The call to action for the DPP’s Committed to Sustainability Programme came out of a 2018 industry leader’s conference as a top business priority. Identified as a ‘fairly simple assessment tool’, it was launched officially in 2019 and recently celebrated the milestone of 50 media companies joining the programme. George Jarrett talks to DPP Business Development Manager Abdul Hakim about what he calls ‘a great start’.
The sustainability journey to decarbonised digital is one that all companies have to follow, and one of the great things about the DPP programme is that it is an online self-assessment gateway that demands honesty on a number of fronts, without shame.
“It covers key areas such as how an organisation manages its policy and its staff sustainability, and whether it provides training and development. Does it have performance policies in place that consider sustainability, and how does it manage its crucial energy waste and carbon emissions,” explains Hakim.
Submissions are automatically scored, and in collecting this data the DPP can publish an industry score. This stood at 3, with 5 as the aimed for target, back at the end of 2021, so has the rush to 50 boosted that score?
“The events of the last few years have led to a shift with sustainability being considered in a broader context encompassing diversity, equity, and inclusion. And rightly so,” Abdul Hakim, DPP
“The industry average at the moment is a moving goalpost. We’re seeing some of the initial high scoring organisations renew and improve their respective scores, which does improve the industry average. Yet at the same time we are seeing new participants who enter the programme push the score low again. They are new on their journey,” says Hakim.
“Once the number of new participants plateaus a bit, the improvements made by those who have been in the programme and have initially scored low will ultimately improve the average score,” he adds.
Way beyond that
The 50 media companies – from Akamai, Arqiva and Atos to Sky, Telstra, Willco and Zixi – come from many precise sectors. This means some could be service suppliers to several or customers of a few. So, does the great milestone point to anything, the DPP has to ponder?
“The original intention behind the programme was to really support the sustainability journey of suppliers in the broadcast and media industry, but the appeal of the programme has gone way beyond that. We have major broadcasting organisations and their respective productions taking part in the process, which shows that as an industry and as customers they are really behind this. It is a show of great support,” says Hakim.
Has this success via the online tool attracted the attention of other member-based bodies?
“We are really pleased with the current 50 participants because they include a range of DPP member companies and non-member organisations,” he says. “We have opened up the Committed to Sustainability initiative to the wider industry and organisations can take part in it for free. Other industry organisations have welcomed this programme, and we are collaborating with them to spread awareness and drive best practices.”
If there is one thing a company must do, as defined by Atos, it is to establish a methodology. How influential have the two main sponsors of the programme been in guiding new adopters?
“It is a completely independent DPP initiative, but it is through the support of Atos and Red Bee Media that we are able to continue delivering it. But it is not just financial support they have provided,” says Hakim. “Both have been involved from day one – when we first held working group meetings to scope and design what our role in this space might be, through to providing their expertise and knowledge during the many sustainability masterclass and surgery sessions we staged.
“Other industry organisations have welcomed this programme, and we are collaborating with them to spread awareness and drive best practices,” Abdul Hakim, DPP
“Atos, which is in 72 countries, also has a specialist decarbonisation business called EcoAct, which can provide additional expertise to anyone looking to reduce their environmental impact.”
A broader context
Many people see environmental sustainability combining with wider aspects like diversity, inclusion and business ethics. Are certain elements interactive with climate change?
“For many of the first 50 participants, the broader UN Sustainable Development Goals is really something that they are working on, and doing alongside sustainability,” says Hakim.
“However, at the time of the development of this programme, it was created as a specific response from many broadcast companies around the need to demonstrate environmental sustainability in the supply chain in some way. That is what the Committed to Sustainability Programme focused on,” he adds. “The events of the last few years have led to a shift with sustainability being considered in a broader context encompassing diversity, equity and inclusion. And rightly so.”
The DPP is doing more work in this space and recently became a Gold sponsor of gender diversity group Rise. Will the on-going development of GHG Protocols (scopes) and the BAFTA albert project keep adding value to the DPP work?
“Albert is hugely complementary, and is really driving sustainable content production. Ultimately for many broadcast and media companies content production remains the area of the business that has the largest carbon impact,” says Hakim. “Albert assists productions to better quantify their emissions and reduce them as much of possible by using technology and creative ways of working. Vendors to productions may have gone through the DPP programme and will therefore be able to support productions by offering them a better understanding of their impact.”
“In a lot of cases productions are suppliers to broadcasters, so albert-certified productions give the broadcaster the ability to better understand their own Scope 3 impacts,” he adds.
The Covid pandemic really opened up media minds to the art of the possible in terms of things like remote production and staff travel. Did it focus minds on carbon emissions?
“This happened in two spheres – firstly, organisations and individuals questioned their values and purpose. The tragedy of it all and everything that happened alongside it made it acceptable to be thinking about sustainability and all that it encompasses, not just the environmental aspect,” says Hakim. “Secondly, organisations were forced to work remotely and find new ways of working – otherwise they would cease to exist. It gave them the ability to rapidly try out new ways of working that became more sustainable.”
Formal company statements
How long into the near future will environmental data sit alongside financial performance stats as a twinned importance legally?
“The FCA in the UK is currently consulting on Sustainable Disclosure Requirements and has stated that it will have policy proposals circulated for discussion in Q2 of this year. Additionally, it is proposing a Sustainable Investment label to be used alongside certain investment products to demonstrate their sustainability characteristics,” says Hakim.
“The Securities Exchange Commission in the US is looking to finalise Its proposal by the end of this year. Companies will be required to disclose Scope 3 emissions, ‘if material’ or if they have greenhouse gas emissions targets that include Scope 3 emissions. The disclosures will need to be included in formal company statements and other documents”, he adds. “Sustainability and transparency go hand-in-hand.”