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Starting a conversation about sustainability in the news media industry

By Andree Gosselin O'Meara

Today, sustainability matters are what Internet challenges were 20 years ago – un incontournable. They are here to stay with us, no matter what you wish for and no matter how much you try to ignore them.

How organisations survive the multiple issues affecting our planet, our people, and our overall profitability will soon take centre stage and sideswipe all our other challenges.

The current generation of news media executives is knee-deep in digital transformation, business model alterations, and course correction. Most of them are aware of sustainability issues but have little time to devote to the matter.

However, the upcoming generation of media executives will have little choice but to deal with issues of sustainability head-on. During their time, sustainability will go from “something we do when we have nothing better to do” to “something we better do,” as Bob Willard said at the Net Impact Conference at York University last February.

Upcoming business executives will be challenged to build more resilient businesses – businesses that will:

  • Withstand significant changes in their supply chains (affecting our forests, product creation, and delivery).

  • Deal with customer advocacy groups, demanding clean and recyclable products (affecting both paper and digital products).

  • Work with tougher legislation on carbon emissions (affecting product creation, delivery of those products, and buildings to house staff), as well as other current and future challenges.

Today, climate change is already impacting our industry. Recently, large floods in Calgary, Canada, prevented the delivery of the newspaper to thousands of subscribers. In other countries, carbon taxes are adding to the costs of delivery and affecting executives’ choices of office space and organisational structure.

Organisations that are starting to focus on diminishing their environmental footprint are thinking quite differently about their businesses. Staying ahead of the curve in this matter will be imperative.

Tomorrow’s media executives (many well-informed individuals would say today’s media executives) will deal with the same issues that today’s executives are currently facing: risk, uncertainty, consumer sentiment and behaviour changes, legislative updates, and so on.

But far from being the “same old stuff,” upcoming executives will be challenged with a changed world — literally.

Are you ready?

Interesting quotes: “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.” — U.S. President Barack Obama, June 26, 2013.

About Andree Gosselin O'Meara

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