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Sustainability Matters Blog

Countless points of personal data offer benefits, challenges for media companies

08 January 2015 · By Andrée Gosselin O’Meara

A well-known Canadian fashion reporter recently explained the difference between fashion and style: “Fashion is what you're offered. Style is what you choose.” Style, in other words, is unique to each one of us.

In our modern world, what we wear, what we share, and what we care about are now mere data points on the huge spectrum of infinite relationships, links, and permutations that represent a distinctive and discrete human being.

As publishers, we both collect and analyse a vast amount of data and monetise it in some form or other; we may improve our product offering or our customer service, make use of flexible pricing, or make our Web site behave differently.

Most Web sites’ basic data collection consists of a computer’s IP address and links it with time spent, articles read, games played, videos watched, and a few other hundred – if not thousands – of additional data points.

If a person comes to a site as a guest, the information collected is ...


Transparency, privacy issues surround Big Data growth

11 December 2014 · By Andrée Gosselin O’Meara

In a promotional video for South by Southwest 2014 (SXSW), organisers talk about how fast transparency and privacy concerns have risen to top of mind for conference attendees.

One organiser claims that back in 2012, only two sessions dealt with privacy and that, in 2014, close to 30 sessions were being held on the subject.

Take a quick look at the SXSW 2015 Interactive agenda and we can see 17 sessions specifically on privacy are already planned.

Transparency and privacy are clearly different concepts, however it’s important to consider ...


Educating the next generation of sustainable media managers

09 November 2014 · By Andrée Gosselin O’Meara

In late October 2014, INMA announced a scholarship for the executive MBA programme of the Berlin School of Creative Leadership.

The programme is global not only in focus but also in its execution, as the classes are held in five different locations over the course of 24 months – such locations being “creative centres” as per the school’s Web site.

Kudos to INMA executives for such a progressive move!

Keeping one’s management skills sharp and current is more important than ever.

I recently went through such an exercise by focusing on ...


3 myth-busting sustainability strategies

15 October 2014 · By Chad Park and Brendan Seale

From retailers to telecoms, insurance companies to oil and gas firms, most major businesses now have a sustainability strategy and function in their organisations.

The same is true in other sectors as well. Most universities are adopting sustainability policies and implementing sustainability programmes on their campuses. Most municipalities (in Canada at least) have community sustainability plans.

The approaches to sustainability range from window dressing to deeply embedded drivers of innovation. Whatever the approach, it’s clear that something important is happening.

Yet, despite having its fair share of heroes, villains, and brand-name players, this dynamic movement gets very little media attention. Why?

One reason might be because the word sustainability is overused and misunderstood. It is often equated with vague terms like “going green” or the “triple bottom line” of social, environmental, and economic considerations.

It is sometimes even used in seemingly contradictory expressions such as “sustainable growth,” or in entirely different contexts (e.g. the sustainability of our health-care system).

It’s no wonder ...


B Corps: When publications care about more than the bottom line

17 September 2014 · By Andrée Gosselin O’Meara

If you are new to the world of sustainability, it won’t take long before you find the name of John Elkington in your research links. Mr. Elkington coined the concept of triple bottom line (TBL) back in 1994 while working at SustainAbility, the consultancy firm he co-founded.

The TBL was developed as an accounting framework that not only considered the financial aspects of an entity but also its social and environmental dimensions.

Since its inception, companies that considered themselves value-based organisations have more or less figured out how to embed these values within their corporate structures.

Over the past few decades, stakeholders and shareholders that cared about socially responsible investing (SRI) have also organised themselves to make their voices heard. In a typical capitalistic response, specific stock market indices were created to report on companies’ performance on their respective TBL dimensions (see the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices or the Thomson Reuters Corporate Responsibility Indices).

Such endeavours, however, are largely based on industry self-regulation. The B Corp certification offers guidelines, goodwill, and intentions, and incorporates them into ...


With the wicked problems of sustainability come wicked opportunities

31 July 2014 · By Andree Gosselin O'Meara

Back at the INMA World Congress in May, I privately lamented to a staff member that there’s no easy way for me to use the popular blog formula of “3 steps to this,” “Top 10 rules of that,” “6 lessons from so and so,”  or any type of easy enumeration when addressing sustainability issues.

The topic of sustainability is complex, and I am having a tough time in reducing the subject down.

Last month, I attended the Accelerate Collaborating for Sustainability Conference organised by The Natural Step in Toronto, Canada. The focus of the conference was, as the title suggests, to foster collaboration to solve sustainability issues.

However, the subject of complexity was quickly brought out with force by ...


Increase revenues, engage employees by taking a leadership role in sustainability

27 May 2014 · By Andree Gosselin O'Meara

In the spring of 2013, I conducted a research project, titled “Key Factors Motivating Canadian Companies to Show Leadership in Sustainability,” to fulfill the requirements of a master’s degree at the University of Guelph’s College of Management and Economics.

