social responsibility

Blog from Markus Dohle: Our Social Impact This Year

Dear Colleagues,

As 2017 comes to a close, I have been reflecting on our role and responsibility as publishers. In today’s divided world, books matter more than ever. Books, we know, have the power to connect and transform us. As a global community of book lovers, we are passionate about making a positive difference in the world. And I believe we do: with our publishing and through our corporate citizenship. Both drive the social impact we have as Penguin Random House. Today, I am pleased to be writing to share our first-ever Social Impact Highlights Summary, which showcases how our company operates responsibly and complements our publishing efforts by going beyond the day-to-day activities of the business to give back to our communities, both locally and globally, across our territories.

One of my strongest convictions is that our social responsibility efforts are essential to who we are and what we do as Penguin Random House. From championing freedom of expression and creativity, to promoting diversity and inclusion, to reducing our carbon footprint, we have set forth a number of 2020 Commitments that we are working hard to achieve through in-house initiatives and programs and through our partnerships with local and global nonprofit organizations. You’ll see some of these featured in our Highlights Summary. This good work, coupled with the brilliant books we publish every day, has ensured our meaningful and positive social impact in the world. Thank you for connecting our books with readers who learn from them, escape with them, and cherish them like we do. And thank you for embracing our collective responsibility to defend free speech, lift up marginalized voices, protect our earth, and help those in need. I am very proud of what we have accomplished together thus far, and am excited about our potential to do even more in 2018. I wish you a peaceful, relaxing, and enjoyable year-end break with your friends and family. Happy Reading,          

#GiveABook 2017 is Here: Giving Readers the Power to Support Disaster Relief & Local Communities Nationwide

We are thrilled to announce the launch of the fourth annual #GiveaBook on Giving Tuesday campaign, giving readers across the country the power to give back and donate Penguin Random House books to students and educators in their local communities and to support disaster relief efforts in impacted communities nationwide.

We've donated more than 185,000 books to children in need across the country through our #GiveaBook holiday season campaign since its inception in 2014. This year, we are donating an additional 50,000 books to First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books and educational resources to children from low-income families. We’re giving you the chance to decide where up to 5 of these 50,000 books will go. To claim yours, visit our campaign site and choose your state - help those closest to you by selecting your home state, or help support disaster relief efforts by choosing those states with impacted communities. Thank you for joining us in celebrating the power of books and reading this holiday season, and helping to create our next generation of readers. Stay tuned to Igloo for more updates and be sure to #GiveaBook and give back.

Penguin Random House & zulily Host Interactive Book Fair to Benefit Communities Impacted by Recent Hurricanes

Penguin Random House is helping zulily kick off National Family Literacy Month this November with its first-ever interactive book fair, running now through December 10. Six sales events will feature a curated selection of children’s books, and each book purchased will trigger a donation from Penguin Random House to First Book. First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books and other essentials to children in need, is aiding teachers, students and schools affected by the recent hurricanes.

“Penguin Random House is committed to fostering a universal passion for reading and providing access to books in the communities and schools of parents and children who need them most. Through our partnership with zulily we’re able to expand and extend our ongoing relief efforts through our longtime partner, First Book, by providing up to 25,000 books during this important time of need,” said Jaci Updike, President of Sales of Penguin Random House U.S. “We recognize that many of our customers know someone or have been personally affected by the devastation incurred from the hurricanes this year,” said Kerry Gibson-Morris, VP of Home, Hardlines & Licensing at zulily. “We understand that these major storms can disrupt children’s learning and academic performance, and through our partnership with Penguin Random House and support of First Book, we hope we can provide children, teachers and schools the tools to succeed during these challenging recovery times.” “Educators have shared heart-breaking stories of students, families and fellow teachers who have lost their homes and belongings, as well as entire school libraries now destroyed by flooding or mold,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book.  “The support of zulily, zulily’s customers and Penguin Random House will bring treasured books to these communities, enabling educators to restore learning in their classrooms, and providing a lifeline of hopes and dreams for students and their families.  It means the world to all of us.” Customers can shop the ongoing interactive book fair via the “Buy One, Give One” badge highlighted on the website and on featured books found in select events. Each week zulily fans can visit zulily’s owned social channels to activate a call to action, through comments or shares to spark the “Give One” donation from Penguin Random House to First Book. For example, a donation will be made when fans comment on zulily’s Facebook post about their favorite childhood stories. Penguin Random House will also donate 50,000 additional books to First Book this month through its Giving Tuesday #Giveabook campaign, which gives readers the chance to donate up to 5 books to local communities nationwide, including those impacted by recent hurricanes.

