A Brighter Shade of Green

The Green Press Initiative has been working to advance changes in the publishing industry that reduce climate impacts, preserve endangered forests and protect affected communities. It has produced a highly readable and informative report on opportunities within the newspaper industry to once again show leadership with respect to climate change.

Driven by publisher commitments to increase recycled fibre content of their newsprint and producer investments in paper de-inking infrastructure, the US newspaper industry more than tripled its recycled fibre use from just 10 percent in 1989 to 35 percent today. With this strong foundation to build upon, and the accelerating public concern around climate change, the newspaper industry is poised to demonstrate its environmental leadership once again.

Recently, companies in all industries - even those facing challenges - have discovered the competitive advantage of instituting strong corporate responsibility policies, and environmental policies in particular.

As the trend in consumer awareness regarding climate change grows, coupled with increased government interest in regulating industrial carbon emissions, not instituting such policies is increasingly a risk to every company’s long-term viability. As players in an industry that is the fourth highest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in the US - the paper industry - newspaper publishers and producers have a unique opportunity to build on a tradition of environmental leadership to reduce these emissions and at the same time, the industry’s impacts on Endangered and High Conservation Value Forests across North America.

Industry Impacts

The most effective way to reduce industry impacts on climate change is to focus on reducing impacts to forests. Despite continuing declines in print circulation, US newspapers still consumed 9.6 million tons of newsprint in 2006. Although 35 percent of this paper contained recycled wood fibre, the remaining 65 percent (6.2 million tons) is sourced from ecologically important forests in the US and Canada.

The primary sourcing region in Canada is the Canadian Boreal - one of the world’s last and largest intact forests - where it is estimated that 2.5 million acres of forest are cut each year. Further, two-thirds of trees cut in the Boreal are harvested specifically to make paper, and newsprint comprises 30 percent of all paper produced in this region. This has contributed to an extensive loss of habitat, which is threatening many key species, as well as certain indigenous communities that depend on them.

Given the magnitude of the industry’s current ecological footprint and the pressing need to address climate concerns there is a new imperative and one that calls for expanded innovation. As outlined in this report, taking steps to further improve the environmental profile of newsprint offers the most significant opportunity to lessen the industry’s carbon impacts and to advance the protection of critical forests.

A number of companies have already taken up the challenge of reducing their impacts. And they have not lost ground in the marketplace by doing so. On the contrary, these companies, like companies in every industry, have found their brands bolstered, their sales enhanced, and their futures more assured. They have seen the power of being among the first to respond to the growing demand for expanded corporate social responsibility. And as consumers become more aware of the link between the size of their own carbon footprint and the products they buy, this trend in greater customer expectations of the companies they support will likely intensify. But this need not be viewed as yet another challenge to a struggling industry. Instead, this new era of consumer environmentalism should be embraced as another opportunity for expanded leadership, collaboration, and innovation.

The report is highly recommended for those seeking a better understanding of the impact the newspaper industry is having on our forest ecosystems and on climate change.

For further information on the Green Press Initiative - Check out this web site: www.greenpressinitiative.org.

Source: Green Press Initiative

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