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Lights, Camera, Action!
We all love to consume when it comes to the media. In a world where we are given more choice than ever before and the competition among media outlets has gone truly global, what can be done by the industry itself to mitigate what some are already warning is a huge problem when it comes to sustainability and what is becoming a huge carbon footprint?
As we’ve mentioned in an article recently published on Forbes, it is commendable that the likes of the University of Bristol have commissioned studies that will point to the contributory factors alongside institutions like the BBC, ITV and TalkTalk. The study will effectively map the carbon footprint of digital services in the advertising, publishing and broadcasting sectors are difficult as a result of “hugely complex” underlying technological systems, including delivery networks, data centres, web infrastructure and user devices.
The digital economy
The digital economy will no doubt keep growing and the media is one of the main proponents of this kind of growth. Indeed, reports suggest that the tech economy grows at around 2.6 times the rate of the rest of business.
Streaming, live feeds, TV on demand and rolling news are nothing new, but as more innovations are taking place, this kind of bandwidth required and the associated energy needed will no doubt increase at a faster rate in order for everything to progress as audience demand dictates.
There’s plenty that can be done in general to reduce your carbon footprint, indeed there are a plethora of articles out there suggesting just how.
However, when it comes to the media, practicalities need to be taken into account. When it comes to an overarching strategy for what can be an energy-guzzling behemoth of an industry, will small changes be enough, or will absolute culture change be needed? It remains to be seen. Here’s a few ideas of how those in the media can help reduce their carbon footprint:
On one level:
For SMEs, controlling output of emissions, sourcing responsibly and becoming more aware of environmental impact is much easier. More tracking, measuring and awareness of policy is possible and therefore a carbon footprint can be tangibly reduced in smaller steps and with more immediate effect. This might include:
- Switching to renewable energy: This may seem an obvious point to make and can be recommended at all levels. However, there are still thousands of businesses out there that simply are not aware that they could be easily connected to renewable sources. Larger corporations will have arranged this, however many SMEs within the media, be these production companies, creative studios, news agencies and other media professionals may well be under the illusion that they are too small to make an impact. This could not be further from the truth. The existence of REGOs – or Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin – guarantees that the origin of the energy supplied to you is renewably sourced and can be obtained by a business of any size. Energy suppliers will often match your estimated consumption. This is a great option if you want to see an actual reduction in your carbon footprint and also show that you are taking awareness and action seriously. By investigating this option, some businesses could even ensure their electricity impact turns to zero.
- Catering for waste: The transient nature of the media, meaning that most professionals will often be on the move often ensures that food becomes a secondary concern and dealing with food waste is even lower in terms of priority. Those working out of offices or on fixed locations can check waste contractors if food waste collection is possible. If you are lucky enough to have a canteen, catering or even a cafe on-site, ensure that kitchen staff are all trained and dealing appropriately with this issue. Adequate facilities for your staff to dispose of food waste, be it organic food matter or recyclable materials is key. On location, the irregular nature of catering and food provision is another kettle of fish. Measures need to be taken before this is arranged. Ensure you are booking caterers based on their green credentials, are they using sustainable methods of food waste disposal? Are they using recyclable materials? If they are using power, is this sustainable? Are they registered with organisations that back up this idea of sustainability? Is there a way to vet them before they start providing food? Procurement is often based on price, but more needs to be considered than simply cost-saving.
- Lights, Camera, Off!: It may seem like common sense now we are in a world where lighting is smart, bulbs are low-energy and power efficiency is built into most equipment and media professional may use, but sometimes it can’t hurt to check if everything is as good as it appears to be. Switching to more energy-efficient options such as LED lighting can make a big difference and is a long-lasting quick win. There is also an array of technology available, such as motion sensors which will automatically ensure lights are switched off if rooms are empty. Dimmable lights are another method to ensure lights aren’t at their brightest maximum when not required. This should also help reduce electricity costs overall. More specifically for the media industry, ensuring all batteries sourced for practical tasks are rechargeable and have a low environmental impact is key. Equally, energy-efficient electronics are also important to source. So much energy is wasted by leaving industrial-grade equipment on standby or just left running when not in use. Energy efficiency is often in-built to today’s tech used by the media, but it is often down to user behaviour that ensures this remains the case. The reality is that most steps that can be taken to reduce carbon impact are small and often only have an impact when it comes to the crunch when all taken together.
- Read all about it, stop printing so much: As many national and international magazines and newspapers have suffered circulation woes over the last decade, so too has the use of paper within offices. However, many offices still consume vast amounts of paper and taking action to cut down is key to a move towards sustainability. Printing less and turning to digital alternatives will be the most effective ways of curbing use in the long-term. There are many processes that can be moved over to new processes, contract signings, keeping emails digital-only and sharing documents digitally rather than circulating on paper are all simple and actionable steps.