I created a dataset of the top 30 companies (by revenues) of the largest six sectors of the Canadian economy (180 companies in total) and assembled and tabulated their sustainability activities on a massive spreadsheet.

The study used datasets from The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business Magazine, from Corporate Knights, and a review of each company’s Web site and/or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report. All the Canadian data reviewed were for activities that occurred in 2011.

An increase in staff productivity? In this post I will review one of the findings: Revenues per employee are higher for companies taking an active role in sustainability activities – such as a Web site-dedicated section, awards, CSR report, and/or officially reporting on specific sustainability metrics – as reviewed and analysed for activities alone, not performance.

Below, I reproduced one of the charts showing revenues per employee for each of the six sectors under study. Our industry, news media, is part of the Consumer Discretionary sector, is one of the least active sectors in terms of “reporting activity.”

Nevertheless, the sector’s most active companies (top 20%) are still ...


What can media companies do about climate change? Adapt, mitigate, report

27 April 2014 · By Andrée Gosselin O'Meara

April is Earth Month.

This is a time when newspaper organisations can take some satisfaction in knowing they produce a highly recyclable product (newspaper) and are moving toward more digital products every day, thereby limiting their overall impact on the planet.

Feel good?

Not so fast. The concerns about the air we breathe are now moving well beyond mundane recycling issues.

What we now understand better: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its third report this April, “Mitigation for Climate Change 2014.” Since 1990, the IPCC has released a series of such reports every five years or so, providing an update of what we know about the changing climate and its effect on our planet.  

With every report series, the number of observations increases, the science progresses considerably, and the climate models rise in precision and accuracy. Thousands of people contribute to these reports as authors, contributors, reviewers, and observers.

The three update reports released so far are:

  1. Working Group I: “The physical evidence of Climate Change,” Fall 2013 (video)

  2. Working Group  II: “Adaptation strategies for Climate Change,” March 2014 (video)

  3. Working Group III: “Mitigation for Climate Change,” April 2014 (Web site)

The physical evidence of the impact of our changing climate on our ecosystems is no longer in doubt (see Report No. 1). The conclusion drawn is that the main cause of the change is the increase of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere, which trap the heat. This increase is caused mainly by human activity.


Toronto Star gains environmental leadership, ad revenue, reader engagement in role as “Earth Hour” sponsor

26 March 2014 · By Bob Hepburn

How much does an hour weigh?

With that provocative question back in 2008, the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspaper, kicked off its first year of sponsorship of “Earth Hour” with World Wildlife Fund-Canada.

The partnership that grown into the news company’s longest-running and most successful sponsorship deals.

The Star is set to sponsor Earth Hour for the seventh time on Saturday, March 29, with the goal of drawing attention to environmental issues.

The mission of Earth Hour, which is now observed in more than 130 countries, is to unite communities around the world for one hour to reduce their ecological footprint by turning off all non-essential lighting.

Ever since the Star began its collaboration with WWF-Canada, the company has been asked why we do it, what we expect out of it, if anything, and how our readers perceive the initiative.

When we began the programme, our stated goal was to persuade one million Torontonians, and thousands of businesses and organisations, to participate by turning off their lights and raising their awareness of our ecological impact and the simple ways we can reduce it. 

We asked our readers – both in print and online – to take part.


New “carbon tax” is another way our environmental footprint affects the bottom line

05 March 2014 · By Andrée Gosselin O'Meara

It’s no secret most media companies across North America and Europe are re-crafting their business models to account for a changing readership and new formats of reporting and storytelling. Faced with shrinking traditional revenues, we are finding new digital revenues while cutting costs through “right sizing” wherever possible.

Now for the bad news: Just as we are getting out of the recession and stabilising, North American media companies will be looking at new business costs coming on the horizon. Those costs have little to do with our business per se and everything to do with the environment. They are called the “carbon tax.”

What is a carbon tax? In a nutshell, it’s a tax on air pollution. More precisely, it’s a tax levied on the carbon content of a power source – the cleaner the power source the lower the tax.

Generally speaking, carbon taxes focus on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released when hydrocarbons are burned from coal, natural gas, or petroleum.

The point of introducing a tax on carbon is to force people and organisations to favour cleaner power sources to diminish the emissions of CO2, which trap greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere and ultimately interfere with the planet’s natural climate cycles.


About this blog

As an industry we need to build resiliency not only to survive but to thrive. This blog will look at building resiliency through the lenses of sustainability. It will review common challenges, share best practices and provide practical ideas to implement and execute.

About the author

I am Andrée Gosselin O’Meara, director, customer care at The Globe and Mail, Toronto, Canada. I've worked on the business side of digital media since 2000 focusing on the marketing, product development (mainly tablets), strategy and now customer retention. In 2013, I completed research on corporate sustainability leaders in Canada as part of a Masters degree. I am also an active member of the company’s Green Team.

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