Penguin Random House UK Seeks Out Underrepresented New Voices

At Penguin Random House UK, we are determined to publish a wider range of voices and books to more fully reflect the diverse society we live in. That’s why we have set ourselves a new company-wide goal to ensure our new hires and the books we acquire reflect UK society by 2025, in terms of social mobility, ethnicity, gender, disability, and sexuality. We want to see a positive shift towards this goal every year through to 2025.

To measure progress towards this goal, we are asking newly acquired authors and new employees to complete a voluntary Inclusion Tracker questionnaire, and we will publish this data on our website each year. Here are just some of the ways we are working towards achieving our goal in 2017 and leading the industry to help make publishing more inclusive. writenowWriteNow WriteNow, our program to find, mentor and publish new writers from communities that are currently underrepresented on the nation’s bookshelves, is back for 2017 and applications are now open. We are looking for talented new voices across all genres, including Fiction, Non-Fiction and Children’s. This includes writers from a socio-economically marginalised background, LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) or BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) writers, or writers with a disability. WriteNow is offering 150 aspiring writers access to free regional events in LondonBristol and Newcastle where they will get one-to-one time with editors to receive expert, personalised feedback on their book, alongside access to literary agents and published authors, including Elif Shafak, Kit de Waal, Afua Hirsch and Fox Fisher. Our editors will work with 10 of the most promising writers over 12 months to make their manuscripts the best they can be, with the ultimate ambition of publishing these new writers. More than 2,000 writers applied to WriteNow in its first year in 2016 and over 200 editors across the company helped to review their manuscripts and select the most promising new talent. The 12 writers we are now mentoring include Charlene Allcott, a single mother who is writing commercial fiction, Nelson Abbey, who is writing a self-help book for BAME professionals, and Nazneen Ahmed, who is writing a fantasy young adult book, set between London, Gujarat and East Bengal. You can follow the conversation at #WriteNowLive Penguin Pride After its success last year, Penguin Pride is returning for 2017 to celebrate the importance of literature in progressing LGBTQ equality and changing attitudes towards the LGBTQ community. A major event produced by Penguin Live is taking place in July at Proud, Camden during London Pride fortnight. It will feature live music, spoken word, author readings and photography from Kele Okereke (lead singer of Bloc Party), Paul Flynn (author of Good as You) and Matthew Todd (author of Straight Jacket). £1 from every ticket sold will go to leading charity, Stonewall, to support their work with the LGBTQ community. uk2 Fully paid work experience We recently introduced fully paid work experience to help make our company more accessible to more young people and encourage those who may have never thought about working in publishing to start their story with us. Last year, we formalised our application process and banned all personal referrals to ensure that all of our work placements are randomly, and therefore, fairly selected. As well as this, we introduced a structured learning programme for participants to ensure everyone completing work experience with us finds it meaningful and interesting. Now, each of the 450 people who do work experience placements with us every year receive a salary of £262.50 per week. We have also partnered with The Book Trade Charity to provide subsidised accommodation near London to those who need it. As a direct result of these actions, we’ve seen significant changes to our applicant pool this year, so that is better reflects the diversity of both London and the UK:
  • We had a fantastic 2,000 applications in just 48 hours and 3,400 applications in total for work experience placements in June and July 2017
  • 85% of our applicants were from outside of London
  • 30% of applicants didn’t have a university degree
  • 20% of applicants were BAME
  uk 4 finalJobHack As well as taking steps to attract more diverse writers and applicants, we want to demystify the world of publishing and engage with a broader spectrum of talent on the ground in communities around the country. That’s why we run #JobHack - a series of interactive workshops, aimed at 16-24 year olds across the UK, which explain the opportunities in publishing, from sales and marketing to production, editorial and digital. At our first five events more than 150 attendees enjoyed access to experts from across our business and heard all about the exciting careers on offer at Penguin Random House UK. We’re holding a further four JobHack workshops for more than 100 young people in July, taking our teams to Derby, Norwich, Newcastle – areas of the UK where social mobility is a major challenge. Get a glimpse into our workshops using #PRHJobHack. All of our work to make publishing more inclusive forms part of our Creative Responsibility strategy. Take a look at our Creative Responsibility show-reel and discover our 2016 highlights here.

