We strive to be an environmentally sustainable publisher and to minimize our impact on the climate and nature.
We know that our global operations—and those of our manufacturing supply chain—contribute to climate change through fossil fuel use. The books and journals we publish require substantial volumes of paper which can, if not sourced sustainably, contribute to deforestation. We also generate waste at all stages of our value chain.
To mitigate this impact, we have established an environmental sustainability programme aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Our priorities are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (SDG13: Climate Action), use resources responsibly to minimize waste (SDG12: Responsible Consumption and Production), and source sustainable paper to avoid deforestation and associated biodiversity loss (SDG15: Life on Land). We are also looking at water use and pollution in the manufacturing supply chain (SDG6: Clean Water and Sanitation).
As a first step, we are working towards three short-term targets, to be achieved by 2025:
- Be carbon neutral from our own operations (office, warehouses, and business travel)
- Reduce waste and achieve zero waste to landfill in markets with necessary infrastructure
- Source 100% certified sustainable paper for our books and journals.
In the longer term, we will focus on reducing the impacts of our manufacturing supply chain—including paper-making, printing, and freight—as well as on the environmental footprint of digital publishing.
As signatories to Publishing Declares and the UN’s SDG Publishers Compact, we have committed to raising awareness about sustainability through our content and with stakeholders including authors, customers, and suppliers. Through the Compact, we champion the SDGs by publishing books and journals that will help inform, develop, and inspire action in the right direction. We also collaborate with others in our industry to drive action in support of climate and nature.
How we're taking action
We have made significant progress towards our targets this year:
Reduction in our operational carbon footprint since pre-pandemic levels.
Total reduction in waste, to 1,500 tonnes, with 9% of waste going to landfill.
Certified sustainable paper being used by our top strategic suppliers*, up from 75% in 2021.
*Together, our strategic suppliers represent 80% of our print spend.
Reducing our carbon footprint
In 2022, our total carbon footprint was an estimated 161,000 tonnes of CO2e.
Over three-quarters of these emissions were the result of paper production, printing, and transport of print publications.
For our own operations—the focus of our short-term climate target—we saw an increase in greenhouse gas emissions compared with the prior year, largely due to a rise in business travel from a very low level throughout the pandemic. However, our operational carbon footprint remains 59% below pre-pandemic levels, and we are on track to meet our 2025 carbon neutral target. We aim to achieve this through a combination of emissions reductions and carbon offset.
The steps we have taken to reduce emissions include:
- Utilizing 100% renewable electricity for our Oxford head office, as well as renewables in the energy mix supplied to offices in Madrid, Melbourne, and Toronto. In addition, we have installed solar panels in Karachi and are reviewing opportunities to do this in other locations.
- Introducing energy-efficiency measures such as energy-saving LED lights and motion sensors across many of our offices and warehouses.
- Reducing office space following the move to hybrid working, to better match the number of employees using our locations at any one time. For example, in 2022 we reduced our office space in Mexico City by 50% and in Madrid by over 20%, decreasing the energy required for heating, cooling, lighting, and ventilation.
- Setting business travel targets for each of our publishing divisions. Collectively, we aim to keep travel below 50% of pre-pandemic levels.
- Implementing a hybrid vehicle policy for our car fleets in the UK and Australia. Three-quarters of our sales team drivers in Australia and nearly half those in the UK have already switched, with the remainder expected to in 2023 as more vehicles become available.
Cutting waste and increasing recycling
We strive to reduce waste at our offices and warehouses, and to recycle wherever possible.
Our offices and warehouses generated around 1,500 tonnes of waste in 2022, a 46% reduction compared with the previous year.
We strive to reduce waste at our offices and warehouses, and to recycle wherever possible.
Our goal is to send zero waste to landfill where this service is available. At present, our two largest offices, Oxford and New York (representing a combined 40% of our workforce), send zero waste to landfill through a combination of recycling and incineration for energy generation (energy-from-waste).
Globally, we sent 9% of our waste to landfill in 2022. 85% of our waste was recycled, including all our book waste. We also responsibly disposed of more than 1,000 pieces of IT equipment through partners including ComputerAid.
