Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Is Oprah's publisher avoiding the green question?

My good friend Eric at Re-Nourish sent me a link to this article by Marc Gunther, about Hearst Magazine's (publisher of O and several other magazines) refusal to answer questions posed by Aveda, one of O Magazine's advertisers, about the magazine's paper-buying policy. The article details conversations between Gunther and Hearst representatives wherein the Hearst rep clearly gives Gunther the runaround about their procedure, and somehow implies that the amount of recycled content in their paper is proprietary. Seriously? Proprietary? Like somehow a competing magazine is going to find out you use Lustro Dull on your magazine and rush out to get some?

An excerpt from the article is below.

Probing further, I asked Luthringer whether the company buys paper that is certified. The Forest Stewardship Council sets standards for forests are well-managed. (A competing industry-backed standard called the Sustainable Forestry Initiative isn’t as stringent.) Many companies buy paper that comes from FSC-certified forests. As for Hearst, you be the judge. Here’s what they said:

Hearst (19 magazines including Oprah magazine) only purchases paper from suppliers that utilized independent third party certification programs and also have certified chain of custody to verify certified fiber levels.

Maybe we’re getting somewhere, I thought. That sounds like Hearst buys certified paper. How much, I wondered? The reply:

Hearst only buys paper from suppliers who use certification.

Hmm. Reread that statement. When I did, I turned suspicious. I only buy groceries from suppliers (Giant, Safeway, Whole Foods) who sell organic. That doesn’t meant I eat organic food. In fact, it says nothing about what I buy or eat.

The full article (which is pretty interesting) is located here.

There are a couple of things that miff me about this. For one, publishing is a HUGE industry, and Hearst is a HUGE player in it. With all the buzz about "green living" lately, it still amazes me that there are so many magazines that are more than willing to ride the Al Gore bus to more readers, but aren't willing to put their money where their mouth is and actually do something that can benefit the environment - something which they are in an extremely strong position to do.

For another, this isn't just one publisher we're talking about - it's several. While several companies have joined Co-Op America's Magazine Paper Project, a number of the largest, including Hearst and Vanity Fair publisher Conde Nast are still mum on the subject.

The magazine and publishing industry has a responsibility to its readership, plain and simple. As they print hundreds of thousands—even millions—of sheets of paper each day, would it kill them to look into more responsible options?

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