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How the media industry can create a greener tomorrow

John Ellerton, Head of Media Futures, BT Media & Broadcast
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It’s incredible to think that more than a year has passed since the UK went into its first lockdown, and what a year it’s been. As we navigate the rest of 2021, it’s evident that Covid-19 will have a lasting impact on our lives. But beyond this, it has also given us hope of creating a greener tomorrow.

We are in the midst of a climate emergency – indeed, the World Economic Forum says Earth could cross the global warming threshold as soon as 2027. So, when the world first went into lockdown, after years of polluting activities such as flying, commuting, and producing goods, human activity came to a halt and the environment thanked us for it. After rising steadily for decades, as a direct result of the pandemic, global carbon dioxide emissions fell by 6.4%, or 2.3 billion tonnes, which is roughly double Japan’s yearly emissions. That said, new research shows this drop is not expected to last once the virus is under control. So, what can we do about it?

With plans for all adults in the UK to be vaccinated by July, we are all starting to see a way out of the pandemic. But amongst all the excitement, we must remember that we have a responsibility to preserve all the healing that the planet has recently done. And the media and broadcasting industry has its own very important part to play. From joining sustainability initiatives such as the DPP sustainability accreditation to embracing remote production, as an industry we must take positive steps towards a more sustainable future.

Reach for the stars 

The media industry is definitely aware of the need to improve sustainability, but sometimes knowing where to start is tricky – especially if you’re a small or medium sized business. Luckily, there are bigger players in the space who are leading the way. Many organisations in the broadcasting space now have net zero carbon business goals and will be implementing changes such as switching to renewables, decarbonising buildings and transitioning to low carbon vehicles.

While “net zero carbon” might sound out of reach, all media and broadcasting companies should set ambitious yet realistic goals, which is the key to making sure they are met. Then what’s needed is to instil a sustainability-first mindset where the whole company, from intern to CEO, is committed to positive environmental impacts.

Don’t be afraid of commitment

Industry-wide sustainability initiatives like the DPP’s sustainability accreditation can also help companies keep tabs on their progress. What’s more, it can act as a benchmark for procurement teams to assess the environmental impact of their suppliers. Increasingly, a recognised stamp of approval is becoming a must-have as businesses will only purchase technology from organisations who are promoting environmental sustainability.

Committing to a group or programme shows a company is willing to go that one step further for the environment, and it’s invigorating to see so many media and broadcasting players getting on board and being accountable for their actions.

The future of production

The pandemic has forced the media industry to embrace digital transformation at an incredible rate, propelling us all into the future of production now. Despite working from home, media companies and broadcasters have kept audiences entertained throughout lockdowns, getting new and quality content on our screens, in turn, helping the media industry become more sustainable.

Remote production is no mean feat. It means equipping employees with professional video and audio mixing surfaces, plus studio-grade video monitors and headphones; all of which relies on low-latency networking. But the industry has proved it can be done and we now find ourselves in the midst of a remote production revolution whereby there has been a massive reduction in people travelling. 30 per cent of the EU’s total CO2 emissions comes from transport, of which 72 per cent comes specifically from road transportation and so this couldn’t come at a better time. The need to lower road use to reduce carbon footprints is evidently crucial.

The road to green

In the coming months, retail and hospitality will re-open its doors, and soon so will entertainment venues and more. We can, at last, begin to hope for the return of normality in the not-so-distant future. However, it’s imperative we do not reverse all the good that was done in terms of sustainability over the past 12 months. Commitment to sustainability is not something the media industry should take lightly, and it isn’t just a PR stunt. Truly dedicating ourselves to the cause is the only way to arrest and even reverse the damage that’s been done to the planet over the years. If we can embrace industry initiatives, set ambitious goals and thrive in this new year of remote production, the road to green is in sight.

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