If printing is required, taking steps to only using double-sided printing is set as a default should be a priority.
For media companies, digital will be the norm anyway, documents, scripts, filming plans and similar essentials have long been digitised, but for those clinging on to the unwieldy medium of paper, something has to give.
- Stop unnecessary journeys: Business travel, especially flights, can often make up over half of many business’ carbon emissions and this is no truer than in the media industry. With the advent of remote working, there really should be no reason for long-haul flights unless practical or essential face-to-face meetings are needed. Cutting down on travel, especially if meetings can be tackled with video conferencing, can make a huge difference. As well as cutting emissions, it can save businesses thousands in air miles, parking, fuel and associated expenses. Getting to the root of carbon footprint reduction, it could also be argued that flying economy is better for the environment too as less energy is expended on luxuries and associated environmental impacts.
- Feeling the heat: Heating and cooling tech is now commonplace among many SMEs, in the media industry, this is less of a concern as production offices will often keep up with technology. However, a reminder that the industry could re-check they are working within well-insulated and breathable buildings is essential. Not wasting heat, especially that generated from equipment that may be used such as cameras, large servers and other general equipment, should be a consideration.
- Source material: For smaller media companies, sourcing recyclable or less impactful supplies should be a priority. Wasteful manufacturers of office equipment and disposable items that a media company may burn through quite quickly may well be cheaper options but make a dent on the planet. Such items are now plentiful, meaning the price has been driven down. Being aware of your carbon footprint has never been so affordable. Those with larger supply chains, for example in film production, or large-scale projects should use procurement suppliers that research and have a priority on saving time, money and effort in such circumstances.
- Audience participation: Sometimes the biggest challenge is getting people on board. You can introduce as many measures as you may like, but unless your workforce, colleagues or peers in the industry are bought in, it can be a real challenge to convince someone of the benefits. The key here is to explain the ‘why’ and not the ‘what’. Too often it’s a case of a blanket rule to do with sustainability being brought in, with not enough being done to explain the reasons behind something. Transition could be as easy as including something in a newsletter, email, group meeting or even as part of an onboarding process for new team members. Within the media, jobs are transient, so creating an atmo
- Investing in good waste facilities: Waste management is a big challenge for many businesses today. The first step is ensuring facilities are clearly available for recycling. Implementing signage to help guide people as to what goes where can help. Such facilities can sometimes be provided by your waste company, so having a conversation with them can help your business to understand what can and can’t be recycled by their waste contractors. An array of different bin types are also available online, which vary by colour, size, lid, etc. Investing in this is a must. Recycling properly can ensure higher recycling rates, meaning less should be ending up in landfills – thus reducing carbon footprint. Electrical and hazardous waste should also be disposed of properly, and many waste contractors have the facilities to take this.
What might be good for SMES may not work in the same way as for larger entities such as the BBC, Netflix and larger concerns. In the wake of the issues surrounding climate change in recent years and a turn in the corporate world towards sustainability, it is interesting to see the media taking this seriously.
There are many ways in which the media can start to make changes. The biggest we would suggest is culture. With corporations that are fixed, more permanent entities, this is easier to implement. With the transient, often fleeting nature of advertising, television, film and news work, this is harder to nail down.
There’s a real issue with news corporations in general, with so much international travel and multiple offices across the world, the idea of a carbon footprint being reduced is a tough one to crack.
Where a news corporation can crack this is sourcing reporters closer to the action, rather than sending correspondents whenever they have the opportunity. In businesses where air travel is an element of the day-to-day, this can be a real killer. More than 50% of a company’s carbon footprint can be burned up with air travel and so anything that can be done to reduce this is welcome news.
Elsewhere, the impact made by the media can be as simple as turning around productions, making as little environmental impact as possible. Film production totals so much use of energy that something must be done to feed back to the locations that are stricken by the physical and often long-lasting effects of location filming.
Again, the media needs to address this problem of culture. If each and every strand of the often extended supply chain can be made carbon neutral or at least reduced, then overall, the industry will have a better reputation and will perform better.
Sourcing energy is obviously somewhere any corporation down to the smallest of SMEs can address right away. There are measures you can take to either source from sustainable producers of energy, or at least maintain some sort of supply chain loop whereby you deliver excess energy back to the grid. To not at least investigate these options seems irresponsible.
At the moment, environmental policies dictate very hopeful and well-meaning ideas, but until the wider industry takes on more responsibility and we see action rather than hot air, it may well remain an endemic problem.
In general, the media have a lot of responsibility to be seen to be acting on such issues, the difference is, the ones that actually make a stand and become standard-beaters for this movement will be the ones that make the most impact. Sustainability is no longer the buzzword it once was, it is a segment of business reality.
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