Decarbonizing Content Production

By Jonathan Parker, Managing Director, EMEA & APAC, APR

The latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC ) report offers a glimmer of hope that if we took drastic action on carbon footprint reduction, global warming can be kept to 1.5°C. Stay the course and by the end of this decade, the dire consequences of this man made catastrophe will be our lived reality.

The global populace must abandon platitudes and rhetoric, and start walking the talk on sustainability. Governments, businesses, and communities everywhere have unique roles to play in preserving the environment and leaving this world inhabitable for future generations to thrive in.

Malaysia has made advancing sustainability a key theme within the Twelfth Malaysia Plan (12MP) and has gone full-throttle on the sustainability movement. The country has been paying attention to these developments as Malaysia launched the National Green Technology Policy (NGTP) in July 2009, in conformance to the overall trend to adopt sustainable development practices. Currently, Malaysian corporates are advocating sustainability as issues faced by certain sectors come into sharp focus, according to research by PwC Malaysia and Capital Markets Malaysia.

However, Malaysia’s green ambition comes with a steep price. And everyone will certainly feel the pinch. On the enterprise level, the bitter pill comes in the form of carbon taxation, and consequently, the pressure to invest in expensive low carbon technology solutions to avoid tax hikes is high.

Sacrifices and difficult choices are on the horizon as drastic changes in the way people live, work, and do business cause temporary disruptions and labor pains. Effective collaboration among communities, industries, and the government is necessary to ensure the success of a nationwide movement. Transition frameworks will also have to be in place to support households and businesses as they shift towards more sustainable models. There is much to do, and much to look forward to.

Sustainability and the Asian consumer

Compared to carbon-emission heavyweights such as the energy, manufacturing, and transportation sectors, the entire content creation ecosystem including advertising agencies, marketing firms, and production houses are hardly mentioned in the global conversation on climate change. But they still have a role to play in mitigating environmental risks. And this should be evident not just in their messaging but in the entire production process – from storyboard to airing

Consumers seem to agree. According to a Globescan report that surveyed 10 APAC markets, 72% of the region’s consumers want to know where products are made as well as the working conditions in the product’s supply chain. Meanwhile, a Kantar report, revealed a list of telling figures on the growing awareness of sustainability practices among consumers in Asia: 58% are personally affected by environmental problems; 53% have stopped buying from brands that negatively impact the environment and society and, 63% believe sustainability is the responsibility of the brand.

These studies point to a couple of key findings – firstly, that Asian consumers have caught on the sustainability fever. Those days when sustainability was considered a Western discipline are over. Secondly, businesses that do not prioritize sustainability risk losing market share. Thirdly, and this is what I want to delve into more deeply – consumers will be more loyal to brands that are transparent about the environmental impact of the entire value chain that brings these products and services to market.

Underneath the brand story – Sustainability in content creation

From weaving sustainable messaging into brand stories and creative concepts, to how the content itself is produced, the advertising industry is well-positioned to create lasting solutions in the battle against climate change. And in so doing, build brand trust and loyalty among consumers

However, the production of advertising itself generates a significant carbon footprint, especially on set. And it takes only one keyboard warrior to capitalize on the irony of a production set using disposable plastic cutlery to feed its crew while creating content for an eco-friendly brand. One unsavoury blog post from a competitor, an irate crew member, or a consumer rights advocate is all it takes to inflict irreversible damage. On that note, here are five simple measures to decarbonize content production:

  1. Eliminate “baked-in” carbon emissions in creative development

Creative work often has carbon emissions “baked-in” that pass scrutiny. Now with virtual production technologies, shooting a scene on a snowy mountain slope halfway across the world could be re-imagined without sacrificing the quality of creative work. Travel accounts for nearly 40% of the carbon emissions in the production industry. Alternative solutions centered on sustainability considered during creative concepting and production planning can dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of a production.

  • Energy choices:  Renewable energy sources
  • Opting for 100% renewable energy where possible is instrumental to carbon footprint reduction and cost-effective too.
  • Selecting electric or hybrid vehicles for transporting cast and crew, and sourcing hybrid generators can also have a huge impact.
  • Bring partners along the journey

Calculating carbon emissions entails a thorough evaluation of the entire production supply

chain. This pertains to Scope 3 Emissions which can account for up to 70% of the carbon footprint of a production. Unless brands convince partners and suppliers to share the ambition to shoot sustainably, their content will always fall short of the mark.

  • Take recycling seriously

From small set designs to massive artificial environments, production can leave behind a plethora of materials that can be recycled or repurposed for further use. Unfortunately, though, many of these materials wind up in a landfill – expending even more energy to breakdown. Consider how set pieces could be recycled for other campaigns or repurposed by local organizations for other uses. Consideration should also be given to using recycled materials which can also help with disposal; recycled materials are already naturally recyclable, so a circle of re-use is created.

  • Offset carbon emissions as a last resort

After exhausting all means to achieve carbon neutrality in content production, the next step

is to invest in carbon offsetting – some common examples are: by rehabilitating a forest or funding the development of wind farms. The cost of offsetting is usually much lower than expected and there are many partners to choose from, most industry associations will be able to provide a list of authentic, certified organizations.

Against the deafening cacophony of climate change talks, brands must all the more be nurtured and grown to serve consumers’ evolving demands while shaping their burgeoning values more intuitively. It’s time to look at your brand story holistically from product development through to your entire marketing supply chain and ensure cohesion and alignment for the better good.

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