Penguin Random House Australia Donates AU$ 100,000 to Indigenous Literacy Foundation

books 3 finalWe don’t need research to tell us that giving makes us happy. The happier we are, the more energy we have, the better we think, and the more friendships we develop. Giving not only feels good, but it strengthens the heart, lowers stress, and can literally add years to your life. At Penguin Random House Australia, we are incredibly proud of our Community & Social Responsibility (CSR) program and the ways in which, through our efforts, we give back to local communities in need.

2016 was a record breaking year for our CSR activities, and especially in working with our main charity partner, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF), to whom we donated AU$ 100,000. The core aim of the ILF, founded in 2005, is to draw upon the skills and expertise of the Australian book industry to address literacy levels in remote Indigenous communities. This is achieved through the delivery of books and literacy resources to remote communities, in addition to advocating to raise community awareness of Indigenous literacy issues. Penguin Random House’s primary contribution to the ILF is monetary, and ensures that funds are directed towards putting books in the hands of children who need them the most. And with only 25% of Indigenous students in remote areas at the minimum reading standard, it is a cause close to our hearts. But money is not everything, and additionally, we support the ILF with physical people power, working with them on their Annual Trivia Nights, Indigenous Literacy Day, and through brain power and pro bono work. Their flagship event, Indigenous Literacy Day, held annually on the first Wednesday of September, both celebrates reading and raises much-needed funds. The Great Book Swap, which encourages participants to swap a favorite book in exchange for another for the cost of a gold coin, was last year held at the Sydney Opera House. aus 1 finalJoined by ILF Ambassadors, and Penguin Random House Australia authors, Richard Flanagan, Justine Clarke and Alison Lester, school children from the remotest communities in Australia came together to help spread the word about improving literacy levels and opportunities for Indigenous children living in remote and isolated areas of our country. Penguin Random House volunteers, Meredith Curnow, Jessica Owen, and Beverly Cousins were on hand to help with the swap, participate throughout the day, and distribute backpacks and books to children who attended the event.  Beyond Indigenous Literary Day, and to further support ILF in 2016, we undertook Book Sale Fundraisers at our offices and warehouse sites throughout the year, with thousands of dollars raised and every cent going back to those who need it most. australia1 finalThe key book sale events were held in Sydney and Melbourne in November, where hundreds of enthusiastic shoppers lined up to stock up on Christmas presents to support our cause. In Sydney, shoppers were phoning people to join them at the book sale and grab a bargain, and in Melbourne, even the wettest of weather didn’t dampen spirits (nor discourage spending, with AUD 38,000 raised). In the words of Karen Williams, Executive Director, ILF is totally “overwhelmed by our generosity and commitment. Your donation means that ILF can extend resources to work within remote communities across Australia in 2017 and beyond.” We are very proud to work with the ILF – both now and into the future - and even prouder of what we have proven that we can achieve together.
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#ProjectReadathon Million Minutes Campaign Donates 300,000 Books

1million minPenguin Random House in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico joined together this April for the inaugural #ProjectReadathon Million Minutes campaign. From April 17 through April 23, the week leading up to World Book Day, the one-week giving and reading campaign offered readers the opportunity to help children in local communities throughout North America – simply by reading.

