As the world celebrates World Environment Day, albert, the industry’s answer to creating positive action for the planet, shone the spotlight on the carbon footprint of production, writes Sheryl Hickey.
According to albert, the average TV programme produces tens of tonnes of carbon dioxide, and a feature film produces thousands, but the central issue is caused by poor planning. As a practical step to tackle this, albert has put together a free online toolkit, the carbon calculator and Carbon Action Plan, which aims to establish sustainability best practices.
By providing some basic information about production offices, studio, travel, accommodation locations, materials used, their disposal and post-production methods, albert’s carbon calculator gives a measurement of the carbon footprint of productions, to offer more sustainable choices pre-production.
Creating a carbon action plan
Speaking at London’s Media Production Technology Show in May, the albert team asserted the need for the tool – a carbon calculator/carbon action plan - because “you cannot reduce what you don’t measure.”
At the talk, industry experts and suppliers shared their expertise of what is working best in practice and introduced organisations that can help along the way to not only offset, but to build a long-term strategy to reduce carbon emissions to zero.
Chair Kishan Khambhaita, Communications Assistant for albert, was joined by speakers, Jung-Min Kim, Data Analyst for albert, Joy Montgomery, Circular Procurement Specialist, Mark Irving, Director of Story at PlusZero, and Elliot Ancona, Project Coordinator at Studio Soho.
Reduction over offset
In an attempt to lay down the foundations for a fully sustainable production, Jung-Min Kim explained the that the tool’s objective is to “prioritise reduction over offset assessments.” The carbon calculator aims to take a high impact production towards zero carbon.
Arguing that the project does not rule out offsetting emissions, Joy Montgomery elaborated: “You’d be surprised outside of our bubble, how many productions aren’t even thinking about sustainability. So even if you can just only get them to offset things, that’s better than absolutely nothing. We’re preaching to the converted here, but there are a lot of people who won’t do anything. So even if the only thing they will do is offset, it’s better than nothing.”
Montgomery founded the organisation OnScreen in 2010, “We’ve been helping producers, set designers, costume designers and production managers stretch their budgets by securing gifted, loaned and donated products.”
Data tracking and visibility
Jung-Min Kim explained that “the calculator is the leading industry tool to track your carbon footprint in the broadcast, TV and film industry, it’s based on emissions figures once you put in your consumption data.”
Presenting different production options that can reduce emissions, Kim went through the platform, which covers all the aspects of putting together a production, from crew and cast expenses, to choosing on-set generators.
He used a mock production example with the online calculator, inputting the budgets and then step-by-step demonstrating how several tonnes of carbon can be reduced. The data covers everything from reducing transport by opting for different on-set locations, finding crew locally, adjusting accommodation preferences to a low emission hotel, choosing renewable tariffs for production offices, using certified green energy, using clean power for filming spaces just as a start. Kim emphasised that reducing environmental impact comes down to one piece of advice:
“Think about your alternatives.”
Mark Irving, who runs a green hydrogen business for sectors including film and TV - Plus Zero Power, added that “there are alternatives to diesel,” and through replacing diesel generators with hydrogen generators, it is possible to provide clean power to filming spaces by decarbonising backup static power.
Time consumption and myth busting
The common argument for packaging sustainability into production planning is that focussing on environmental impact is yet more administration, legislation and costs.
Montgomery argued that in her experience of creating a circular procurement service, choosing sustainable options can in fact stretch budgets by securing recycled products. With this in mind, albert provides a supply list for waste management companies and charities you can donate to, “so you think about how they go back into circulation. The idea is there’s no reason for anything to go to the landfill. There is a home for it.”
She explained that as an albert supplier, the service can step in to make sure productions joining the scheme have everything together to start their sustainable production journey, “I know it’s a time factor most of the time… We realised to gather the evidence for a carbon action plan is very time consuming. Sometimes you don’t have the resources or you don’t have the manpower or you don’t have the finances to do it, so it’s something that we can help with as well to make sure that everything is completed.”
She concluded that the aim of the project is to eliminate resistance, so that production companies have “nothing to barter with.”
Bigger names, same objectives
While the panel admitted that the project is still finding its feet and that developing an accurate carbon calculator needs more involvement from various organisations, a track record of success is being established.
According to Irving, the key is to work with the right kind of development partners to get the process into the limelight. Irving highlighted the importance of the sponsor: “The pressure of the sponsor. It’s the audiences for Disney, Amazon, Apple TV and Netflix, also the sponsors of the sports programmes - they are the ones who can wield this influence because their audiences - they come up and deliver. It’s about the likes of us small businesses that we are in putting up our hands, ‘notice us - we’re part of your objective to reach your goals. Did you know that?’ It’s being able to get to that level.”
As albert confirmed, demand and enquiries for more sustainable productions are coming in thick and fast. Now with an easily accessible, informative and supportive toolkit as the first step to actively reach a more sustainable, more responsible future of TV and film, it begs the question, who wouldn’t get involved?
Is your company or organisation consciously striving to reduce its environmental impact? It’s your last chance to submit your entry for the IBC Social Impact Awards. Submissions are free and closing this Friday - to enter click here to share your efforts on a global stage.