The most significant environmental impacts of Alma Media's and its business units' operations are related to printing and distribution, properties and travel.
Environmentally sustainable media
Environmental matters are one of the key focal points of Alma Media's Sustainable Media corporate responsibility programme. Alma Media's environmental responsibility is based on three principles:
- efficient operations,
- responsible supply chain and
- increasing environmental awareness.
The company aims to prevent and minimise negative environmental impacts by following these three principles.
As regards the management of environmental responsibility, the people in key roles in environmental matters within Alma Media's corporate responsibility network work on environmental issues on a cooperative basis. These key people, such as the Quality and Environmental Manager of Alma Manu, the printing and distribution unit, help setting environmental targets for Alma Media and implement environmental actions through their own roles in, for instance, property management and printing operations.
The most significant environmental impacts of Alma Media's and its business units' operations are related to printing and distribution, properties and travel. Alma Media's new Helsinki office in the Töölönlahti area and the new printing facility in Tampere, which began operations in spring 2013, reduce the Group's direct environmental impacts. This helps reduce the Group's environmental impacts in the operations in which they are the highest. Both of the buildings recieved LEED environmental certification in 2013. The Alma House office building was granted Gold level LEED certification in the spring of 2013. The Tampere printing facility is the world's first LEED certified printing facility.
Material and energy efficiency
The continuous improvement of material and energy efficiency is emphasised in printing operations as well as other Alma Media properties. A printing facility's material efficiency can be measured as a percentage of material loss, also known as the maculature percentage. The new printing facility will lead to a substantial decrease in the amount of materials wasted. However, in the first year of the operations the maculature percentage of the new printing facility was not lower than that of its predecessor, as test runs and problems in the breaking-in-phase resulted in more wasted material than normal.
The new printing facility in Tampere and office building in Helsinki have significantly improved the energy efficiency of Alma Media's properties. For instance, the printing facility in Tampere has a heat recovery system that captures 80% of exhaust air. The production efficiency of the new printing press has also be improved, with the energy consumption per one hour of production declining by over 15 per cent.
The new printing facility in Tampere has also decreased water consumption and the use of solvent based detergents while improving material efficiency. Total water consumption in a printing facility is relatively low; a total of approximately six grams of water is required to produce one copy of a newspaper. The majority of this amount of water is tied to the newspaper itself; the printing process increases the moisture percentage of the paper from 9% to approximately 12%. Another key aspect of material efficiency is the recovery of waste: almost all waste created by the printing facility is used as a raw material by another business. The Tampere printing press produces as little as 100kg of disposable waste per year, which represents a mere 0.005 per mille of total material use. The figure does not include mixed waste taken to landfill sites.
The environmental impact of distribution can be minimised by continuously optimising delivery routes. A major part of delivery routes are served by bicycle and on foot. For instance, in Pirkanmaa over 35% and in Pirkanmaa approximately 40% of all delivery routes are bicycle routes. Delivery personnel using cars are provided with training on economical driving techniques. Moreover, recycling and waste management are a key part of the training for delivery personnel.
Sustainable development is taken into account in supply chain management, for instance in the choices of paper and chemicals made by printing facilities. Environmental concerns are also an important focal point in the purchases of machinery and equipment for the new printing press in Tampere and the purchases of new company cars. In 2015, the average CO2 emissions of the Group’s motor vehicles were 136g of CO2 equivalent per kilometre (2014: 135g). The target is to reduce avarage emissions by 8 per cent from 2013 to 2017.
Alma Media's printing facility primarily uses renewable and recyclable materials. Paper is the most significant of these. The company's aim is to only buy sustainably produced paper the production of which has been carried out with due consideration for natural diversity. Newsprint fibre can be reused 4-7 times, after which it is used for energy production. The company also recycles aluminium printing plates and printing ink is used for energy production. The carefully considered disposal of products, i.e. the appropriate use and recycling of waste - can significantly reduce harmful environmental impacts. For instance, the carbon footprint of a newspaper is reduced by 20% when it is recycled instead of being disposed in landfill. According to Paperinkeräys Oy, some 80-90 per cent of newsprint is recycled in Finland.
Increasing environmental awareness
Increasing awareness of environmental issues among stakeholders is one of Alma Media’s ways of influencing its environmental impacts. In addition to its in-house measures, Alma Media is actively involved in industry-wide environmental initiatives such as the Shape study carried out by the Federation of the Finnish Media Industry and VTT Technical Research Centre, which investigates media consumption from the perspective of its environmental impacts. On the international stage, Alma Media took a prominent role in the discussion of the environmental impacts of print and digital media with the research it has commissioned and engages in active communications on.
Alma Media also received international recognition: the company was ranked as the best Nordic media company in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a global initiative on climate impacts.
Alma Media has actively communicated its environmental impacts also to readers and users of services. Sustainable Media communications, which include environmental fact adverts published by newspapers, are aimed at communicating the environmental impacts of media and giving readers information on what they can do to reduce the environmental effects of their own media consumption.
In 2012, Alma Media joined the City of Helsinki Climate Partners network aimed at promoting cooperation to reduce climate emissions and boost the competitiveness of the participating companies.
Environmental key indicators
Alma Media carried out a study in partnership with leading research institutes to determine the life cycle environmental impact three of its newspapers and those of their respective online services. The unique study was the first side-by-side comparison of the environmental impacts of print and online media. The environmental impacts of editorial work were also incorporated into the analysis. The study was carried out by VTT Technical Research Centre in Finland and the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. The study was part of the Green Growth programme of Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation.
