As Cop26 opens in Glasgow, what are publishers doing to help the planet?

  01 Nov '21   |  Posted by: Birlinn

When caring for our planet we need grand vision but we also need small first steps. There is much talk amongst publishers of sustainability but what practical steps are we taking right now?

During this pandemic the Birlinn team stripped out our offices, tanked and/or insulated all areas and invested in beautiful and practical desks made by the local Grassmarket community project from recycled church pews. Currently all staff are still working from home and when we return it will be phased and flexible working.

Day to day in the office…
We have moved to fully recyclable packaging for all media copies of our books distributed directly from the office. We have recycling facilities for plastics, paper and card and encourage all staff to use these facilities. We do not use single use cups in the office or at our hosted events.

Small steps. But small steps bring with them light and hope for a more sustainable future and encourage bigger steps to be taken.

Publishing activity

Within our publishing activities, we take our responsibilities seriously. We have taken full advantage of technological strides forward in digital publishing over the last two decades but we are still in love with the physical book and therefore we do all we can to make sure that our production values are second to none while doing least harm to the planet. Words, ink and paper make-up our books and although wood is a renewable resource when drawn from forests that are properly managed, we have to work hard to make sure that the paper we use is from these managed sources. Like all publishers and booksellers, readers and writers, we are aware of the impact on our world when we lose the forests that cover almost a third of the world’s surface. We are concerned at the rate of deforestation and are determined to reduce our impact.

Wherever possible, we source our paper from sustainable sources, following the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) guidelines and we use FSC Certified printers. FSC certification can only be used by a company with a valid FSC Chain of Custody certificate – meaning that everyone in the supply chain to that company holds Chain of Custody Certification. FSC ‘provides global standards for forest management, which cover environmental, social and economic aspects. The well-being of forest communities and ecosystems is as important as replacing trees and FSC is the only wood certification scheme endorsed by WWF, Greenpeace and the Woodland Trust’. When it is not possible to obtain FSC Certified papers (for example when specialist paper is required for full colour, illustrated books) we apply the same high standards in our search for substitutions.

Publishing in the right direction

We are helping to spread the word far and wide by publishing books on the environment and including digital and written materials from our finest writers on this website and our social platforms. Whether it be a poem on the environment written by Alexander McCall Smith or a book by one of our leading speakers on the environment, Alastair McIntosh, you can find the latest from Scottish Voices on the Environment right here.

For our authors…
The last two years have given us an opportunity to develop our online event offering but we all miss our beloved literary festivals. In the future we will be more selective and make best use of travel plans. And, wherever possible and practical, we will encourage our authors to travel by train to events and festivals and our staff to walk, bike or bus to their place of work. 

We have much more to do but we are changing small steps into strides and tackling the future head on. We wish all taking part and watching the COP26 a successful outcome. Our hopes are invested in them.

  • Share:


Perfect Passion in the News

27 Mar '24
Alexander McCall Smith’s The Perfect Passion Company is hitting the headlines, including selection by TWO of the leading UK women’s...
Read More