Publishers Turn Over a New Leaf

Posted on 11 October 2010  |  1 comments
Over 7,000 publishers recently convened in Frankfurt for the 2010 Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest book and media fair. While business was booming at the Fair, another issue took center stage with several publishers, namely the sustainability of the global publishing industry.

Global consumption of paper has been growing at a steady rate for years and has quadrupled since 1960. Nearly half of the commercially harvested wood worldwide is turned into paper products and roughly 10 per cent of the world’s population, i.e. Western Europe and North America, consume over 50 per cent of the worldwide supply of paper, with the publishing industry being a driving force.

Often, wood for the necessary pulp needed to make paper comes from wood that is harvested illegally or unsustainably. As a result, the publishing industry has unknowingly contributed to the destruction of natural habitats of animal and plant species, to climate change and to human rights violations amongst the local population.

Moreover, books sold in Europe and North America are increasingly manufactured abroad, particularly in Asia. With these products there is a particularly high risk that the wood used is from illegal logging, since many printing houses in China source from suppliers in the Indonesian paper industry, which continues to be notorious for large-scale tropical forest destruction in Indonesia.

With the production of children’s books increasingly outsourced to China, WWF released a report around last year’s Book Fair, testing a number of children’s books from Southeast Asia for evidence of tropical wood. The results were sobering.

In 19 out of 51 children’s books tested, a significant amount of tropical wood was present. The types of wood found do not typically occur in plantations but rather in natural and tropical forests.

“Because more and more books bought in Germany are produced in other countries, particularly China, there is an increased probability that the purchase of books in Germany contributes to tropical forest destruction such as in Indonesia. Children’s books of all things are related to the habitat destruction for future generations,” said Johannes Zahnen, GFTN-Germany Manager.

Over the last year, WWF has engaged with publishing houses in Germany to use their market position to motivate the paper industry for environmentally friendly book and paper production and make a commitment to use recycled paper or virgin fibre from credibly certified forests. And these efforts are producing positive results.

“As a results of our outreach, one publisher totally changed to FSC-certifed paper for the four million books they published,” said Zahnen. “Three more publishers announced they will convert all of their paper to FSC within the next year, with one commitment that is expected to tip the market, as it is one of the largest publishers in Germany—producing roughly 50 million books annually.”

For more information, contact:
Johannes Zahnen (
Tropical forest destruction contributes to biodiversity loss and climate change as production forests are destroyed, which serve as gigantic carbon sinks and important habitats for species like orangutans.


  • William Friend

    Hi, I have written a unique chess book(357pages) & looking for a publisher. It may interest wwf.
    Yours sincerely, William Friend.

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