The survey was carried out to help Alma Media develop more ecological ways of operating and respond to its stakeholders' growing need for information on the environmental impacts of the media industry. Previous studies have not focused much on the impacts of online media. The existing literature on the subject also tends to focus largely on climate effects, and it has not been possible to form an overall picture of the environmental impacts. The risk of incorrect impressions has been high as no reliable research information has been available.
The study focused on the following products:
- Iltalehti and Iltalehti.fi
- Kauppalehti and Kauppalehti.fi
- Aamulehti, one Aamulehti pull-out and Aamulehti.fi
The carbon footprint of the newspaper
It is possible to try to concretisize the carbon footprint of one print paper by counting how long a person could drive by an average car to produce a similar-sized carbon footprint. Thus counted, Kauppalehti's carbon footprint , for example, would equal 600 meters driven with a regular car.
Carbon footprint per copy (gCO2e)
Carbon footprint per annual subscription (gCO2e)
Car drive per copy (km)
Car drive per annual subscription (km)
*Average car CO2 emissions: 164 g CO2e/km
The range of carbon footprints of the print newspapers studied in the research were comparable to the climate effects of an average Finnish newspaper when taking into account that Alma Media's study was more extensive than any previous research and also covered the environmental effects of the editorial work. Differences between newspapers are caused by the different newspaper formats - tabloid and broadsheet - and the difference in weight due to the number of pages as well as differences in the amount of ink used.
Carbon footprint per reading hour
Although the completely different user interface and types of use make comparing the carbon footprints of print papers and online media challenging, the climate effects caused by one reader reading the paper for one hour can be compared, at least theoretically, for print media and online media.
When comparing the carbon footprint per one reader and one hour, the media are in the same range: both cause environmental effects comparable to those caused by driving a car for a little over one kilometre.
The most significant environmental effects of print and online media are created during different phases of the life cycle. In print media, the most important source of effects is the production of newsprint as the production of paper requires lots of energy. On the other hand, consuming the paper, i.e. the actual reading, causes no environmental effects.
Online media, on the other hand, causes environmental effects particularly at the end of its life cycle. The environmental effects of online media are especially influenced by the material and energy properties of terminal devices used, the production method of the electricity used by the reader as well as the browsing time and number of downloads. Unlike in print media, the majority of environmental effects of online media are caused by the actual reading.
Comparing environmental impacts
Comparing print media and online services is difficult. The results of the comparative study are influenced by what is included and excluded from the analysis, but also by the fact that print and online media tend to be used in a complementary fashion rather than being seen as substitutes for one another, which is reflected in the visit statistics affecting the environmental effects. The amount of time spent reading does not factor into the environmental impact of the printed newspaper, whereas the impacts of online media are largely dependent on reading time, the number of loaded pages and the technical specifications of the device used to access the service. As a result, conclusions on which type of media is more ecological depend on what unit of measurement is applied.
When evaluating the annual environmental effects, online media is more environmentally friendly than print media on average. Online media does, however, cause larger effects in certain impact categories, such as the eutrophication of waterways and toxicity. The environmental impacts of online media are especially caused by the production of devices needed for reading and the production and processing of raw materials, such as various metals.
When comparing the environmental effects of one hour's reading in print or online media, however, print media is a more environmentally friendly option than online services on average. Especially the effects of online services on the eutrophication of waterways, depletion of mineral resources and toxicity are considerably higher than in print media and are mainly caused by the production of terminal devices.
Awareness of environmental impacts is the only way to control operations and monitoring actions aimed at reducing such effects. Based on the study, Alma Media is starting a more detailed evaluation and monitoring of the environmental impacts of its own operations as well as the value chain. The goal is to reduce the environmental load caused by the operations. By observing environmental matters in the purchase of newsprint, chemicals and ICT equipment, the environmental impacts can be reduced considerably especially for print media and content production. Ecological aspects are already an important principle for purchase, especially in the case of printing materials.
In its own operations, Alma Media can have the highest impact on environmental matters by improving its material and energy efficiency even further. Alma Media is taking big steps forward in terms of ecological efficiency. All operations of the Group in Helsinki were relocated to a new building, and LEED certification observing energy efficiency and environmental aspects was sought for the property. The Alma House office building was granted Gold level LEED certification in the spring of 2013. Alma Media's printing activities in Southern Finland, on the other hand, have been centralised to the new printing press in Tampere, which will improve the energy and material efficiency of printing by several dozens of per cent. Tampere printing press was granted LEED certification as the first printing house in the world.
In order to reduce the environmental effects of online media, Alma Media continues to provide information on the environmental effects of the various types of media and the possibilities the user has to influence them. The design of web sites can also have an effect on the environmental impact.
Readers of print papers are encouraged to recycle as this can reduce the carbon footprint of a print paper by one fifth.
How significant are the environmental impacts of media?
- Although comparisons between studies are difficult and often even impossible to make because of different assumptions and limitations, environmental impacts can be put into perspective with the help of other research results. An annual subscription to the print Aamulehti corresponds to a maximum of 1.3% of the annual environmental impacts of an average European customer, while reading Aamulehti.fi for one year is responsible for only some 0.16% of them. Online media's better performance is due to the smaller number of visitors to the Aamulehti.fi service when compared with the number of papers printed.
- Communications and ICT industry generate approximately 3% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions (KTH 2010).
- The effect of the publishing and printing sectors on climate change is 0.54% in the Finnish economy (VTT 2010).