Tackling Corporate Social Purpose in Publishing

“Sustainability Goals in 2024?” Groundbreaking.


A few days ago, I found myself rewatching “The Devil Wears Prada” for the 100th time, also known as the movie that introduced us all (or at least me) to the fascinating world of Vogue and fashion journalism. Vogue is part of Condé Nast, a mass media company that comprises a multitude of brands, including Allure, GQ, and The New Yorker.
Although fashion journalism has always been an interest of mine, I am also aware of its strong reliance on print media and paper waste. Despite this issue, someone still has to deliver news, so why not do so in a way that doesn’t impact the planet as much? This is what Condé Nast asked itself and delivered through its so-called “Sustainability Mission.”.

Is paperless the only way forward?

Since making sustainability a key part of their brand, Condé Nast has made drastic changes, starting with using only recycled paper. Revenues from print newspapers and magazines are continuing to fall as brands strongly rely on their online platforms instead (Watson, 2023). Despite this trend, will shifting online be the only way for companies like Condé Nast to do business sustainably? According to Sheridan (2019), that’s not the case. As the article mentions, going paperless is not synonymous with going green; instead, it recommends publishing companies invest in paper that is from certified sustainable sources. As Anna Wintour claimed, “The print magazine is the runway show for Vogue” and will continue to be an important part of most publishing brands (Wiedeman, 2020). For example, Condé Nast used 50,000 tonnes of paper in 2020, which still consists of a substantial amount. Thankfully, the media company listened to Sheridan’s suggestion, and, since 2021, 100% of the paper the company has used has been internationally certified (Phase One Report, 2021).

Condé Nast’s Sustainability Mission: How Does it Relate to Social Purpose?

According to Dr. Victoria Hurth from the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, “The Social Purpose Business’s reason to exist is to make an optimal, strategic contribution to the long-term wellbeing of all people and the planet” (Rowlands, 2024). In particular, Condé Nast claims it adopts a proactive approach when it comes to its long-term focus on the environment. Not only does it work towards spreading knowledge about the climate emergency, but it also aims at changing the publishing industry. In 2019, Condé Nast joined the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, a programme funded by the United Nations that contains actionable tasks companies can complete to contribute to positive change, all of which are in accordance with the Paris Agreement (Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, n.d.).

In summary, the wide range of initiatives suggests their Social Purpose is a substantial factor in their success. Condé Nast is a giant in the media industry, and, given the power the company holds in the publishing field, we hope it drives change within other publishers around the world.


Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action. United Nations Climate Change. (n.d.). https://unfccc.int/climate-action/sectoral-engagement-for-climate-action/fashion-charter

Phase One Report. (2021, May 31). Condé Nast. https://www.condenast.com/news/sustainability-strategy-2021

Rowlands, M. (2024, March 14). The Purpose Imperative. [PowerPoint Presentation].  http://blogs.ubc.ca/comm484201sustainabilitymarketing2023w2/files/2024/03/Junxion-Accelerating-the-Purpose-Economy-2024-03-14.pdf

Sheridan. (2019, November 8). Green Magazine Publishing: Are we there yet?. Sheridan. https://www.sheridan.com/magazines-register/can-publishers-go-green/

Watson, A. (2023, December 11). Newspaper publishing revenue in the United States from 2010 to 2021, by media type. Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/184887/us-newspaper-publishing-revenue-by-media-type-since-2005/

Wiedeman, R. (2020, January 18). Hit by the changing media landscape, Condé Nast scrambles to stay in vogue. The Sydney Morning Herald. https://www.smh.com.au/world/north-america/hit-by-the-changing-media-landscape-conde-nast-scrambles-to-stay-in-vogue-20191128-p53f08.html