We are taking additional steps to reduce waste from our offices by raising awareness amongst colleagues on properly recycling waste to ensure we maximize our use of available recycling services, and efforts to reduce printer waste such as double-sided and follow-me printing settings as default. We are committed to reducing book waste through measures such as print-on-demand and the use of digital gratis copies for authors.
More environmentally-friendly publications
Printing books and journals means we are reliant on natural resources, including paper and water.
Our biggest impact comes from printing our publications. We aim to reduce this by sourcing materials responsibly, improving the efficiency of print and freight, and switching to digital where we can.
Sourcing materials responsibly
We used 41,000 tonnes of paper in 2022. We are committed to using 100% certified sustainable paper for our printed books and journals by 2025. So far, 91% of the paper used by our strategic print suppliers (representing 80% of print spend) is certified, mostly by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), up from 75% in 2021-22. We are now rolling out the policy to local suppliers.
Our focus goes beyond the paper we use to other materials such as packaging. In 2022, we worked with our biggest supplier to successfully pilot the replacement of shrink-wrap on shipping pallets with recycled Kraft paper wrap. We are now reviewing opportunities to reduce use of plastic packaging.
Our upcoming priorities include:
- Running a sustainable materials workshop for Editorial and Design teams to review how we reduce the footprint of our print publications.
- Reviewing the chemicals used in production and rolling out a new Restricted Substances List, developed by the Book Chain Project (see below).
- Applying sustainability principles to our marketing catalogues and other materials used to promote our products.
Improving the efficiency of print and freight
Many of our print suppliers are members of the Book Chain Project. This means we can use the information shared via this platform to better understand the environmental impact of our print supply chain and look for opportunities to engage with printers on efficiency improvements.
To avoid over-printing, and often reducing freight by printing closer to market, we are identifying more opportunities to print publications on demand (POD). 60% of Academic titles available in the UK—and nearly half of those available in the US—are enabled for POD fulfilment.
We prioritize sea freight wherever possible, and track our use of air freight to ensure our products are only transported by air when absolutely necessary.
Switching to digital
Print continues to be important for many parts of the world. Where we can across our markets, we are committed to switching to digital. Available data indicates that the carbon footprint of digital publications is significantly smaller than that of print publications. Switching to digital also reduces our reliance on natural resources such as paper. As part of the DIMPACT project, we are working to gain a deeper understanding of the carbon footprint of digital products and platforms.
Our publications are increasingly moving online or combining print with digital content. This includes more than half of our Academic journals which are now only available online. In 2022, our Education division launched Oxford Reading Buddy, a digital reading and comprehension tool with a virtual coach to make reading interactive and engaging for children. It includes hundreds of e-books, and also has interactive quizzes for other Oxford print books. First launched in the UK, we’ve now introduced other versions in markets including India, Pakistan, and South Africa. This year, there was also an increase of 20,000 more learners using the web version of Oxford Reading Club, an ELT platform for English language learners to read digital Graded Readers.
It’s important that we have the right people and procedures in place in order to meet our targets. Our environmental approach and performance is overseen by a Sustainability Governance Committee which meets quarterly. This group is made up of members of OUP’s Executive Committee.
Day-to-day oversight of sustainability progress is led by our Director of Sustainability in collaboration with senior leaders across the Technology and Operations function, and the publishing division.
In 2022, we conducted a climate risk assessment to determine our exposure to the risks and opportunities of climate change, as well as our readiness to respond. As a result, we are now working to embed climate risk more deeply into our risk management processes.
across the industry
We believe that collaboration is essential for tackling the environmental impact of publishing. Through industry groups, we come together with other publishers to discuss shared challenges and solutions.
We are a founding signatory of the Publishing Declares Climate Pledge. Driven by the Publishers Association in the UK, we work with peers across the industry towards achieving net zero as soon as possible and join the global climate effort to limit warming to 1.5°C.
We are members of the Publishers Association‘s Sustainability Taskforce, which focuses on developing tools to help publishers of all sizes measure and manage their environmental footprint.
As part of the Book Chain Project—which considers the environmental and ethical performance of printers and paper mills—we are able to better understand and manage our supply chain footprint. In 2022, we were among a group of publishers that supported Book Chain Project’s research into the comparative sustainability of different paper types.
Through our involvement with DIMPACT—which brings together academics, publishers, and media and technology companies—we are developing a better understanding the footprint of our digital publications.