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Action Guide

Sustainability Policies

Don’t underestimate the power of a good policy.  Sustainability policies are a written commitment to certain standards and outline how you intend to manage your environmental impacts.
A solid sustainability policy is far more than a statement of intent or set of rules. It can provide support for your sustainability team, particularly if they do not have decision-making authority. It can also provide a unified framework for all workers to understand the environmental priorities and know where to include sustainability in their day to day work.

A sustainability plan is a specific roadmap for sustainability on a production or in a company. It may include relevant sustainability policies as well as setting out specific actions being taken, targets, and key performance indicators and timelines. Your sustainability policy(ies) underpin and support your overall sustainability plan.

Production Policies:  Policies can be as varied as companies themselves, but there are a few mainstays that are more commonplace, including: mandatory carbon footprints, health and safety protocols, local supplier policies, green travel policies, no-idling policies, plastic bans, hybrid-work policies.

Communicating Policies: Every policy should be backed up by a mechanism to communicate the policy. Include policies in employee handbooks, or include them on call sheets or green memos. Consider holding a sustainability kick off meeting to introduce your sustainability policies to all crew at the start of production.

Updating Policies: It’s also critical to revisit and update your policies regularly, whether that’s between seasons, or on a yearly basis. Coming back to policies regularly allows teams to assess whether the policy is working and how it can be improved.

Production Sustainability Policies

Policies can be as varied as companies themselves, but there are a few mainstays that have become more commonplace:

No Idling / Anti-Idling policies.
Idle-free policies restrict the idling of vehicles and are a straightforward way to save GHG emissions and fuel. Several jurisdictions in Canada have also incorporated no-idling into bylaws, including Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, which is considering the country’s strictest no-idling bylaw. No-idling policies should be the default on productions and restrict idling to no longer than 60 seconds, except for where local jurisdictions have stricter rules. Include a mechanism for monitoring and compliance. If idling is not avoidable (e.g.: if a vehicle is used to hold cast, charge batteries, etc.) then prioritise the use of EV's in those positions.)

Sustainable Travel policy.
A travel policy sets environmental standards related to travel, with a priority typically on reducing emissions from air travel, ground transportation and hotel stays. As a general rule, the amount of carbon accountable to a production from economy flights will be lower than a first or business class flight, which are also lower than private jets and helicopters. Rail travel is often a green choice where the commute time is under four hours. Prohibit the use of private jets.

No Single Use Plastic policy.
This type of policy seeks to reduce or outright restrict the use of single-use plastics on and off set. Since the single-use plastic ban in Canada came into effect in November, 2023, this project hopefully will become easier to implement.

Carpooling / shuttling / Transit policies.
Reducing our reliance on motor vehicles is a critical priority. Shuttling crew or encouraging carpooling can be beneficial for cutting fuel costs and GHG emissions. Certain locations may more easily lend themselves to car-sharing or encouraging the use of public transit as an option for commuting crew members. Policies can be put in place to incentivise these approaches.

Remote / hybrid work policies. Encouraging remote work where practical can have environmental benefits, with a study from Cornell University recently estimating that remote workers have a 54% smaller footprint than their commuting counterparts. No solution is perfect, however.  Remote workers still use energy but from sources that are not in the control of the producer, which might limit the benefits of clean power options, such as setting up renewable energy for a studio.

Carbon accounting/measurement policy.
A carbon accounting policy sets out the expectations for emissions measurement and tracking for productions. This would typically include which productions would get measured (all vs a budget or genre threshold), what you will measure, and the process for implementation.

Philanthropy and community engagement policies.
Some productions or companies may wish to give back to their communities or certain causes.  While a policy is not always required, it can be an opportunity to think about how you’ll decide what to support, what that support should minimally include, and whether and how you’ll measure the impact of your support. Filming with First Nations, Metis or Inuit communities should consider the policies and practices recommended by the Indigenous Screen Office.

Supplier policies.
A supplier policy is one way to support the environmental impact of your supply chain. It can be used to investigate standards, apply codes of ethics or conduct, or set down preferences for the company’s procurement practices (e.g.: local suppliers, indigenous owned businesses, B Corp’s, sustainable practices, etc).

Health & safety policies.
Health and Safety policies belong on the list of sustainability policies because of their role in keeping people safe from increasing climate change risks such as wildfire smoke-days, extreme heat and other extreme weather events. Your production health and safety policies should include measures to guard against climate risks where applicable.

“Throughout the production of season 2, we set a clear policy that the circus location should never move. Locations was asked to identify suitable sets within a 10-minute drive perimeter from the circus. This approach resulted in significant savings and sustainability wins in regards to labour expenses and fuel consumption. In cases where the set exceeded the 10-minute drive limit (approximately 5% of the time), production set up on-set green rooms for Wardrobe, Hair and Makeup, to eliminate the need for cast to drive to the circus.”
Jason Fischer
Producer, Reginald the Vampire, Great Pacific Media

Best Practices

Consider the following in your company and in your productions:
  • Assess what actions are practical to implement and create policies where you want to guide behaviour towards certain goals or want certain actions to be mandatory.
  • Communicate policies in ways that work best depending on the audience. This could include delivering them via a sustainability presentation for cast and crew at the start of production, or via the call sheet, green memos, or an employee handbook. 
  • Assign accountability for all sustainability policies and monitor compliance. 
  • Regularly review and update sustainability policies to stay current with industry best practices, regulations and technologies.