3, and would be double or triple counted (or more!) if everyone in the supply chain went through the same activity.

The great thing about having this more accurate model is that we have a much better idea of where our emissions come from and where we should look if we want to start reducing them. So what next?

No offset

As many of you may know, carbon offset is incredibly complex, suffers from a range of associated issues, and if taken as the sole solution to an organisation’s impact might be counter-productive. However, everyone agrees that reduction is much preferred. We’ve come to realise that, in an industry with some of the tightest margins around, finding time and resources to enact a reduction plan can be really hard – something echoed in conversations we’ve had with other publishers and with our suppliers.

If you’ve been keeping up with our newsletters, you’ll have seen that the Press has been working with Publishing Scotland to begin to look at how the Scottish publishing industry can make positive steps towards becoming more sustainable. The activity is now ramping up, and a full programme of activity, set to stretch out over several years, is being defined. It will aim to remove the barriers the publishing industry faces in becoming more sustainable and support it in achieving the Scottish government’s net zero ambition.

The Press has been provided with the opportunity to support this activity, with Rob Lovell selected as Chair of Publishing Scotland’s Sustainable Publishing Group.

We’ve decided that our response to the 2022/23 carbon account will be twofold. Firstly, we will invest the time to understand our emissions profile and act on obvious areas for reduction. And secondly, we will invest the money that we would have spent on offsetting to support Publishing Scotland’s industry-wide initiative. This is an activity that sets out to deliver benefit and change each year, every year, for the future, rather than try to make up for what has already happened.