Episode 2: Hannah Clevett, Impact Manager, World of Books
Stories of Sustainability
Episode 2: Hannah Clevett, Impact Manager at World of Books, certified B Corp.
World of Books Group is a leading global seller of used books online. Leading the way to a circular economy, the brand is a for profit business that supports charities and protects the planet by enabling more goods to be reused. Printed books are still popular as ever. In 2020, the UK printed book market was worth £2.6 bn (387m books), of which 32% of sales were for preloved books.
The WOB Foundation launched in 2022, and donates books to charities that work with disadvantaged groups who find it hard to access books such as schools, prisons and women’s refuges.
Q1Hi Hannah, thanks for joining me today. Please tell us about yourself and WOB.
· Impact Manager at World of Books, been with the company for over 6 years, within Impact for 18 months.
· My role is the full ESG – everything from carbon reporting, B Corp certification, and various social initiatives that allow Wob have an even greater impact.
· Always been passionate about Impact and sustainability, never dreamt it could be a career choice until I started with Wob. A company that is ahead of the game when it comes to sustainability strategy.
· Wob is circular economy by nature, purchases unwanted used books and media from charity shops and selling on at affordable prices.
· We are a circular economy, for profit company, that protects the planet and supports charities by helping people to reuse and recycle for less.
· We have 3 main strands:
o Through Wob we sell
o Through Ziffit we buy – customers can sell back their books to Wob via the Ziffit app. Keeping books in circulation for longer.
o Through Shopiago we support others – Charities are able to trade their stock to Wob through Shopiago. It is also a software service that enable charities to sell their own items online to increase sales. A great example is The British Heart Foundation sold a vintage Cartier watch for £10,000 through their use of Shopiago!
o In total, we have helped charities raise over £55 million through their use of Shopiago!
· In 2019 we became a B Corp, recently recertified, which really cements our values and helps to guide our sustainability strategy.
Q2 Please can explain to our listeners the connection between the circular economy and publishing?
· We are purchasing unwanted books from charity shops. So these are books that have potentially been read only once, maybe 10 times, or in cases such as within our Rare Book department, hundreds of times! They would be pulped by charities if we didn’t buy them for our stock, and open up the possibility to rehome to customers around the world. We feel it is important to keep literature alive and keep books in circulation.
· We also always refer to sales as rehoming our books, because we don’t want it to be the end of the journey for our books.
· Some of our customers have told us how they buy used books as an affordable option, which helps encourage them to read more and then opens up a whole new world for them. They then begin buy a mix of new and used.
· It’s a tricky relationship for sure – we find that some customers want to buy new books because they feel they are supporting the industry and authors, yet other want to purchase used to save money, and also to feel more eco-conscious.
· Wob helped found the AuthorShare initiative alongside Society of Authors and various publishers in order to allow royalties to be given to authors from used books sales. This is the first of its kind, and a way to show our support for the author’s whilst encouraging people to buy preloved.
Q3: Almost 16 million preloved books rehomed via Wob in 2021/22, What are the environmental benefits of buying and selling preloved books, compared to purchasing new ones?
· By buying preloved items, we are keeping them in circulation and reducing waste.
· One of our main KPIs that we have always measured against is what the tonnage of books equates to in saving trees. So for our last FY, we saved the equivalent of 516,000 trees through the resale of books! That is a lot more tangible for our customers to understand their impact, rather than quoting carbon numbers.
· We do measure our carbon impact of course, and we have always reported on our ‘existence’ – this is something that is now being termed ‘Avoided Emissions’ so we are slightly ahead of the game with that which puts us in a great position to help educate on the impact of buying preloved books.
· Something we are looking at over the next year, which is really exciting and unique, is to conduct a LCA on used books. This will allow us to put an accurate, science based, amount of carbon saved per item. This will enhance our internal carbon reporting, but really help us to show customers the amazing impact they are having every time they purchase a preloved book, or sell back to Wob through Ziffit.
