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October 5, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:39am

Guardian plan to tackle carbon emissions highlights print production as biggest culprit

By Charlotte Tobitt

The Guardian has revealed more details about its target to be net carbon neutral by 2030 after an audit revealed newspaper production still makes up the majority of its greenhouse gas emissions.

Guardian editor-in-chief Kath Viner told readers the newspaper has published almost 3,000 articles about the environment in the past 12 years, but “words alone may not be enough”.

Last October the Guardian pledged to go carbon neutral by 2030.

The paper said on Monday it has now set a “clear path” to achieve this target with the goal to eliminate at least two-thirds of emissions from its operations and full supply chain, and offset the rest.

Two audits of Guardian Media Group’s direct and indirect emissions carried out since, for both the 2018/19 and 2019/20 financial years, identified the print newspaper business and its supply chain – which includes distribution – as the biggest contributor.

In August, the Guardian had an average print circulation of 109,533 and the Observer of 139,851, according to the latest available figures. Its digital revenues overtook print for the first time in 2017/18.

Viner said last year she was “not looking to a no-print future anytime soon” although she did not reject outright the notion that the Guardian or Observer might eventually close in print.

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Business travel and digital operations were the next most significant contributors to the Guardian’s emissions, although it has not published exact figures.

The group will first focus on areas like reducing packaging and making the lighting in its offices more efficient. The “vast majority” of overall emissions come from the supply chain rather than by activities the publisher controls directly, it said.

The Saturday Guardian began the switch to 100% recyclable paper wrapping for its supplements last month, a year and a half after becoming the first national paper to use biodegradable wrapping.

The publisher has said it plans to look at where else it can use recycled or recyclable materials.

The Weekend, Review, The Guide, and Travel supplements are now under threat due to Covid-19 cost saving proposals, although the newspaper is promising a “new and exciting” package in their place.

The pandemic took £25m off the Guardian’s forecast revenues for the year.

Viner said: “The global climate crisis is the emergency of our times. That is why the Guardian will keep reporting on it, raising the alarm, investigating the crisis and possible solutions, until we begin to see genuine systemic change.

“We also believe we must be accountable for our own actions, so we will continue to update readers on our environmental commitments and progress.”

Julie Richards, GMG’s delivery portfolio director who is leading the net zero emissions initiative, said the publisher’s entire supply chain needs to be made as sustainable as possible and that environmental considerations will therefore be a key part of all purchasing decisions.

Discussions with suppliers to get all the information needed for the audits have taken place over the past year, even throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

The publisher said any emissions that can’t be eliminated will be balanced by “certified, auditable carbon offsetting schemes” alongside further measures to be revealed at a later date.

As part of its editorial measures, the Guardian has published a new data dashboard called Environment Now to serve as an ongoing resource showing the latest climate indicators, including global temperature and sea level changes.

It has also published a round-up of its best environmental journalism of the past year, which saw a piece published every three hours on average, a special environment edition on its Guardian Editions app on Monday, and online events including Viner discussing the media’s role in tackling the climate emergency.

Guardian Media Group chief executive Annette Thomas said: “As a global media business we want the Guardian to lead the way not only on environmental reporting, but also in our own commitment  to environmental sustainability.

“Today’s announcement of a target to eliminate two thirds of our carbon emission by 2030 is a bold first step to ensure we live up to the values of our readers and Guardian journalism.”

The sustainability drive takes place as the publisher looks to cut up to 12% of its workforce and journalists spent days waiting for redundancy letters only to find they had been sent with insufficient postage.

Picture: David Levene/The Guardian

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