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Actions on Sustainability | A Sustainable Development Goals Update, March 2021

We announced in December 2020 that we would report regularly on our progress towards meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This came as the third of ten pledges we made in signing up to the UN Sustainable Development Goals Publishers Compact. While the commitment requested is annual, we feel this parks the topic and we want to keep it alive throughout the year.

Of course, since December, things have been extraordinarily difficult for businesses across the world, us included. We had hoped, after a 2020 hit by school closures and homeschooling, that 2021 would see us back up to full speed, but no such luck. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. So far this year, we have only published three books, as of 9 March, despite a target to publish 70 this year. Happily, with the success of the UK’s vaccine programme, the beginning of an end might be in sight. But, until something like normality returns, our efforts remain hampered.

All the disruption we’ve faced means that our progress towards meeting the UN SDGs have been on hold. However, we are pleased to report that we have taken tangible action on our commitment to raise awareness among customers and stakeholders. From now on, all titles published by Wordcatcher Publishing or one of its imprints will carry a environmental sustainability message as part of the back matter.

This will read as follows:

WORDCATCHER & SUSTAINABILITY

There is a new way of publishing that has been evolving in publishing over the past few years. Gone is the need for warehouses full of stock – of which up to 30% may never be sold and instead turned into pulp. We have hundreds of titles, but virtually no stock holding whatsoever, and none of our books are currently sitting in warehouses gathering dust.

We print a book when we sell it – one at a time. No waste, and a much shorter journey to the reader. We print books as close to the customer as we can, to reduce air, sea and road miles to get it there. When we do longer print runs for authors or customers, we print what we need, when we need it, and all in the UK. We only print on environmentally responsible FSC paper stock from printers who can guarantee this. We don’t print with anyone unless we can verify that the paper is being sourced responsibly.

The downsides to our environmental policies and business model is that you won’t often see our books stocked in high street bookshops. Our founder owned a bookshop and loves them to bits – but for our type of business they aren’t the best way of getting books into readers’ hands. We will always support bookshops though, and – for larger publishers with longer lists, who are part of the established supply chain – long may they continue. It would be a dark day if bookshops ceased to exist. But that doesn’t mean you can’t go into a bookshop and order our titles – on the contrary we’re fully geared up for that too. Once again, if a customer places an order in-store, the book is printed on demand, just for them and delivered direct from the printer to the bookshop, or their distribution system.

So, our way of working can mean a bit of a delay in getting your title to you – but know that in buying from Wordcatcher you are helping to reduce wastage from over-runs and greatly reducing the environmental impact of getting that book where it belongs – in your hands! When you buy a book from Wordcatcher it’s printed just for you – literally hot off the press!

Thank you for being part of a new way of buying books.

We hope you agree that this small step is still a positive one, and we aim to influence readers one book at a time. It is the first step of many in our mission to make the world a better place.

Let us know if you have any suggestions in the comments below for practical ways we can be more sustainable. We’re always keen to hear new ideas. This idea came from a conversation with an 11-year-old and shows that inspiration can come from any source!

Join in the conversation on social media with the hashtag #SDGPublishersCompact.

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Actions on Sustainability | A Sustainable Development Goals Update, March 2021

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