We are counting down to the Conference of Parties in Glasgow, or COP for short, where in just over 90 days world leaders will convene for the 26th time to discuss and share their climate action commitments and report on progress made.
In recent weeks, as if the forces of nature were sending a stark warning, we have seen fires tearing through the Spanish and Greek countryside, the largest active wildfire in US history in the state of Oregon and following five unseasonably hot summers, an ‘airpocalypse’ in Siberia the likes of which has never been seen before. We have seen extensive flooding with devastating human cost in China and also flooding in Germany and the Netherlands which, research tells us, could become 14 times more frequent by 2100. The stakes are high for our politicians at COP26 and as David Attenborough points out, with less than a decade to act to limit the most devastating impacts of human-caused climate change, they are fast running out of time to be able to kick the can down the road.
We are one of the world’s leading publishers of climate change research. Across our portfolio of academic books and journals, which includes titles such as Nature Sustainability and Nature Climate Change (celebrating its 10th year in 2021) we have published more than 40,000 articles or book chapters relating to Climate Action (SDG13) in the past six years alone. And as a company with a large global footprint, we have been trying hard to listen to the science and act accordingly. We have minimised plastic wrapping from our products, became carbon neutral in our core operations in 2020, and are working on reducing our carbon impact further by making greater use of green electricity, reducing overall office space and cutting back on business flights. Our green army of volunteers around the world have come up with local ideas to make change happen in our offices including everything from promoting vegan weeks to purchasing low energy light bulbs.
But we want to do more. Just as the politicians in Glasgow need to act together in order to make meaningful change, a global, matrixed company like ours needs to rally multiple stakeholders around the company behind a single-focussed plan. ‘Climate action’ sits with no one team or no one individual. It is the joint responsibility of many – teams like operations, production, publishing, HR and procurement to name just a few – and it requires the wholehearted support of senior management and the workforce as a whole.
And this is why we’ve created the role of Climate Action Officer – a first for us and a first we believe for our industry. We recognise the need for a ‘conductor’ of the instruments of change - someone that can capture the enthusiasm that comes from so many quarters and help turn it into a roadmap that gets us to carbon net zero by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement. As the first publisher to sign up to the Climate Pledge earlier this year, we have committed to doing all that we can to reach this goal and I am delighted that Thea Sherer, our first Climate Action Officer, is going to help us get there. Her orchestra will consist of a wide range of professionals across the company who have been working hard to secure the advances that we have made already. To all of them (and you know who you are) I say thank you- thank you for all that you have done to date and thank you for all that is to come.
We set out our sustainability strategy earlier this year and developed a six point plan to harness the positive power of knowledge and enable progress towards a better future for all. This includes a focus on accelerating solutions to urgent societal challenges like climate change of which our publishing programme is a big part with over 300,000 SDG related articles published since the Goals were launched in 2015. It includes a plan to champion diversity, equity and inclusion amongst the many millions of researchers, educators, funders, policymakers and other professionals we interact with around the world everyday. Already groups have assembled around the company to detail exactly how we’ll approach this. Our sustainability strategy includes a commitment to invest in technology that can advance discovery and learning more efficiently and effectively, for example by opening up research and the underlying data for use and re-use. And last but certainly not least, we will always hold ourselves to account in how we live our values and act ethically and responsibly.
This is the ‘what’ we’ll do and just as important is the ‘how’ – robust reporting and transparency on the one hand and persuasion and influence on the other. We use recognised reporting standards to share progress via our Taking Responsibility page.
So this is our approach – one company, one plan. Thea will lead a newly expanded team to help deliver it. Many more who are embedded in the business across a wide range of departments and disciplines will support them.
From Glasgow, our hope is that the politicians can land on a ‘one world, one plan’ response to climate action- providing a clear roadmap that we can all follow and play our collective part in delivering. Can this, their 26th attempt, be their most meaningful yet? In a little over 90 days, we will find out.
Springer Nature’s Sustainable Business Strategy: