A positive paper cut: Bloomberg’s journey to responsible publishing

With the acquisition of Businessweek in 2009 and The Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) in 2011, paper consumption at Bloomberg has gone from a secondary environmental consideration to one of the company's most prominent issues. Leigh Stringer reports

Paper, and the associated emissions from its production and use, is obviously a significant contributor to a publisher’s environmental impact. So when an acquisition made Bloomberg look at the issue in more depth it led to both operational and behavioural changes across the company. “When we acquired Bloomberg Businessweek, or Businessweek at the time, it drastically increased our emissions by around 20-25%. Simply from the amount of paper that we now consume and distribute,” says Bloomberg’s sustainability manager Lee Ballin.

The weekly publication, that in 2010 had an average circulation of 917,000, added 45,487 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent to Bloomberg’s emissions calculations.

Now, with a total global distribution of almost 60 million magazines and consumption of 23 million pounds of paper per year, Bloomberg’s paper choices are having a very direct impact on the environment and the business.

So where does a global publishing company with a substantial paper footprint start? Although many argue that physical reading material is being replaced by the digital age, Bloomberg asserts that paper remains the communication vehicle of choice for a majority of the company’s readers and therefore its strategy begins by encouraging the recycling of its products.

Establishing its intentions further, the firm is also partnering with vendors on projects that achieve sustainability goals and by using paper with recycled fibre “when it meets quality and cost requirements”. But, most importantly, the purchasing of Forest Stewardship Council certified (FSC-certified) paper, the most recognised standard on the market, is a must in achieving sustainability.

Ballin says that following the acquisition of Businessweek in December 2009, the company quickly moved its paper over to FSC-certified paper for this very reason.

Although an essential move in terms of sustainability, it resulted in a paper weight increase, which instantly raised emissions by 21% per issue. This has since prompted research into how the company can utilise 100% recycled content paper to mitigate the weight issues.

“We are very confident that by continuous collaboration and an open dialogue amongst our suppliers that we will find a way to print Bloomberg Businessweek on 100% recycled content paper,” stresses Ballin.

“We believe we have a tremendous opportunity to reduce our emissions and we calculated that for every 10% of recycled content that we can incorporate into our magazines we will achieve a 6% reduction in emissions associated with our paper,” he adds.

Upping the ante, this focus has been transferred internally. For example, Bloomberg’s Asian offices successfully increased the recycled content of its office paper from 20% to 77% in 2012. And globally, the company’s offices now utilise 52% of recycled content in office paper, while 81% of office paper is FSC-certified.

At year-end 2012, Bloomberg had almost 16,000 employees working in 215 locations globally, consuming a total of 150 million kWh of electricity (excluding Data Centres) and generating 61,000 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent, emphasising the importance of employee engagement.

These figures are resonating through the company’s workforce, with office paper printing activity having fallen by 59% per capita and paper purchased decreasing by 39% across all major offices since 2008. This has come down to educating the workforce and the implementation of double-sided printing as a default option on all printers with duplex capability.

These measures have accumulated $687,000 worth of savings from Bloomberg’s print environment. A relatively small contribution compared with the $8m saved from its overall efficiency strategy that looks at its technology and print operations.

However, further paper efficiency is set to increase savings through other simple initiatives proposed by Ballin and the sustainable development team at Bloomberg. One initiative is the planned roll-out, this year, of ‘follow me’ print technology, which requires employees to use their ID badges to release print jobs and virtually eliminate inadvertent print jobs. This initiative is being implemented slowly says Ballin as it’s quite a “cultural change”.

“Nothing drives me crazier than walking around the building, particularly during business planning time, and looking at all these uncollected jobs that people print but never collect. And so we feel this initiative could drastically reduce our printing further. We’ve tested it and we got an additional 20% reduction in paper on the printers that we tested,” he adds.

Ballin says these actions may seem “easy and trivial” but they can have a “truly substantial” effect on both a company’s environmental impact, as well as its bottom line.

And these measures are only going to drive environmental reductions further and build on the $43m the company has saved in total since launching its sustainability strategy in 2007, he adds.

“To us it’s now become second nature. For any company that wants to follow, we hope that they can use some of these successes that we’ve pointed out in our sustainability report as a roadmap for getting started, because it’s easy wins, a lot of these measures are very easy. Any company would take $43m in savings, whether you’re Bloomberg, a technology company or a bank”.

Matching the company’s financial savings are the resulting emissions reductions recorded over the five years. Bloomberg’s efficiency measures helped the company achieve its CO2 reduction target in 2011, two years ahead of schedule – an impressive benchmark for future targets.

Now, with print communication remaining one of Bloomberg’s main markets, ambitious reduction targets may be harder to achieve. But Ballin says with further awareness of efficiency and demand reduction amongst customers, suppliers and employees, along with rational investment in efficient technology, Bloomberg will be on track to become the world’s most sustainable publisher. No simple feat, he stresses.

Leigh Stringer is edie energy and sustainability

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