We continue to work hard to earn the trust of the people who buy and use our products and services. Each of our businesses has a precious reputation to defend - Penguin for the quality of its publishing and consistent record of innovation and fearlessness; the FT for its rigorously investigated, unbiased and responsible journalism; and our education businesses for the efficacy and demonstrable positive outcomes of their learning solutions.
Some important areas for us are:
Freedom of expression
The Penguin Group has a long tradition of championing freedom of expression. Penguin continues to champion freedom of expression in a number of other ways, including through continued strong support of both English PEN and PEN's annual WorldVoices Festival.
Last year, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the controversial publication of D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover. In addition to releasing a special edition of the book in honour of the anniversary, Penguin Classics built a designated website to explain the timeline of the trial, display book reviews from modern-day Penguin readers and showcase more Penguin titles that have shocked the world.
Editorial independence and integrity at the FT
The opening paragraph of the FT Code states that "It is fundamental to the integrity and success of the Financial Times that it upholds the highest possible professional and ethical standards of journalism, and is seen to do so." The FT makes it very clear about the standards expected of journalists.
The benchmark for the FT is set by the Code of Practice adopted by the UK's Press Complaints Commission. The FT code goes beyond the standards set by the PCC in order to ensure best possible practice. Compliance with the code is an obligation for all FT editorial staff. Our performance is reflected in the awards we have won. Read more.
Pearson purchased the Financial Times as 'a sound, conservative investment' in 1957. As the then owners of Lazards, a leading merchant bank, Pearson was aware that it would be open to criticism if it appeared to influence the paper's editorial policies. So from the start, Pearson has protected the editorial independence of the Financial Times, a principle that continues to this day.
Case study: Media standards and the Leveson Inquiry
The Leveson Inquiry is currently investigating the culture, practices and ethics of the press in the UK. We have contributed a written statement to the inquiry and the editor of the FT presented evidence which is available at www.levesoninquiry.org.uk. The FT has its own ethical code which goes beyond what is required by the current PressComplaints Commission Code. The FT makes it very clear about the standards expected of journalists. We have not changed our practices - which is to behave ethically on a consistent basis - but phone hacking has served as a trigger to remind our journalists of the high standards we expect from them.
Appropriateness and accessibility of content
As the world's leading educational publisher, a concern for the protection of children is intrinsic to our product design and development. Our processes and procedures ensure all new products are rigorously researched and tested before being published. Processes include: editorial review, internal peer review, editorial review councils, external commissioning and external peer review, testing with teachers, pupils and independent academic experts. Appropriateness of content to the age or location of students whether this be hard copy or online is reviewed within our SEE Risk process. As our objective is to develop appropriate products to the age and location of students, strict parental controls are unnecessary in our markets. Our company Code of conduct lays out our responsibilities to society including the defence of public trust in all that we do.
For Pearson, our company purpose to help people progress through learning is both global and inclusive in aspiration. It sets an internal standard against which we can judge ourselves. This standard extends to the extent to which they are able to provide access to products both physical and online regardless of ability.
In 2011, we launched a project to map our global approach to accessibility with participation from each operating division. Some of the key findings were:
- Alternative formats of non-accessible products are being provided for free as standard in many Pearson companies around the globe;
- International standards and pressure from clients are driving accessibility initiatives - centres of excellence are in place to provide proactive support to make Pearson's future products accessible;
- Lots of good and innovative work is going on around the world in different divisions - but there is an opportunity to bring teams together to better share knowledge, expertise and experiences;
- There is no central global accessibility policy;
As a result, our plans for 2012 are:
- To adopt a global accessibility policy. This will codify the existing work and standards
- To improve how we bring teams together to better share knowledge, expertise and experiences in order to offer a consistent experience
- To engage in the industry forums which help to create international standards on accessibility
Ensuring that products are safe for customers to use is a basic responsibility shared by all companies. For Pearson, product safety mostly relates to physical product and ensuring that no toxins, dangerous or prohibited chemicals are present in anything we sell. In addition, products for the very youngest children must be age appropriate and eliminate risks such as swallowing.
Our guiding principle is that everything we put on the market should not harm a person or the environment. Our global Product Safety Manual, first developed by Penguin in 2008, records procedural steps, legislative requirements, advice on testing and development and labelling information to help achieve this goal. The manual is regularly updated to reflect changing global requirements and developments to internal processes and due diligence procedures. We have also set up a components database which is accessible through Neo, our online global collaboration tool to provide an up to date source of information and product safety testing status of components. An international product safety council comprising experts from around the business convenes regularly to oversee this important area.
Our aim is to maintain zero incidents of product recalls or enforcement notices by regulatory bodies - something we achieved in 2011.