Australian publishers sign up to the SDG Publishers Compact

Australia Publishers begin to sign up to the UN and IPA Sustainable Development Goals Publisher Compact

At least two Australian publishers (Stormbird Press and UNSW Press) have signed the new SDG Publisher Compact which was launched by the UN and the International Publishers Association in October 2020. 

The United Nations endorsed 17 interlinked global goals in 2015, designating them a 'blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all'. The SDG Publishers Compact asks publishers and publishing associations to commit to action and reporting in pursuit of these goals by the end of the decade.

The goals address the broadest possible conception of sustainability including poverty, hunger, good health, decent employment and economic growth, but they also address more straightforward environmental goals such as clean water and sanitation, affordable clean energy, and climate action. 

While publishers sign up to the achievement of all goals, there are a number which speak more directly to the long-standing social and economic functions of publishing including supporting quality education, peace and justice, strong institutions, and reducing inequality.

At the same time as launching the compact the IPA released a report by Åsfrid Hegdal, Publishers and The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which detailed how publishers contribute to all 17 goals, including publishers' vital role in bringing forth the science and educational materials which make change possible.

The then IPA president Hugo Setzer stated that “Publishers can play such an important role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals through the books we publish, but we must also look at our business practices and contribute in our own right. This compact gives publishers the opportunity to mark their commitment with clear targets for them to aim for.”  

Publishers signing up to the compact commit themselves to

  1. The SDGs including stating sustainability policies and targets on their website
  2. Actively promoting and acquiring content that advocates for themes represented by the SDGs, 
  3. Annually reporting on progress towards achieving SDGs, 
  4. Nominating a person who will promote SDG progress, 
  5. Raising awareness and promoting the SDGs among staff
  6. Raising awareness and promoting the SDGs among suppliers
  7. Becoming an advocate to customers and stakeholders 
  8. Collaborating across cities, countries, and continents with other signatories and organizations 
  9. Dedicating budget and other resources towards accelerating progress
  10. Taking action on at least one SDG goal

To date, at least two Australian publishers have signed onto the compact since launch last year. Stormbird Press, an environmental publisher based on Kangaroo island, promote their commitment to the compact on their website, noting that it is an extension of  their 'constative status as a UN ECOSOC organisation' and that they are 'honoured to reinforce this connection by signing the United Nations SDG Publishers Compact'. 

Kathy Bail, CEO of UNSW Press by day, and by night one of the APA's two representatives on the IPA, argues that the Compact is both good for development and provides a template for future business practices:

'Inclusivity is at the heart of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. And this compact enables publishers to contribute to a widely endorsed global action plan, particularly in areas where we are best suited such as social justice, accessibility and environmental sustainability. The Publishers Compact provides a framework for us to work together to identify new business practices, share successful initiatives and negotiate a more equitable future.'

There is extensive information about the SDG Publisher compact on the UN website, including the initial media release sharing perspectives from the IPA with a recording from the launch event at Frankfurt providing a useful overview.

Publishers interested in the activities of the APA's Sustainability Working Group can contact Stuart Glover for further information..