Illustration of a disassembled book with glue, paint brush and loose pages

How our production teams make environmentally informed choices in their day-to-day work

As a publisher our biggest environmental impact lies in our supply chain, in particular the materials, paper, and printers we use to make our books.

Last year we created a sustainability toolkit to help all production, editorial and design teams – teams whose day-to-day work have the biggest environmental impact – make informed choices during the design and production process for our books. The toolkit includes information about the environmental impact of key papers and printers we use, as well as other raw materials including glues, inks, and finishes.

Émilie Hames, Production Controller in the Ladybird Children’s team, shares how she sees the sustainability toolkit affecting the production process, and ultimately reducing our environmental impact.

What is the role of the production team in the publishing process?

Production teams at Penguin Random House UK play a pivotal role in the publishing process, transforming print files into physical and digital books for readers across the world. We are involved with each book from its inception to its delivery to the customer. Our main roles within production are to project manage each book. This means liaising with several departments throughout the process to ensure that everything is running smoothly and that we meet critical deadlines within the schedule.

How we ensure the paper in our books is sustainably sourced

How does the sustainability toolkit fit into this?

The introduction of the toolkit has provided us with an important central resource from which we can access key environmental data on specific areas related to book production. It’s divided into several subsections which respectively detail the carbon footprint associated with our printers, the paper stock we regularly use, as well as other materials, such as inks, glues, and finishes.

Seeing the environmental data collated in one space has made it clear which materials are associated with larger amounts of carbon emissions and those which, if selected, will help reduce Penguin Random House UK’s carbon footprint.

It’s a comprehensive document; colleagues can read through it to further educate themselves on current carbon data in relation to our paper, printers and raw materials used, this then allows for colleagues to review their own processes and see if they can make a switch to more sustainable options.

What has the sustainability toolkit changed for you and your team?

The sustainability toolkit has made us more conscious of the carbon emissions and environmental impact associated within the production, design, and editorial process of our books. By using the toolkit, we’ve been able to start having transparent conversations with our suppliers about using more sustainable papers and finishes on our titles, advocating for these materials to be put first where we can. For example, we’ll aim to use water-based varnish instead of standard varnishes which are traditionally made using crude oil. 

What impact do you see the toolkit having on your production choices in the long run?

I believe that the toolkit will impact how we explore sustainable alternatives for new titles. Sustainability will become an even bigger production value and consideration for colleagues during every stage of the publishing process.

Going forward, I believe it will become the norm for sustainability to be embedded into the early conversations that production has with design and editorial colleagues, allowing us to focus on what actions we can implement, at production level, to minimise our carbon footprint

How does the toolkit help to reduce Penguin Random House UK’s environmental impact?

The information in this toolkit equips colleagues with knowledge on how they can produce books sustainably, including a guide on how to embed sustainability in your day-to-day role and a checklist on key things to consider when assessing a material’s suitability. The more we educate ourselves on sustainability, the more informed choices we’ll make to ensure that our books are created with the environment in mind.

By embedding the toolkit into our day-to-day work we will ensure that a book’s carbon footprint is continually reducing, which will be crucial in helping us achieve our goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

Illustration of components of a book, including paper, brush painting glue

Read the latest Sustainability Policy

Illustration: Mike Ellis for Penguin

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