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Earth Overshoot Day 2022 – A letter to the industry

Today, 28th July, is Earth Overshoot Day. The date where humanity has used 100% of the annual resources our Earth can provide. Any usage after today means we’re using more than the Earth can regenerate.

The exact date is calculated and shared by The Global Footprint Network, and just like a business will track income against expenditure, Global Footprint Network measures a population’s demand for, and ecosystems’ supply of, resources. Each city or nation’s footprint can be compared to its biocapacity, with some countries’ overshoot day being in December (Jamaica, Indonesia), while some are in February ( Luxembourg, Qatar). The overshoot day for the UK has already long passed with it being on 19th May.

As a centuries old industry, we have an opportunity. A right. An obligation.

Each year in the UK alone, over 77 million unsold books are destroyed. The majority of these will have been over printed for a bigger profit margin as it is much cheaper for the presses to print in bigger quantities. As yet another business in the industry battling rising cost prices, we do understand. We really do. But we also understand the impact of cutting down millions of trees per year for absolutely nothing.

Today, we refresh our call on the industry for change. Those 77 million destroyed books are figures for the UK only, so imagine the global figure. This basically means, as an industry, we are responsible for the deforestation of tens of millions of trees every single year, to be made into books which fail to sell, to then be destroyed. It beggars belief that, collectively, albeit some publishers such as ourselves excluded, we continue to operate in this unsustainable fashion. We cannot continue to waste millions of trees just for bigger profit margins. We need to find a balance in keeping our businesses sustainable financially, but also keeping our Earth sustainable environmentally.

It’s not just the publishing industry who is responsible. Every single business and every single nation on the planet is responsible. Overshoot Day is a key indication of our global consumption patterns and ideally, we shouldn’t have an overshoot day at all.

The sustainability of our shared home doesn’t have to start with our world leaders. It is down to every single person to do their bit and reduce the demand for our global resources.

We only have one Earth. We need to do what we can to help keep it sustainable.