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2023: The Year Sustainable Production Gets Serious

“We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator. Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish.”

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres at COP 27, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

“Narratives enable people to imagine and make sense of the future through processes of interpretation, understanding, communication and social interaction.”

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Study, 2022

2023 will be the year when sustainable production in film and TV gets serious. Increased regulation, reporting obligations, channel commitments, Albert certification now mandated by channels on all new TV commissions and the Climate Content Pledge – means sustainability is no longer optional, it’s a requirement. Designed to raise the bar on climate storytelling and to inspire action, the Pledge brings together 12 of the UK and Ireland’s largest media brands: the BBC, BBC Studios, BritBox International, Channel 4, Channel 5/ Paramount UK, Warner Bros. Discovery UK & Ireland (previously Discovery UK & Ireland), ITV, RTE, S4C, Sky, STV and UKTV. Although the Pledge was signed in 2021 at COP26, channels agree that 2023 will see a surge in sustainability focus.

And it’s not surprising that pressure is mounting for the coming year on businesses to focus on environmental responsibilities and deliver climate action. 2022 was one of the hottest years on record and the dangers of business as usual couldn’t be starker. It is now widely understood that climate change represents the biggest risk to business and society at large.

The sobering realities for the media industry are clear.

With more than a billion hours of content consumed on a single streaming platform every day, the TV/entertainment industry carbon footprint now shamefully exceeds that of the airline industry (Futuresource Consulting & InterDigital).

Given its shocking impact and despite slower initial adoption by TV companies, momentum is picking up with climate and social impact activity being forced to take centre stage. The last year has seen the media industry up the sustainability ante on screen, from the eBay - ITV Love Island partnership promoting second-hand clothing which inspired over 50% of viewers to buy pre-loved fashion, to the BBC’s Frozen Planet - EastEnders collaboration which saw the soap’s end credits, with the iconic map of London’s East End flooded to highlight the impact of climate change and rising sea levels.

BAFTA Albert's latest update on sustainable production sights that Sky’s children’s animation with planet-saving champion Obki the alien joins a raft of other climate content - from Channel 5’s new commission Britain’s Poisoned Rivers, examining the crisis facing the UK’s waterways, to Channel 4’s award-winning Joe Lycett vs The Oil Giant which delved into Shell’s sustainability claims. STV’s Sean’s Scotland sees weatherman Sean Batty meet locals engaged in sustainable community-based projects, whilst S4C, Y Byd ar Bedwar examined the effects of controversial carbon off-setting schemes in Wales. UKTV’s comedy We Are Not Alone, features (more) aliens who, having lost their planetary home due to an extreme climate event, land on earth only to discover humans poisoning themselves with fossil fuels.

Sustainability Behind the Scenes

And behaviour change behind the scenes isn’t far behind. The pandemic has helped to accelerate the use of virtual production technologies, reducing and sometimes eliminating travel for production altogether. The use of remote, local crews and resources is on the rise. The Argonon Group, for example has been collaborating across its businesses and territories to access a bigger, stronger network of local partners, crew, and talent. What started as a response to filming during Covid has become a key process that saves on costs, increases responsiveness, builds cooperation and importantly delivers reach and value within local communities.

Virtual production studio and virtual reality (VR), augmented reality powered sound stages are using green screens and LED walls to render locations, replacing all manner of physical props to reduce waste.

The impact of this is good news for the bank balance.

Across the film and TV industry, we are seeing sustainability cost savings averaging at 30%. More productions are being inspired by previous sustainable hits like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 which back in 2014 saved over $400,000 by implementing sustainable production. A wardrobe recycling program sourced textiles from farmer’s markets and over 49 tons of materials from the sets were donated or designated for reuse on future films; to combat food waste, 5,862 meals were donated to local shelters; biodegradable snow and water-based smoke was used along with the elimination of plastic bottles and the use of eco-friendly cleaning products. The end result was that the film has become the most eco-friendly and financially successful film in the history of Sony Pictures, prompting others to adopt sustainability measures too.

In the last year, several film, technology and broadcasting giants have set much-needed, ambitious targets: NBCUniversal, Apple, Amazon, and Sky have recently committed to go carbon neutral whilst Microsoft has committed to go carbon negative, by 2030.

Sustainability in 2023 Impossible for the Film and TV Industry to Ignore

Yes in 2023, sustainability will be impossible for the film and TV industry to ignore.

Rightly so, with more than 5 billion TV viewers around the world (source: Advertising and Media Outlook) this industry has the power to change hearts, minds and prompt widescale sustainable behaviour change.

So what should broadcasters, producers, commissioners, creatives and managers expect in this newly sustainable 2023?

Over the last year, Futuretivity has gathered insights and perspectives from across the industry. From production companies, facilities, channels, studios and streamers, these are a few of our findings:

1. Programmes with climate content are now more likely to engage audiences and win awards, not to mention the reputational and financial benefits to the production companies and the channels commissioning them.

2. Climate change is the biggest risk to any business and all companies need a sustainability strategy to mitigate this risk.

3. Investors are demanding that companies have sustainability and ESG strategies, policies and practices in place, with ESG investments already bringing returns of 70-80% in some sectors.

4. Production companies employing sustainability partners to ensure the skills, knowledge and insights needed to deliver action are more likely to survive and be financially sustainable. In TV we have a tendency to believe we can do everything in-house but sustainability is different and requires specialist skills.

5. Sustainability training is on the rise with savvy production companies employing specialists to deliver this to staff to broaden capabilities and future-proof businesses.

Yes, 2023 will be the year that sustainable production gets serious. Why? Because quite simply it will have to.

Futuretivity delivers climate positivity with vibrant, socially impactful commercial power. We recognise that the how-to of sustainability can be overwhelming, so we partner with businesses to empower them with actionable roadmaps, skills for the future and meaningful connections to succeed. Being a conscious business needn’t cost the earth nor cost your business.

For more inspiration and insights on sustainability for business go to If you are a company that needs help with sustainability in your business book a call with Futuretivity now and get sustainability delivered.

Photo credit: Rastislav Durica via Pexels

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