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'Economist' Makes Amends for Harming Environment

by: Andrew Hampp    8 September 2006

Sixteen-Page 'Green' Section Does Its Part for Global Warming

Magazines from Vanity Fair to Flaunt to Wired have all published special "green" issues designed to raise awareness and bring attention to rising concern over global warming and climate control. But none went as far as The Economist to directly address the impact their own publications have on the environment.

'Journalistically interesting'

Emma Duncan, deputy editor for the London-based newsweekly, wanted to do something unique for the magazine's 16-page green section, on newsstands tomorrow. So she arranged for the spread to be carbon-neutralized through the Carbon Neutral Co. in London.

"I thought it would be the journalistically interesting thing to do," Ms. Duncan said.

The eco-friendly process -- which entailed calculating all the carbon dioxide burned from all the traveling, production, printing and distribution of the issue so Carbon Neutral could trap the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide (118 tons) in a U.S. mine as a way of neutralizing the emissions created by producing the magazine -- cost about $1,200.

In addition to production, advertising also provided the section with some creative opportunities.

Inspired choice

"With our special reports, we tend to talk to existing advertisers that have an interest in the subject," said Paul Rossi, North American publisher of The Economist.

Longtime advertisers Dow Chemical Co. and forest-product company Weyerhaeuser were instantly on board for the project. The Chicago Climate Exchange, however, was a more inspired choice.

"They're not someone you see advertising a lot, but this was absolutely a sweet spot of reaching people they need to reach very effectively from our standpoint," Mr. Rossi said.

Deep dive

Ms. Duncan's reporting process was equally thorough. She spent the better part of four months traveling and writing the stories for the section, including a five-week stretch that took her to California, China and several European countries. Occasionally, the magazine assigns a team of reporters to produce content for its surveys, but Ms. Duncan wanted to handle the project single-handedly.

"It works much better if you have one person who dives deep into the subject then gets to shape their own argument," Ms. Duncan said. "That way the whole piece works rather than having a number of separate articles."

The special section coincides with the upcoming addition of an "international" section to The Economist. Although no similar green sections are planned for the future, the topic will not be abandoned by the magazine anytime soon, Ms. Duncan said.

"It's not going away in terms of political and business interest," Ms. Duncan said of global warming. "I feel very grateful that I've kind of claimed the subject."