Greenwashing 101

In an era where environmental consciousness has soared to the forefront of public discourse, the film and television industry, like many others, faces the challenge of distinguishing genuine sustainability efforts from mere greenwashing. Greenwashing—when companies misleadingly tout their products, services, or operations as environmentally friendly without substantive actions to back such claims—presents a serious obstacle to achieving true sustainability. Increasingly, large companies are being called out and even fined for greenwashing. 

As producers seek to navigate their environmental responsibilities, understanding the nuances of greenwashing helps to ensure that our journey towards sustainability is both authentic and impactful. We need not be nervous to talk about our sustainable efforts - it’s critical to share wins, losses, and contribute to the momentum in the industry! Embrace authentic, data-driven communication underpinned by concrete metrics and tangible intentions. 

Tips to Avoid Greenwashing: 

By adhering to these principles, the film and television industry can ensure we move towards sustainability grounded in reality and integrity, effectively sidestepping the pitfalls of greenwashing. 

  • Foundation of Data: Start from a position of authenticity. Establish your sustainable practices based on factual data rather than crafting outward narratives. The first step is always gathering accurate, comprehensive data about your production's environmental impact so you have the confidence and clarity to discuss your efforts transparently.
  • Substance Over Surface: Ensure your sustainability claims are substantial and accurately reflect the scale of your operations. The goal is to achieve meaningful, holistic sustainability across all facets of production. This takes time, you are not expected to get it done all at once. In the meantime, avoid placing undue emphasis on minor green initiatives if larger aspects of your production process remain environmentally unfriendly. 
  • Embrace Transparency: Honesty about the current state of your production's sustainability is crucial. If not all aspects are fully sustainable, openly acknowledge this reality. Share both the successes and challenges, detailing specific plans for addressing less sustainable areas. Everyone has a lot to improve, and being honest about your efforts will create transparency, trust and support. 
  • Inclusive Stakeholder Engagement: Involve all stakeholders, from crew members to on-screen talent and beyond, in your sustainability journey. Understanding their perspectives and motivations can guide more effective strategy development and foster a collaborative, inclusive approach to sustainability. Transparency applies to your teams and crews too. 
  • Measure Your Metrics: Every sustainable initiative should have a metric of success. This metric can answer the question “How will we know we’ve achieved something?”. It can be an annual metric (Reduce our waste footprint by 30%) or a stepping stone milestones (E.g., Q1 we will sourced 2 green waste vendors, Q2 target to reduce our waste by 10%, Q3 target to reduce by an additional 10%, etc). 
  • Validation Through Verification: Opt for third-party certifications or verifications for your environmental claims. This external scrutiny adds a layer of credibility, assuring stakeholders of the genuineness of your efforts towards sustainability. They will also likely provide you new ideas and opportunities to improve and advance your efforts.