Taking responsibility: why Springer Nature is becoming carbon neutral

Springer Nature Group
By: Thea Sherer, Wed Mar 11 2020

2019 was the year that the climate crisis made global headlines and - in some areas at least - leaders began to make bold statements about future action. Extinction Rebellion brought cities to a standstill, Greta Thunberg was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, and the European Commission announced its aim to make the bloc carbon neutral by 2050. Against this backdrop, climate-related research emanating from the academic community gained much attention and was able to provide evidence-based insights to inform broader media coverage of the issue.  This paper from Nature, which made a direct call for “political and economic action on emissions”, was in the top five of all the most media-covered research papers during 2019. Our role as publishers is to help authors share their discoveries quickly and easily so that it can be discovered, shared, used and reused by the widest possible audience. However, it is also important that we operate as a responsible business, part of a global community of researchers and educators who are working to solve global challenges. 

That’s why we recently announced that Springer Nature will become carbon neutral, for its business operations and employee flights, in 2020. This is an ambitious and important step, and builds on a programme we have been developing since 2017, to measure, monitor and manage the company’s environmental impacts. In 2018 we reduced our net carbon footprint by 18% and we took further steps in 2019, which you’ll be able to read more about in our 2019 Responsible Business Report, to be published later in March. 

What changes have we made so far to reduce our carbon footprint?

While Springer Nature is not an energy-intensive company (we do not manufacture our products and so do not today include the emissions of our suppliers in our carbon footprint) our journals publish some of the world’s most significant climate science and, as a leading publisher of research, we have a significant part to play in addressing the global climate emergency, beginning with our own operations. 

In 2018 we trebled the amount of green energy we purchased, and in 2019 began to balance some of the harder-to-reduce emissions - like those from essential employee flights. We support forestry projects in Tanzania and Nicaragua, certified by Plan Vivo working with carbon balancing partner, C-Level. And we’re also encouraging our colleagues to find alternatives to flying where possible, such as taking the train or making more use of virtual conferencing. 

How are we going to become carbon neutral in 2020?

We’re already working to further increase our use of green electricity - today it makes up around 75% of our electricity portfolio and we aim to increase this to close to 100% this year. Our dedicated group of volunteer green office ambassadors are working with colleagues around the world to identify local level changes and energy reductions. And, like many other companies, we will still - for now - need to balance some of the more difficult-to-reduce emission, through high-quality carbon-offsetting schemes. We’ll keep reporting on progress in our Responsible Business reporting. 

Research on carbon impacts, mitigation and adaptation are going to be central to the global response to the climate crisis as the world strives to achieve the goals set out in the Paris Agreement. With sustained and combined action - by businesses, governments, the academic community and citizens - we can increase the chances of these goals being met. We all have a part to play. 

Thea Sherer

Author: Thea Sherer

Director of Sustainability

Thea Sherer is Director of Sustainability and Climate Action Officer at Springer Nature Group. Since 2017 she has led on sustainability strategy and corporate reporting, driving forward a programme that measures, monitors and works to improve the publishers’ environmental and social impacts.

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