There was no reason to expect that Condé Nast would actually display some sort of responsible environmental citizenship in the production of its third annual "green" issue for Vanity Fair. While they have a right to run their business as they see fit, they must also take responsibility for their lack of commitment to protecting the environment.
The fact is that while other magazines like Shape, Fast Company, Inc. and Every Day With Rachael Ray have made important achievements in environmentally responsible publishing, Vanity Fair and CN have only "talked green" in their articles.
Stories explaining what the Bush Administration should, or shouldn’t, do; how mountain top coal mining is destroying communities and natural environs; oil drilling in the Artic; the necessity to act quickly in order to prevent climate change—all are important messages.
But where is the introspection and leadership? Who within CN and VF are pointing out that they themselves should be making an effort to reduce climate change, solid waste, deforestation and water and air pollution?
Do they make any mention of their environmental practices in the magazine? No. Is there information about their commitment to sustainability on their Web site? No. Are they at least using recycled paper? No, not even a smidgeon.
Graydon Carter is a tremendous force as editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair. He commands celebrity attention with his post-Oscar party each year (except this year) and helps focus his readers on today’s environmental issues. Though editors-in-chief normally don’t make paper purchasing decisions for their magazines, with his extraordinary personal and professional clout, Mr. Carter could and should use his considerable influence to bring about more environmentally-responsible production practices at VF. After all, the magazine is truly a reflection of himself.
Readers and advertisers are increasingly aligning themselves with companies that have a genuine commitment to the environment. Unfortunately, (with the very remote possible exception of Wired magazine) the way that CN decides to print their magazines completely ignores environmental responsibility, and may harm their brand over time.
But What Can Vanity Fair Do to Protect the Environment?
In November 2007, Every Day With Rachael Ray began printing on 85 percent recycled paper. During a presentation at the Publishing Business Conference in March this year, Brian Schwarze, the paper manager at Reader’s Digest Association—Everyday’s parent company—touted the benefits of their switch to recycled paper: each year they save 125,000 trees, 7,800 pounds of hazardous air pollutants, 380 garbage trucks of solid waste, and over 25 million pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent worth of greenhouse gases.
Reader’s Digest and Rachael Ray may not have the same tenure as VF when it comes to publishing "green" editorial content. But, when it comes to making a difference and not just talking about being green, EDWRR makes every issue a "green" issue by using recycled paper. As a result, readers and advertisers have rewarded them for the achievements.
VF and CN can start by printing on more environmentally responsible recycled paper rather than environmentally harmful virgin-fiber paper. They can also work with their supply chain to implement an environmentally and fiscally responsible paper procurement policy that reduces emissions of climate change gases and protects forests. When they accomplish that they will be able, without hypocrisy, to publish green issues that motivate governments, businesses, and individuals to do their part.
[This post marks the eighth year in which I have offered Condé Nast my assistance and cooperation in helping them plan for environmentally responsible magazine publishing.]