#ProjectReadathon invited readers to visit a specially created online reading platform at where they could read free, timed excerpts from over 200 of our books and authors. The campaign was based on the belief we all share at Penguin Random House; that the simple act of reading can have far-reaching social impact. With this in mind, the more minutes a user read, the more book donations were triggered from us to Save the Children. With enthusiastic support from authors, readers, and partners, the one-week initiative surpassed its one-million minutes goal and the campaign resulted in 300,000 books being donated to Save the Children, benefitting children in need in the US, Canada and Mexico. How #ProjectReadathon worked: Each excerpt on the platform noted how many minutes would be added and how many books would be donated throughout the campaign.
  • For example, reading a 20-minute excerpt “unlocked” a 5-book donation from Penguin Random House to Save the Children; reading an hour unlocked a 20-books donation.
  • The books went to Save the Children literacy programs, which help young students transition from learning to read to reading to learn.
  Contributing Partners: Also joining the #ProjectReadathon Million Minutes campaign were Charity Miles and Tab for a Cause, two organizations that enable consumers to give back through everyday activities. Users were invited to add minutes to the Project through reading at, as well as through the Charity Miles and Tab for a Cause platforms for special in-app and on-platform opportunities. A Worldwide Celebration of Books and Giving Back: #ProjectReadathon took place in the US, Canada and Mexico, and culminated on April 23 in honor of UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright DayWorld Book Night (UK) and St. Jordi Day (Spain). Penguin Random House employees across the US, Canada, Mexico, UK, and Spain took part in local celebrations in honor of these events, as they joined together in a global celebration of books and reading to give back to their local communities. The platform will remain active and be implemented for future Penguin Random House campaigns and initiatives across North America that continue to celebrate the power of books and connect our authors and their writing with readers everywhere.

Penguin Random House Canada Raises Funds for Cancer Research

can1 finalIn 2006, Random House of Canada was approached by a special group of women who had been members of a book club in Toronto for a number of years. Many of their families had been touched by cancer, and given the important role reading had in their lives and the support they had received from their book club members during cancer treatment, they saw an opportunity to harness the energy of enthusiastic book clubs and readers to raise funds for cancer research.

We began discussions, and immediately determined this was an initiative we wanted to be part of. We developed the idea for large-scale events featuring our authors and in Fall 2007, the first READ FOR THE CURE events took place in the Toronto area. Since then, additional events have been added in Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver. At the events, attendees have the opportunity to enjoy canapés and cocktails, and listen to three of our authors talk about their books. The evenings end with a Q&A held by a media personality who acts as emcee. All attendees receive gift bags, including the latest books from the three participating authors, as well as gifts from event sponsors. Audiences at the events range from 300 to 500 people. All proceeds from the events are donated to the Cancer Research Society, specifically their Environment Cancer Fund and the BC Cancer Foundation. To date, CA$ 1.15 million dollars have been donated through these events. can 2 finalOver the years, participating authors include Jann Arden, Margaret Atwood (right), Linwood Barclay, Joy Fielding, Paula Hawkins, Elizabeth Hay, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Linden MacIntyre, Audrey Niffeneger, Cheryl Strayed, Miriam Toews, and many more. In 2016, CAD 150,000 was raised at events in Ottawa, Vancouver, and at two events in Toronto featuring such authors as Gail Anderson-Dargatz, Paula McLain, Meg Wolitzer and Alissa York. Penguin Random House Canada, for the past decade, has embraced the opportunity to be involved in these events. Our authors enjoy the events and welcome the opportunity to speak to these large audiences of engaged book lovers. Plans are already underway for this year’s events which will be held in Vancouver, Ottawa and two events in Toronto in October and November 2017. We have already lined up award-winning and best-selling authors to participate, including: Joseph Boyden, Claire Cameron, Wayne Johnston, Shari Lapena, Ami McKay, Donna Morrissey, Roberta Rich, and 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize winning author Madeleine Thien. For further information about the READ FOR THE CURE events, please visit

Grupo Editorial Mexico Collaborates With Hospital to Improve Mental Health Through Reading

Highly cognizant of the important social and cultural responsibility of its mission as publishers, Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial México has implemented a social responsibility initiative to support reading for a traditionally overlooked group: children and young adults with mental-health issues. The initiative is closely linked to our corporate philosophy—generating economic, social, and environmental value for our stakeholders—as we materialize the impact that our organizational decisions and activities have on society, especially through the continued promotion of reading, in particular to those at risk of social exclusion.

Encouraging the best publishing projects—broadening the horizons and possibilities for millions of people through reading—is a mandate for us with formidable social impact. However, we at Grupo Editorial Mexico want to go further to promote change and social development. We have decided to implement actions that strengthen the connection of our company and employees with the community. We are proud of the alliance we have with the Juan N. Navarro Children’s Psychiatric Hospital in Mexico City—the only children’s and young adult psychiatric hospital in Latin America. Through reading circles that feature multiple creative, book-related activities, the partnership aids in the recovery of 2,000 children and young adults. In late 2016, after launching the initiative, a team of 55 Grupo Editorial México volunteers signed up, and were trained by the hospital’s social workers to participate in weekly two-hour reading sessions with the Children’s Psychiatric Hospital patients. We are convinced that reading is an essential part of a happy, full, and healthy life (Borges said that reading is one of the main forms of happiness), and this can be demonstrated empirically. Recent studies show that the brain generates cognitive reserves through reading. People with depression and other mental illnesses can improve their self-perception, and their imagination, understanding, and empathy, as well as their relationships with others, through the powerful exercise of reading. Our collaboration with the Juan N. Navarro Children’s Psychiatric Hospital has just begun, and we are already seeing positive results, impelling us to continue our mission of improving the present, the future of our company, and, above all, our society.

