We make sense of complex supply chains for books by collecting and analysing data, and connecting stakeholders along the chain. Publishers use this collective knowledge to make informed decisions for their own book production.

Our tools focus on three specific areas

Forest Sourcing

Our Forest Sourcing tool collects and analyses the origins of tree fibres used in paper and board, helping publishers identify responsible forest sources for their books. We hold data on over 3,000 paper and board brands from 300 paper mills around the world.

Grading System

The tool’s core is our Grading System, a method of analysing and distilling data on the tree species and country of origin of a fibre. The species and country together are known as a forest source.

Here’s how the Grading System works in detail:

  1. To hold manufacturers accountable – and improve quality and completeness - we only accept data directly from paper makers, who supply a full list of forest sources for a specific paper brand.
  2. Using our Forest Risk Assessment, we identify countries posing a high risk of illegal or destructive forest clearance (high risk countries), and countries who may act as conduits for fibre from high risk countries (trans-shipment risk countries). Tree species are also checked on the IUCN Red List and CITES Annexes for their conservation status.
  3. Each forest source is awarded a grade on a three-tier star system where 1 is the worst and 5 is the best:
    Grade Criteria
    Forest source is recycled or certified (FSC / PEFC)
    The forest source is certified by a valid FSC or PEFC Forest Management licence; or
    The forest source is made up of 100% post-consumer recycled material.
    Note: post- and pre-consumer waste are investigated case-by-case to ensure all fibres meet these criteria.
    Forest source is known and responsible
    The forest source is from a country of negligible risk, as defined by the Forest Risk Assessment; and
    The forest source tree species is not listed on the IUCN Red List or CITES.
    The forest source is made up of 100% pre-consumer waste.
    The forest source is covered by a valid FSC Controlled Wood or PEFC Controlled Source licence.
    A forest source from a high risk or trans-shipment risk country must have a valid FSC Controlled Wood or PEFC Controlled Sources licence to achieve 3 Stars.
    A forest source whose tree species is listed on the IUCN Red List or CITES, regardless of the country risk, must have a valid FSC Controlled Wood or PEFC Controlled Sources licence specifically naming the tree species.
    Forest source is unknown or unwanted
    The forest source is from a high risk or high trans-shipment risk country; or
    The forest source is unknown.
  4. With each forest source graded now we distil them to a single grade for the whole paper, usually the lowest of the forest sources:
    Grade Criteria
    The paper is certified (FSC / PEFC) or 100% recycled
    The paper is certified and labelled (FSC or PEFC); or
    The paper is made from 100% post-consumer recycled material; or
    100% of the paper is made from a combination of post-consumer recycled material, FSC and PEFC-certified material, all with valid licence numbers.
    The paper sources are all known and responsible
    All forest sources used in the paper are at least 3 Star or above.
    The paper contains unknown or unwanted forest sources
    The paper has at least one forest source that is 1 Star.
  5. Papers manufactured in high risk or trans-shipment risk countries are checked further using microscope fibre analysis. A sample from the paper maker is sent to a third-party testing house who provide a detailed report of the pulp types and tree species in the sample. Cross-checking results with the data supplied verifies it is accurate. In addition, we spot check papers throughout the year using samples sourced from printers and from finished books.
  6. Forest sources change over time so the steps above are repeated every 12 months to maintain the information, grades, and spot checks. Publishers are automatically alerted when grades are updated.

Forest Risk Assessment

The Forest Country Risk Tool is freely available to download and use and is based on four public and frequently updated data sets:

  1. Corruption Perception Index (Transparency International)
  2. Global Forest Resources Assessment (UN FAO)
  3. Satellite-sourced Tree Cover Loss (Global Forest Watch)
  4. Trade Flows of Industrial Roundwood (UN FAO)

Chemicals & Materials

Our Chemicals & Materials tool simplifies how chemical safety information is shared between publishers and their print suppliers, helping publishers to comply with safety legislation and stay ahead of new developments.

Component & Chemical Screening

Books have many component parts, from paper and board to ink, adhesives and varnish. And in more complex examples they include cover mounts like toys, embedded audio units with speakers and batteries, and textured inserts in sensory books for children.

Chemical safety laws places more stringent reporting requirements on companies with regards to the chemicals that can be used in products. The EU Toy Safety Directive, for example, requires publishers to compile full chemical substance lists – a Bill of Materials - for their books where laws apply, for example in products destined for use by children.

Our portal allows print suppliers to submit exact chemical breakdowns of each book component. We screen these chemicals against lists of international safety legislation, allowing publishers to quickly flag and substitute any that are of concern and possibly gauge the volumes of each chemical.

Lists are under constant review to monitor changes and prepare for new additions.

We monitor legislation in five jurisdictions:

  1. Australia and New Zealand: Safety of Toys – Migration of certain elements
  2. Canada: Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA)
  3. European Union: REACH, Toy Safety Directive, and CMR substances
  4. South Korea: The Special Act on Children Product Safety
  5. United States: Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, and all State-specific legislation e.g. California - Proposition 65

Plastic / Material Choices

We are developing a collective understanding of how and where plastic is used in the book supply chain. Learning from other sectors, we are starting to map the types and volumes of plastic so that we can identify where publishers might focus their efforts to greatest effect.

Labour & Environment

Our Labour & Environment tool clearly sets publishers’ expectations on labour practice and environmental management for their print suppliers. It also shows the publishers’ commitment to their suppliers.

Code of Conduct

We host the publishing industry Code of Conduct, which states the publishers’ commitments to their suppliers and what they expect from their suppliers in return. The Code articulates standards of labour practice and environmental performance. It is based on internationally-recognised standards, codes and laws, including the ILO Conventions, the UN Declaration for Human Rights and the ETI Basecode, and is updated regularly.

The Book Chain Project also provides a publishing industry Code of Conduct for labour and environmental standards. This Code of Conduct states the publishers’ commitments to their suppliers and what they expect from their suppliers in return. The Code of Conduct is based on existing internationally-recognized Codes and Laws. Suppliers that do not already have an ethical audit can ask for a SMETA audit that is audited against this Code of Conduct.

Shared Audits

Publishers use a risk-based approach to identify the countries at highest risk of poor labour and environmental practice. Our Labour and Environment Risk Assessment tool help them do this. It uses publicly available metrics including, amongst others, the Global Rights Index (ITUC), Freedom in the World (Freedom House), the Human Development Index (UN), Rate of Unintentional Injuries (WHO), and the Environmental Performance Index (Yale).

High risk print suppliers require an audit from a third party. Suppliers use our portal to share their results with multiple publishers, saving them the time and cost of duplicate audit visits. Suppliers can upload audits from ICTI, SMETA, SA 8000, WCA and BSCI. They also upload their corrective action plans (CAPs) and complete an environmental questionnaire if they have not had an environmental audit.

Special Projects

We address specific issues in the supply chain through our Special Projects.

We recognise that auditing is an important part of human rights due diligence but, in isolation, is ineffective at reducing risks to workers or motivating print suppliers to improve. Our Special Projects dive into the detail, working closely with suppliers to address specific challenges and improve.