2020: a year like no other - tackling COVID-19, addressing climate change and creating a more resilient and sustainable business

Springer Nature Group
By: Frank Vranken Peeters and Stefan von Holtzbrinck, Thu Apr 8 2021

On 8 April, Springer Nature publishes its fourth annual report on its progress as a Sustainable Business. Here our chief executive, Frank Vrancken Peeters, and chairman, Stefan von Holtzbrinck, reflect on 2020 and the steps the company is taking in support of colleagues, the research and education communities we work closely with, and wider society. 


2020 was a year like no other: the COVID-19 pandemic affected all our lives and showed unequivocally the importance of a research ecosystem that can operate at its most efficient, with researchers working hard to understand and fight the disease, sharing findings rapidly in both preprints and peer-reviewed papers.


Our teams made great efforts to help speed up the process of discovery while providing robust, peer reviewed scientific results and giving oversight and context. We published over 204,000 new peer-reviewed COVID-19 research articles within months and more than 6,000 articles were made available on our preprint platform. More than 70,000 relevant articles or book chapters were made freely available, as well as training courses for nurses specializing in respiratory diseases. Technology teams created solutions to ensure not only access to our research content, but also to guarantee a seamless workflow experience for those scientists who were forced to work outside of their institutions.


All of this underlines the importance of open science - the practice of open and early sharing of results together with the underlying data - when tackling the biggest challenges for humanity. Without passion, agility and technology, without the full power of global collaboration vaccines could not have been developed in record time.


With schools closed and face-to-face training and events not possible for much of the year, there have been significant challenges for our Education and Professional divisions. Our teams have been resilient and creative, developing tools and training to help teachers around the world deliver lessons remotely.


Accelerating solutions to urgent global challenges is the first pillar of Springer Nature’s updated Sustainable Business strategy and we continue to do this by putting great emphasis on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since the goals were first published in 2015, Springer Nature has published more than 300,000 relevant articles or book chapters, which collectively have been downloaded more than 750 million times.


The need to do more to tackle inequalities became even more pressing in 2020. Springer Nature’s diversity, equity and inclusion strategy has been revised and strengthened, including a greater focus on antiracism. We continue to make good progress towards our target that women make up 45% of our senior leadership tiers by 2023.


We are pleased to report that Springer Nature is now net carbon neutral for emissions related to its offices, fleet and flights (scopes 1, 2 and partial scope 3). This year our emissions have fallen significantly, mainly due to a reduction in business travel. We have purchased green electricity for our sites globally and we have compensated for emissions using verified carbon credits.


Our 2020 Sustainable Business report includes much more detail on progress made in support of our people, our customers and our communities. We are immensely proud of all colleagues for their special efforts in times of stress and uncertainty. We end the year as a more resilient and more sustainable business. And as a publisher with a purpose we look into the future with optimism and resolve.


To find out more about Springer Nature’s Sustainable Business progress in 2020, read the report and discover the highlights on the microsite.

Frank and Stefan

Author: Frank Vranken Peeters and Stefan von Holtzbrinck

Frank Vrancken Peeters, CEO Springer Nature

Joined Springer Nature in 2017 as Chief Commercial Officer and became CEO in September 2019. He has spent more than 25 years in the media and publishing sectors, with leadership roles across a range of strategic and delivery business functions in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer contexts. Frank has previously had senior positions at: Wolters Kluwer, where he was Regional Managing Director, Legal and Regulatory, Western Europe; at Infinitas Learning, where he was Chief Operating Officer; and Elsevier Science, where he served as MD Government and Academic Markets, MD ScienceDirect and MD Global Sales, in each case building and growing significant-scale, complex international businesses. Frank holds a Master’s in Business Administration from the Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Stefan von Holtzbrinck, Chairman, Springer Nature

Stefan von Holtzbrinck’s career in publishing began at Kirch Media Group, Bloomsbury and then in the New Media division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Group. He joined Macmillan Limited as a director in 1997 and then served as Managing Director at Nature Publishing Group. He joined Holtzbrinck Publishing Group as Chief Executive Officer in 2001. Dr von Holtzbrinck was born in 1963 in Ettlingen, Germany. He studied Law and Literature and earned his PhD in Media Law from the University of Munich.


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