Monday, 7 November 2011

Sustainable paper at Orion Books

Just sent this pretty self-explanatory email to Orion Books, publishes of the Horrid Henry series:

This Sunday (6th Nov) was the Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Adha, during which it is traditional to give children presents.

Which is why I was in Tesco on that day with £20 burning a hole in my pocket, asking my niece what should like.

Bless her, she chose a Horrid Henry Book entitled "Horrid Henrys Big Bad Book". I was ever so chuffed that she had chosen a book rather than some vacuous toy (my own sons would NEVER voluntarily buy a book !) and wanted to know a bit more about the publication.

So I had a look at the book, then put it down and walked off with my niece to choose something else entirely.

Orion, I can see the pain in your face. "Why?" you are asking yourself, "why did he walk away, it makes no sense!"

Let me explain. The reason I put the book down was that there was no indication within it that it was printed on sustainably sourced (e.g. FSC certified) paper, which probably means that it was printed on UNsustainably sourced paper.

And buying a child a book made from an unsustainably managed forest - effectively betraying their future - doesn't seem like a very sensible thing to do.

I hope that Orion can change their policies in the future to ensure that the paper used in their books is from a sustainable source, at which point I will jump at the opportunity to purchase them. Until then, I'm afraid the best I can do is to keep a look out for Horrid Henry at second hand book shops. . .

UPDATE : 8th Nov
Within 24hrs, an email arrived from Orion Books. It explained how they were committed to using FSC paper and gave an example of how a typical publication (SF Masterwork "A Scanner Darkly") used FSC certified paper, made by a company with a strong envoronmental policy. They also supplied BFTF with the environmental policy of the printer and also pointed out that their distributor had been awarded the ISO14001 environmental managment standard recently.
Most persuasively, they provided a link to the environmental policy of their parent company, Hachette - and it has to be said that this policy is very impressive. Here are a few extracts from it:

"We will not knowingly use paper sourced from any ancient or endangered forests and we are committed to the phasing out of any particularly controversial sources of paper fibre."

"Where practical and viable, we give preference to post-consumer recycled fibre and we aim to ensure that any virgin fibre used is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®)"

"Most of the board used in the production of books published by our trade divisions is FSC-certified via the relevant supplier."

"While we consider that FSC certification is the highest available standard, if we are unable to use it in the short term we universally apply other standards to ensure that our paper sourcing does not run contrary to our environmental principles. The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC) provides a framework for the mutual recognition of different national and regional certification schemes."

Winningly, the policy even has an endorsement from Belinda Fletcher, Senior Forests Campaigner at Greenpeace:
“By choosing recycled fibre and paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council for their books, Hachette UK is making great strides towards being a truly forest friendly company. Greenpeace welcomes Hachette UK’s ethical and environmental policy – once implemented, it will be great news both for the environment and for consumers.”

With BFTF's eyes now filling up with emotion at the good job that Hatchette were doing, the following (slightly tearstained) email was drafted up and sent to them:

Thank you for this very prompt reply. The comments clearly demonstrate that Orion Books has its heart in the right place and I am heartened to see that you give such strong support to using FSC certified paper. I have a few comments, which I hope you will humour me by reading:

Regarding PEFC : Whilst I know that FSC is your preferred certification standard, I understand that you may use PEFC certified paper on a temporary basis. I believe PEFC to be a much weaker standard that FSC. Seeing PEFC on a publication does not particularly encourage me to buy it.

Regarding ISO14001: I understand ISO14001 to be a standard that does not mandate any specific environmental standards, rather, it encourages companies to consider and document their environmental practices. I place no weight at all on this standard as evidence that paper has been made with sustainably sourced wood (perhaps the best evidence for taking this approach is that the notorious Indonesian paper producer, APP, has ISO14001 certification), although I can understand how ISO14001 helps you in ensuring that your supply chain is documenting what they are doing.

Regarding "Policies" : As a general rule, I find myself getting wound up when I read a company's environmental policy. And the appearance of the word "committment" in the first line of the Hachette environmental policy suggested to me that this was another document that would result in me needing a lie down in a darkened room.

But I was mistaken.

The environmental policy, possibly uniquely amongst those I have seen, conveyed the impression (backed up by concrete actions) that Hachette are aiming for the very highest environmental standards and that ensuring the paper you use has come from a sustainable source is a priority for you.

Given all of the above, I think that the next time I am in a niece-present-buying-situation, a Horrid Henry book is a likely candidate for purchase.

(It would still be nice to see a FSC logo inside the cover though. . .)

Dear Reader, is there a company whose ethical policies you want to challenge. If so, why not just get on with it and send that email ?

It would be great to hear your experiences of challenging retailers and manufacturers, just leave a comment at the foot of the post (you can even do it anonymously!)

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