Navigation to come...
Action Guide

Building a Sustainable Culture

By prioritizing sustainability, building green teams, and ensuring that an environmental lens is part of content creation, producers can help create a culture of sustainability both on and off set.

Prioritizing Sustainability

Climate Action is the classic buck-stops-here scenario. Producers have ultimate responsibility for the sustainability of their productions, and the good news is that producers are uniquely positioned to inspire, empower their teams and drive significant positive impact.

Sustainability (Use less, pollute less, etc.) sounds easy enough on the surface, but can be far more complex in practice especially in the beginning. Sustainability asks us all to think and work differently, which means producers and leaders don’t get to sit this one out.

Producers make decisions, set priorities and allocate resources.  One way to support green practices as a producer is to signal that it’s a priority and that your expectations about how you want your shows to be produced include environmental considerations.

Embedding Sustainability

Great! So you’ve decided to prioritise sustainability.  Now what?  Prioritizing sustainability sounds simple - obvious even - yet even the most committed producers will struggle to keep sustainability top of mind when it runs up against traditional creative and business imperatives as well as resource and time pressures.  This makes planning for sustainability and integrating it into your processes one of the most important ways to ensure that sustainability will remain a priority.

By embedding environmental considerations into content, creative and technical planning meetings and day-to-day operations, producers send a strong signal that sustainability is not just an add-on but a fundamental aspect of the production ethos.

Building a visible sustainability team with authority to implement changes and access to senior leaders shows your teams and interest-holders that the people and the planet have a seat at the table.

Planning is the art of the possible. Be realistic about what is doable. Break goals down into specific manageable tasks assigned to individuals or departments and write them down. Start with low-hanging fruit because stacking up wins doesn’t just feel great, it’s an effective strategy to build momentum and change.

Be realistic about skills, experience and capacity gaps.  Make sustainability part of formal job responsibilities where practical, but be sure to support your teams with training and resources where you can.

Creating a Sustainable Production Culture

There is much work to be done before our industry can  reach net zero. Real decarbonization is going to require systemic changes and a culture shift in our industry and in society at large. 

A culture can be simply defined as ‘the way we do things around here.’ Creating a culture of sustainability is about cultivating a workplace that integrates sustainability into every decision and sets expectations about what is valued and how things should be done.  The essence of fostering a sustainable culture is empowering individuals to see themselves as active participants in climate action.

In scripted genres particularly, traditional on-set culture tends towards a more-is-better approach. Needs are not always perfectly defined up front, dealing with unpredictable set-backs are just another Tuesday, and no one wants to be the one caught unprepared. While there are good reasons for this approach, the culture of maximalism is inherently opposite to sustainability, which strives for minimalism, intentionality, and using only what you need.

Breaking down Barriers

There is a lot a producer can do to help break down barriers  to climate action on their productions and in their organizations. We each have the power to rethink and challenge mindsets (including our own), examine past practices, challenge complacency and silos, and provide access to leaders and decision-makers.

Empower and support your teams by challenging business-as-usual. Be on the lookout for statements like “It’s not done that way” or “We tried it before and it didn’t work”. Examine why past initiatives might have failed and make it okay for our teams to try new things, or even just begin again.

Shifting film and television production culture to be more sustainable is going to take time and practice,  but sustainable leadership can help transform a film set or studio into a vibrant ecosystem where climate action is the collective heartbeat.
“I had a question about why the city, Nova Scotia Power, and the film industry weren't working together to allow access to grid tie-ins, specifically in two main basecamps that have power but historically we'd never been able to access it. We just brought generators on site instead of challenging this lack of access. No one had asked the question before. I gave a presentation to our city councillors and locations managers, and now we're working to find a solution.”
Island of Misfits Logo
Elsa Tokunaga
Sustainability Manager, This Hour Has 22 Minutes

Corporate Climate Action

There is a tendency to limit our consideration of climate action to productions and on-set actions (except for animation studios which are natively more suited to company level approaches).  When we take a step back and look from the level of the company, the entire life cycle of a production from script to screen comes into view, opening up opportunities for long term planning, systemic changes and efficiencies.

While the majority of the environmental impact of entertainment comes from physical production, greenhouse gas emitting activities that are not directly attributable to the budget line of a production can represent a significant portion of overall emissions, including: 
  • Travel to markets and festivals
  • Development shoots (pilots, tests, scouting, etc.)
  • Offices (power, waste, materials)
  • Corporate staff (commuting or remote work)
  • In-house post production
  • fleet vehicles, and so on
Media companies that want to take their sustainability efforts to a higher level can take advantage of the various E.S.G. (Environment, Social, Governance) resources and excellent industry-agnostic business sustainability frameworks available. Frameworks like B Corp, initiatives like the SME Climate Hub and the UN Global Compact for Business, for example, offer best practices for all businesses.
“While we’re proud to have achieved a B Corp certification for our animation studio Atomic Cartoons, the best part of the process was going through B Corp's list of best practices and ranking how we were doing against their standards. It gave us a lot of ideas on how to improve on environmental and social areas, but also prompted us to brush up on our governance practices and even think about how we could do more for our clients and audiences. It pushed us to really think about every aspect of the business, engage our stakeholders and teams, and even do a number of things that we might not have tried or thought of.”
Marsha Newbery
VP Sustainability & Business Affairs, Thunderbird Entertainment

Mind the “Say-Do Gap”

One of the trickiest conundrums in sustainability is how to close the so-called “say-do gap”; the differential between what a person or organization claims as their values and priorities, and their actual behaviour. If someone claims they are planet-friendly, while hiding emitting activities or not taking genuine action to reduce environmental harms, then they are green-washing.

Closing the say-do gap means ensuring that you and your teams are ‘walking the talk’. Use key-performance-indicators (e.g.: reduction targets or other metrics) tailored to your goals and track your progress.

Best Practices

Consider the following in your company and in your productions:
  • Prioritise sustainability in all decision-making and start planning during soft-prep or earlier.
  • Embed sustainability into your regular processes. Add sustainability to the agenda for production and creative meetings.  
  • Create a sustainability plan or roadmap that breaks down into specific, manageable and measurable tasks. Use existing business frameworks to guide, inspire and build your business sustainability plans.
  • Help shift the culture by challenging unsustainable norms.
  • Create opportunities for dialogue between leaders and staff and dynamic exchanges of information.
  • Pilot new ideas and ways-of-doing things and share outcomes (good and less-good) with your teams and colleagues
  • Ensure that sustainability wins and champions are incentivized and celebrated.