Joel French, COO at Cherryduck Ltd highlights how the key to creative companies reducing their carbon footprint is to start where you are, and offers a few learnings for businesses embarking on their green journey.
World Earth Day 2021 is upon us, and the wheels of change are gathering pace when it comes to real impactful carbon footprint concerns within all businesses, and the commercial production world is no exception to this. All creative companies have a real opportunity, and responsibility, to instigate and inspire positive action when it comes to climate change, not just in what we say, but in what we do.
Preen is a creative video production company working with agencies and brands to produce branded video. So, what can production companies like ours do within the advertising world do in order to assess our own carbon responsibilities and make real progress in changing our approach to what should be an environmentally sustainable industry? By working with BAFTA’s Albert, we’ve been able to see where companies such as ours can rate and improve their own environmental impact.
It seems obvious to state it, but every business needs a starting point, and a set of goals that it wants to achieve. There is no point in making wild outlandish claims about becoming ‘carbon neutral’ or ‘carbon negative’ by year XXXX, if you don’t know what position your business is in today. Following a simple four-step strategy, Preen are embarking on our own green journey for 2021 and beyond and want to share our learnings with other companies like ours.
Creative production companies can only make a positive change to the environmental impact of their productions if they have a baseline to work with. That old carpenter’s proverb of ‘measure twice, cut once’ rings very true here. Calculating your current carbon footprint will tell you a lot about what can be achieved in your future roadmap, and will give you a real sense of what goals are achievable on your productions. Look at the obvious areas. Travel, waste, energy usage, materials. Get a baseline figure from your current usage from the last year. Also, speak to managers and producers and get a sense of what they use on shoots. We’ve created a simple Google Form to record this information on a production by production basis.
It’s not an easy process to get this together (trust me, we’ve been through it in the last few weeks!) and there may well be gaps in your reporting, but in many ways, this at least shows you where you need to improve things. A good point to cover here is that it’s likely not going to be perfect on your first assessment. But having a comprehensive attempt is the way to drive the business forward to work out what it’s sustainability goals are and how to achieve them.
It’s all too easy to make massive promises to change your approach, and then struggle to deliver on these changes. From looking at our own internal assessments, we’ve been able to identify key areas where we can make changes quickly and easily, as well as setting ourselves longer term goals to adhere to. Banning plastic bottles and using cruelty-free and/or organic make-up for your talent may be a good way to get started. Using electric vehicles only for transporting cast and crew could be a longer term goal. It might be a stretch for us to change out our diesel van overnight, but aiming to change this out, alongside electric charging points at our studios in the next one to two years is more realistic. Aiming for real achievable quick wins is the best launch platform on which to base your longer term goals.
Preen’s big goal over the next few months is to really engage with our clients and our suppliers to bring about strong change to our production processes. We want to commit ourselves to a plan, but also want to work alongside other like-minded people to help deliver change across the industry. By being conscious about where we source materials, assets, and talent from, we can ensure that the measures we are taking to cut down on our carbon footprint are not being offset by the impact of others who may not be pushing in the same direction as us. If we are to deliver a sustainable approach to our clients, we must be prepared to scrutinise our own supplier’s commitment to the same project.
Our clients too, will have a massive role to play. Most major businesses are already well on the way to instigating their own carbon impact plans, and we must ensure that we commit to helping them to achieve their goals, by making our promise to change meaningful and impactful. A big aim for us is to send back to every client on every job an environmental report and rating, so we can assess what has been done well, and what could be done better in future. By making this rateable, this won’t just be a simple document to give out arbitrarily with some facts and figures, but it should generate conversation between ourselves and our clients on how we can each work to improve things beyond the debrief.
One of our biggest challenges across this will be to ensure that all our team members understand our goals, and are part of the process. Not just in terms of taking part, but actively adding to and contributing ideas to how we can better reduce our carbon footprint. Innovation can come from across the business, and the best way of affecting real change is to involve the people who will be doing the work daily. Preen’s production team will have a key role to play in regards to our commitment, and we need to support our team through training, education and communication to meet its goals.
In many ways, this all seems like a massive challenge, and a lot of work. It may also seem costly. But you will be surprised even what a simple audit will tell you. There will be ways that you can make changes that are not just environmentally sound, but actually will reduce your costs. Who is paying for all those plastic bottles of water on set? Ultimately, without doing the hard work that comes with all of this, very little will change going forward, If we make the commitment together, it will become a lot easier in the future.
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