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How Production became sustainable by accident, and why we can never look back.

A hard pill to swallow: the year we thought the least about sustainability in production was the year we had the smallest carbon footprint in the last decade.

Does this mean that the best way for production to be more environmentally responsible is to stop producing altogether? Of course not. But after years of trying to come up with the best method on how to be more sustainable, we achieved it by just changing the way we work, by taking less action. Reducing travel. Reducing paper. Reducing large in-person shoots. Using technology and remote shooting tools to continue creating with less impact on the environment.

As a marketer, I love the production industry and the wonderful ideas that we craft into meaningful content. As a citizen and father, I have the moral obligation of tackling the perils of climate change. These two things should not be in conflict. We can’t go back to the way things were pre-COVID, as further detailed in a recent report by The Producers Guild of America.

This is the moment where our values align with our actions. We love this industry, and we want to make it work. We want to bring the best work to life, without that affecting the planet we leave to future generations. In the time of COVID, we’ve lost a lot of focus on environmental sustainability as our attention was drawn towards surviving the pandemic, but we can be more intentional moving forward. Ad Green reports that transportation, energy to power lighting and facilities and waste are the three biggest factors contributing to our carbon footprint. But by embracing this knowledge and considering these focus areas of action, we can reduce our impact and improve our commitment to the climate as content creators and producers:

  • Prevent & Repurpose: Quick Wins in Sustainable Production – We all need a quick win in today’s world, and the prevention category is where we can achieve this. After all, the best way to ensure a positive impact is to prevent a material impact at all: We are talking about reducing our cooling costs, eliminating unnecessary travel, giving a new life to our props.
  • Calculate, Off-set & Reduce your Carbon Footprint – For those unavoidable practices, it’s imperative to calculate our negative environmental impact and offset them with positive and science-based actions.
  • Advocate & Normalize Sustainability – As we all look to put our house in order, it’s time to expand our scope of influence by normalizing the advocacy for sustainability, as well as assessing our partners and encouraging our clients to embrace better practices.
Maintaining Sustainable Production in the New Roaring ‘20s

During COVID we have had to rely on technology like never before, from connecting our teams to getting the work done. The truth is that we haven’t been totally inactive – we’ve just not been on-set; we’ve been active in a new way thanks to technology.

But technology can be the best or worst thing for sustainability.

Just because technology has made things easier, creating for the sake of creating or saving and storing for the sake of storing is no longer an option. We need to be more intentional about what we produce, why we produce it and how we use it. And we need tools in place to do this.

Think of what’s happening in marketing around asset and channel proliferation – brands every day are talking to us about how we can meet their growing asset needs. Occasionally we hear from Procurement as a result of a business exercise: “how can we maximize our investments,” which leads to conversations about efficiency in production. But it shouldn’t be left to a cost-saving exercise. At this point, we know it’s a sustainability exercise too.

Here are a few considerations to inform your production strategies that are a responsible use of finances, creative concepts and resources needed to produce them.

  1. Brief Responsibly. Bundling and streamlining is key to taking responsibility and finding transparency in your production. There are opportunities to bundle briefs and use automation to produce and adapt assets at scale, versus costly one-off projects.
  2. Creating Responsibly – Use of technology to create a responsible set. We’re talking about virtual backgrounds, drop kits for remote shoots, CGI to bring custom scenes to life virtually.
  3. Use Assets Responsibly – drive more asset reuse to make the most of what you do create. You can leverage tech-powered solutions such as AI for audio dubbing. Use reporting to learn what assets are performing well and what assets your local markets use vs. do not use so your briefs get better and you aren’t wasting resources.

If we truly make an attempt to do the right thing, we might find something incredible will start to happen – we may just hit the accidental jackpot of saving our clients a little money and start down the path of saving our planet at the same time.