Grupo Editorial Spain Launches Education Program “Poténciate”

In October 2016, Penguin Random House Group Spain launched “Poténciate,” a program for employees who work at the Pallejà Logistics Center. Poténciate encourages employees to resume their education, helping to diminish the barriers that can arise from poor economic or administrative support. The program provides both administrative and economic support to the employees upon request.

The program, which consists of providing economic assistance up to 80% of the educational costs, is available for studies that must be official, regulated, and offer general assistance and services to all employees who request them. The courses range from basic vocational training to university studies taught in public centers. In addition, the HR department offers employee support such as course information, school locations, payment plans, and managing tuition tax deduction. Our goal is to provide our employees with comprehensive support so that they can make informed financial decisions regarding their studies. Poténciate is a part of Penguin Random House Group Spain’s Social Responsibility initiative, which focuses on diversity. By offering our warehouse employees basic or more advanced education, we increase the probability of their advancement to other areas of the company, such as within our creative teams—thereby increasing the diversity of origin, perspective, and background of our staff. Employees who are most likely to benefit from this program are participating in newly formed focus groups. The company is also carrying out other parallel initiatives, such as accrediting professional experiences. With such endeavors, we will emulate Bertelsmann’s core values in the area of Social Commitment. We are excited about the launch of these new initiatives which motivate and facilitate the educational development of our valued employees.

Our Collaboration With WWF Promotes Responsible Forest Management

dk treesThe World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Global Forest & Trade Network has been working with companies for over 20 years, with the mission to encourage businesses to source forest products from well-managed sources.

DK and Penguin Random House UK have been active with WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) since 2014. The companies have now set a goal of having 100% of the paper they use Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) certified, in other words, sustainably sourced. Wood is a renewable resource, and when forests are properly managed, harvesting timber can be an effective way of safeguarding forests for future generations. That is important, because besides providing habitats for animals and livelihoods for humans, forests also offer watershed protection, prevent soil erosion and mitigate climate change. FSC is the only wood certification scheme endorsed by WWF, Greenpeace and the Woodland Trust. Certified forests must meet a range of best-in-class standards, ensuring harvested trees are replanted or allowed to regenerate naturally. 74% of DK and 93% of PRH's paper is currently FSC certified. Collectively this is 85%. wwf finalThrough their work with the GFTN, DK and Penguin Random House UK have committed to ensuring all their products are responsibly and ethically sourced. This includes promoting responsible forest management together with their suppliers, eradicating illegal wood products from their global supply chain, and making sure their paper sourcing policy is publicly available. Thanks to their work in this area, they have been awarded the highest possible score as part of the WWF’s Timber Scorecard, which assesses the timber sourcing policies of companies across a range of industries. Nicola Torode, Head of Product Safety for DK and Penguin Random House UK, said: "We recognize the importance of forests and the services they provide, such as clean water and air, raw materials, and biodiversity. As deforestation is the second-largest source of CO2 emissions, we know that combating this through responsible paper sourcing policies is essential.” The GFTN is recognized as a successful partnership between WWF and businesses, and for spreading the message that sustainable forest management can help redress some of the most severe problems affecting forests, such as deforestation, and is key for the future. According to WWF, the business community can play a “vital role” in ensuring forest resources are well-managed, and in order to assess whether improvements are being made, it is crucial for businesses to be open about their purchasing policies. Their work with the GFTN is just one part of DK and Penguin Random House UK’s sustainability and social responsibility program. “We consider the ethical and environmental impact in all the work we do,” said Torode. “Our suppliers are audited to internationally recognized standards on a regular basis, and we only use materials that are from legal, ethical and sustainable sources. Using FSC paper and working with industry-wide bodies ensures we are continually conducting best practice.”