Q4: WOB saved 79 tonnes of CDs, DVDs and games from landfill. What role does innovation and online platforms play in facilitating the buying and selling of preloved books and mother media with WOB?
· The fact that we purchase ‘unwanted’ books from charity shops and sell them online shows there is a big market out there.
· We did some research at the beginning of 2022 which shows that 34% of books purchased were preloved, and 55% of those were purchased online! We sell through Wob.com directly, and also platforms such as eBay which are trusted by customers looking at the preloved market.
· Wob’s values are Responsibility, Action and Pioneering – so innovative thinking is celebrated at Wob. All of our internal softwares are developed in-house and we are working around the clock to think of new ways to improve efficiency and impact.
Q5: 2/3 of younger consumers (16-24 yrs olds) prefer to shop in the circular economy, citing reduction in environmental footprint as the main reason. How do you engage with this customer segment?
· With the research we conducted last year, it showed us that 83% of our customers buy preloved books because they feel they are helping the planet. The fact that our customers feel the same as we do is great!
· We also understand that the majority of our customers are younger, so we reach out to them on social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and FB. We have made carbon neutrality announcements, B Corp recert announcements on these platforms. We have shared our Impact report this way too.
· The difference in just one year was massive. Our brand team, since using socials to reach out to customers, saw a rise of 240% in impact report views!
· We also have brand ambassadors that talk about the sustainability benefits of buying from Wob on their own socials which brings in even more younger customers who want to make eco-conscious decisions.
· By understanding our stakeholders, we are able to present important information transparently, whilst also being engaging.
Q6: WOB is now recertified B Corp with an impressive score of 102. Why did WOB decide to gain B Corp certification, and what has the benefit been?
· YAY! 102 is a massive score boost and we are so proud! It was a year of hard work and the team were incredible! It was so amazing to see how enthusiastic people were take on board actions within their departments and team, in order to boost our score and ultimately have an even greater impact.
· We certified as a B Corp in 2019 with a score of 84.8. Our business model for 20 years has been circular, but the decision to become a B Corp was the first step to showing our stakeholders how committed we were.
· As part of our commitment, we are also mission locked – meaning any change in investment must also keep on board our mission and therefore our sustainability strategy is safe.
· We now build an improvement plan every year, which helps guide us, through the B Impact Assessment, on what we need to do to make things even better at Wob. It has helped us engage staff with our sustainability mission.
· We have found that being a B Corp has been an attraction for new talent joining Wob. Many of our new starters understand what it means to be a B Corp and are excited to be a part of a company that is doing amazing things.
· As the B Corp movement grows, particularly within the UK, more consumers are becoming aware of B Corp brands and choosing to purchase from those as trusted sustainable options. We don’t have a product on the shelf like other companies, so we rely on our website, emails and socials to promote that side of our business, and so far it is definitely working :)
Q7 Do you have any easy tips that listeners can implement to become a bit more sustainable? Or In what ways can individuals and consumers actively participate in promoting the principles of a circular economy in their daily lives?
From a consumer perspective, I would definitely say look out for sustainable brands. Look for companies that are transparent in what they have achieved, look for certifications such as B Corp, Carbon Neutrality. Don’t take everything at face value and be sure you check credentials. It sounds tough, but when you start looking it gets so easy to see the truth amongst the greenwashing!
Don’t feel like you have to commit to everything at once either. Make one new pledge for each year – for example you could pledge to only by used books from Wob for a year!!
Or maybe to buy more from charity shops, giving preloved items a new home.
Some changes you make can have such a bigger impact than just environmental too. Walking to the shops rather than driving is great for the environment, but also for your mental health too.
One of the reasons I enjoy my role as Impact Manager so much is because of the variety! I don’t only focus on carbon reporting, or environmental management. I look at social and ethical impact too.
· World of Books Group hits goal of becoming carbon neutral ahead of target
· Almost 16 million preloved books rehomed via Wob in 2021/22 - the equivalent of1,400 trees every day
· Plus 79 tonnes (equivalent to 11 double-decker buses) of CDs, DVDs and games saved from landfill by the leading B Corp