Q&A 

Sustainability: 5 minutes with… Andy Webster

The climate crisis is forcing every industry to examine its carbon footprint. We grab five minutes with Andy Webster, supply chain director at Marketforce, to find out what steps the magazine supply chain is taking to make itself more sustainable.

By Andy Webster

Sustainability: 5 minutes with… Andy Webster
Photograph: Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

Q: What trends are you seeing in terms of sustainability within the magazine supply chain?

A: All parts of the supply chain have challenges to overcome but the industry is taking responsibility and with the help of professional bodies such as the PPA, it feels like significant progress has already been made, with more to come.

At a publisher level, developments have been naturally focused in the production arena with initiatives to reduce plastic wrapping and packaging to minimise the use of single-use plastics. Alongside this, there is increased engagement in sustainability education in the magazine supply chain. What I mean by this is publishers are trying to help consumers learn how to recycle all the different components of their magazine.

In the newsstand supply chain, recycling unsold newspapers and magazines have been a core service for many years and perhaps not a widely understood fact is that 98% of unsold magazines and newspapers are recycled. Additionally, both UK wholesale groups are focused on reducing their emissions. For example, by optimising delivery routes, they are taking out unnecessary mileage, so increasing delivery efficiency and reducing emissions. Electric vehicles are also on the horizon, with Menzies Distribution trialling these as part of their fleet currently.

Given that the issue is so important to their customers, retailers are putting sustainability at the heart of their strategy, and it is becoming as important to them as the commercial aspect of selling newspapers and magazines.

Publishers are also using their content and audience reach to influence positive societal and environmental change. Many brands are committed to making a positive impact and inspiring change, playing their part in building a sustainable future for our planet.

Q: What has been achieved in this area in the recent past and what still needs to be done?

A: With better awareness of alternative materials that can be used, publishers are moving away from recyclable polyethylene (LDPE) to paper wrap which is easier to recycle and consumers understand that. A recent PPA polywrapping survey amongst its members showed the progress being made through an annual 29% rise in paper wrap being used with the eradication of non-recyclable polypropylene (PP). Some publishers have trialled not using any packaging at all and others are focusing on bagging less often.

Much progress has been made in raising the awareness of ethical and sustainable procurement practices. More publishers are using material from a sustainable source. A recent PPA survey established that 97% of paper purchased is from sources certified as sustainable

As mentioned above, many publishers are trying to actively encourage the correct recycling of magazines and plastic covermounts. There has been increased membership to the OPRL (On-Pack Recycling Label) scheme which promotes simple, clear and consistent recycling information to help aid recycling rates.

The PPA and its membership securing a deal with Defra was an example of the industry coming together to try and reduce its environmental impact with a raft of initiatives agreed. With the sustainability agenda constantly evolving, we need to continue to develop new sustainability commitments to build on the progress already made.

In recent years, the development of some printed products going direct from printer to wholesale house has been a welcome addition in the supply chain. This has contributed to a reduction in the carbon footprint for some of our magazine transportation. But more could be done. With magazines printed in different locations and with high volumes needed to make this direct to wholesale house route work, this may be an area for printers, wholesalers and distributors to further their collaboration in the future.

Q: What can publishers do to further reduce their carbon footprint?

A: Where possible, looking to source high-quality covermounts that are multi-use is a focus for many publishers. The majority are looking to enhance the reading experience without negatively harming the environment. This coupled with efforts to reduce non-recyclable plastic packaging is helping to reduce the use of single-use plastics.

If not already considered, recycling magazines and cover-mounted unsolds for redistribution giving them a second life is an idea many publishers are adopting. Whether it is recycling to supply other retailers or export supplies, or recycling to produce a brand new consumer offering, both help the longevity of a printed product and help to reduce the carbon footprint.

Probably less considered but important, digital emissions are another area publishers can explore. Instead of relying on paper, digital magazines rely on electricity because they are stored in servers that are constantly on. Because of this, digital magazines require an abundance of electricity. This area is potentially easy to overlook and can be investigated to further reduce a carbon footprint.

It also feels important to mention that we can all take responsibility for our office-based activities. Small improvements in our day to day activities and infrastructure at work (energy usage, transport, recycling and waste management to name a few), all help to reduce our carbon footprint.

Q: What can magazine distributors do to further reduce their carbon footprint?

A: Helping publishers print at an optimum level balancing profitability, availability and sustainability on a global level is paramount. Advising publishers where print supply changes can be made and ensuring every copy printed is needed is key. Fortunately, magazine distributors employ sophisticated techniques to help achieve this but for some magazines, reducing further the speculative copy could make some small savings.

In some cases, environmental benefits can also deliver commercial gains, for example moving magazine products directly from the printers into wholesale depots, or working with logistics providers to optimise vehicle loads and minimise the amount of empty running of trailers.

Q: What can other elements in the magazine supply chain, including wholesale and retail, do to improve the sustainability of the sector as a whole?

A: I think the key here is to continue to work together and to keep sustainability challenges and successes on the agenda. It is important to be aware of what each part of the supply chain is doing and to work together to overcome any challenges that occur.

This is a good example of where the PPA Sustainability Group is doing great work, pulling together actions across the supply chain, from paper mills, printers through the physical distribution network to retailers.

For real long term change, we need to move to a culture where every company and colleague across the magazine sector understands the importance of sustainability, that all have an opportunity to make a difference. Sustainability should underpin all of our strategic decisions within the sector.

Q: What's in the pipeline at Marketforce?

A: We are dedicated and focused on reducing our carbon footprint via our office-based activities. We are just about to move to new offices in Paddington where the building environment has been carefully chosen. The main focus is on recycling, waste management and energy efficiency. We are excited to have EV charging points for electric cars and all lighting moving to LED.

In the medium term, we are running a carbon calculator on our footprint to understand our environmental impact. Once established, we aim to implement a carbon reduction programme based on the outputs.

System wise, we have some exciting enhancements underway to help us target retail outlets even more effectively which ultimately will help us place supply even more intelligently and sustainably.

Given communication is key with our clients and suppliers, we have a sustainability webinar planned for Q1 2022.

Our business is fully committed to implementing innovative practices to reduce our ecological footprint. Our journey in this area alongside others in the industry will continue with rigour over the coming years.

About us

For over 30 years, Marketforce has been a leading global sales, marketing and distribution specialist working with a wide range of media and publishing businesses. Owned by Future PLC, we are backed by one of Europe’s largest and fastest-growing media companies.

We are the #1 independent publisher newsstand distributor. Working with a broad cross-section of publishing and media business clients, we have expertise across all areas of the magazine market. If you would like to hear why more publishers are choosing Marketforce, call us for a chat about getting the distribution you need.

Email: andy.webster@futurenet.com

Tel: 0330 390 7498

Website: www.marketforce.co.uk

LinkedIn: Marketforce