Illustration of two people at an office space, with trees and bikes

How our sites are becoming environmentally certified

As part of Penguin Random House's sustainability policy, we have pledged to achieve ISO 14001 accreditation for all of our UK sites. Lee Barnett, Sustainability, Safety, Health and Environment Manager, shares the journey so far. 

What is your role at Penguin Random House?

I am responsible for making sure that Penguin Random House is compliant with all health, safety, and environment regulations across each of our sites. I’m responsible for thinking about sustainability from a facilities perspective – so thinking about environmental regulations across each of our sites, right down to recycling and bins! 

What is ISO 14001 and why is it important?

ISO 14001 is a certification for a company’s environmental management system (EMS), allowing organisations to identify, monitor and manage their environmental impact. Last year we were thrilled to become accredited for our Vauxhall Bridge Road office and Grantham site, and this year we are working towards further accreditation at our Embassy Gardens office and Frating warehouse.

ISO 14001 accreditation sets out a sustainability plan across our whole organisation and everything we do: from ensuring our leadership team has the knowledge and context to make informed, sustainable decisions, right down to thinking about the promotional materials we are sending into shops alongside our books. It’s a gold standard, internationally recognised accreditation – meaning our certification also gives credibility when encouraging and supporting our supply chain partners to improve their sustainability credentials.

An illustration of a warehouse pallet carrying the globe

Cutting out single-use plastic in our warehouses

What was the process for becoming accredited?

We spoke to every department across the company to capture their potential environmental impacts, whether that be food packaging in our canteens, campaign materials created by our marketing teams, or even the content of our books themselves. To do this we worked with an expert environmental consultant to put together our specific environmental management system which we then put into practice last year, alongside our sustainability policy.

“Although we’ve already achieved accreditation at two sites… it truly is an ongoing process.”

This work is all about making continuous improvements. Although we’ve already achieved accreditation at two sites and are focusing on accreditation at two more this year, it truly is an ongoing process – we will carry out internal audits each year, along with an external body to review. 

What were the challenges that came up during the accreditation period?

There is a large amount of work across all our sites that occurs without the majority of employees even aware they are happening. A lot of these functions affect our environmental performance – cleaning, waste management, mechanical and electrical maintenance, energy performance, packaging supplies, technology infrastructure updates and more. 

As with all accreditation, documentation is a key element of proof when it comes to legal compliance, as well as adherence to policy. Collating documentation from the various different sites and departments can be a laborious task but having it ready as proof of legal compliance really helped us in the end.

We had to have support from the top down and this was provided by our CEO, Tom Weldon, who signed the Sustainability policy and allowed Courtney Ward, Senior Sustainability Production Manager, to launch this during his monthly talk with colleagues. Deborah Wright, Group Operations Director, also sits on the Sustainability Working Group as our leadership team champion.

How does ISO 14001 reduce our environmental impact?

ISO14001 helps us to quantify, monitor and control the impact of operations on the environment, now and in the future. Our EMS ‘aspects and impacts’ register helps us identify opportunities for cost savings in resources, waste and energy management. Importantly, we can use ISO14001 to help us influence and encourage better environmental performance for our supply chain. 

What does it mean for our ways of working in the future?

By having an ISO14001 EMS system in place we will consider the effects we have on the environment whenever we undertake a business decision. We will use the EMS to help us achieve our carbon neutral target by 2030 and commit to continuous improvement, always looking for ways to reduce our energy consumption and waste production. We will consider the life cycle of all the products we purchase or produce, and we commit to the ‘plan do check and act’ way of working. 

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