As the executive producer of Springwatch, if anyone can call themselves a ‘green person’ it is probably me. But sustainability isn’t a niche topic; keeping your family alive, happy and healthy is something that anyone can understand and that is precisely what sustainability is about. Across the broadcast industry we’ve yet to act on this realisation however, considering the operational improvements we must make and the thought leadership we must show, we’ve barely started.
Ultimately everyone in the human race is going to have to understand a lot more about our sustainability; it will define our lives. But considering that globally 40% of adults have not even heard about climate change, the media industry has made a small step in the right direction regarding audience education. The trick to success here will not be worthy green programming, but bringing sustainability into the mainstream and making it a cultural norm. And the key to making that a reality will be open industry-wide discussion.
As an agent for behavioural change the media is well placed to be vocal on the green agenda; it deals in ideas and emotions and can shape and define them. Looking at the possibility for the broadcast industry to show stronger cultural leadership on green issues, many people are concerned about how sustainability is portrayed editorially. Big issues can be tricky, especially those concerning behaviour change, but we have a good track record in talking about them. There is no point however in plastering messages everywhere, this would not look normal and a grounding in normality is how we have succeeded with big issues in the past.
There is a latent understanding and guilt across the industry that we have ‘maxed’ the planet and the community is poised for positive change. We can’t ask the environment how it feels and if it is being treated better, finding the metrics to celebrate small positive changes can also be similarly challenging.
We must continue to propagate a culture of continuous improvement and we need the leaders within our industry’s largest organisations to help us choose which achievable steps we should prioritise next.
Right now, I can’t imagine the strategic decommission of a production as a result of a high carbon footprint. A realistic ambition regarding our obligation to act on sustainability should be one of continuous improvement. Media conferences are not government summits; we cannot rid the world of greenhouse gases. We should however be hungry for change and impatient if the rate of progress is ever slowing down. We have the knowledge and skills to understand what is going on and the technology to do something about it. Why wait?