Sustainability must remain on the broadcasting agenda

December 5, 2015

Aaron Matthews is industry sustainability manager, BAFTA albert + scheme for sustainability. Here he reports on how two of TV’s most-loved brands, Springwatch and Coronation Street, pitted their eco credentials against each other in the new film and TV category at the Observer Ethical Awards.

“Corrie emerged victorious after cutting its carbon footprint considerably and introducing green issues editorially. But what most impressed judges was the rollout of a carbon literacy course, which engaged crew on the impact of their work and fuelled collaborative action to reduce emissions.

Low-cardon … programmes such as ITV’s Coronation Street are leading the way with a green agenda

The course was developed jointly by five industry partners, including ITV and the BBC, demonstrating how the industry is collaborating to reduce its environmental impact.

Having been involved in ‘greening’ the film and TV industry for five years, I have celebrated my fair share of double-sided printing, revelled in the reuse of water bottles and applauded on-set recycling. These aren’t the things that excite me, however. Although they represent tangible reductions, they do little to curb carbon emissions.

Entrants into this year’s awards marked a movement away from entry level. Supporting Springwatch and Corrie’s applications were low-carbon generators, supply chain engagement, efficient lighting and on-set composting. This is the sexier side of sustainability. It also marks a move away from simple swaps towards planned strategic efficiencies, both financial and environmental.

It is encouraging that more people are taking a long-term view of the environmental sustainability of production. Whether costing polystyrene against compostable cups or pricing responsible materials disposal, the paybacks are there – if you can wait for them.

Doing things the right way can take a little longer until you get used to it, and sustainability’s perceived inconvenience hinders our move towards a greener industry.

We must, of course, consider a broader social sustainability too, diversity included. I fear, however, that if the industry insists on prioritising one agenda over another, we might end up diverse yet doomed. Corrie and Springwatch have given me hope that things are moving in the right direction.”

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