When United Nations Secretary General António Guterres urged member states in 2019 to support a decade of action to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals initiative, he laid out ambitious goals regarding climate change, poverty, hunger, and gender equality. The new decade that arrived in 2020 then came back with an unexpected twist – a global pandemic.

As the UN has noted, the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on all 17 SDGs have shown that what began as a health crisis has quickly become a human and socioeconomic crisis. While this crisis imperils progress toward the SDGs, it also makes their achievement all the more urgent and necessary.

At Frankfurt Book Fair last October, the International Publishers Association launched the SDG Publishers Compact in collaboration with the UN. Signatories to the Publishers Compact commit to implementing sustainable practices in their businesses. They will also serve as SDG champions, publishing books and journals that will help inform, develop, and inspire global action.

“IPA had compiled a report of contributions to the SDGs in our industry, and we were thinking, so what else could we do to make this more practical? What can publishers and publishing organizations do to start tomorrow supporting the SDGs? That’s why we came up with the SDG Publishers Compact together with the UN,” says Michiel Kolman, past president of IPA, where he continues to serve as chair of the Inclusive Publishing and Literacy Committee. Kolman is also senior vice president at Elsevier for Information Industry Relations.


“Publishers are the catalysts of societal change. So through what we publish, we can definitely influence agendas around sustainability today, but also in the many years to come,” he tells CCC.

“Expectations are high, so we really hope that publishers will embrace the SDGs and incorporate it in their strategy. We are in the decade of action. The SDGs have a strict deadline, and it’s at the end of this decade. There are not that many years left.

“We really hope that if publishers and publishing organizations embrace the SDG Publishers Compact, they will take action immediately and that it will have impact in the next coming years, because there is lots at stake here. I hope I conveyed a sense of urgency here,” says Kolman.

Author: Christopher Kenneally

Christopher Kenneally hosts CCC's Velocity of Content podcast series, which debuted in 2006 and is the longest continuously running podcast covering the publishing industry. As CCC's Senior Director, Marketing, he is responsible for organizing and hosting programs that address the business needs of all stakeholders in publishing and research. His reporting has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, The Independent (London), WBUR-FM, NPR, and WGBH-TV.
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