Posted on 22nd July 2019

Bal Samra: Managing Director of Television, BBC

You don’t have to be a green person to understand why we must behave responsibly; principally at the BBC it is about innovation and efficiency. Contributing to a more sustainable world is core to the values of the corporation and we do this with targets, industry partnerships and engaging our communities with the key issues. Our targets help us monitor progress but I don’t believe these have been the primary driver for change. Initiating a common industry approach to sustainable production has fuelled much of the progress we have seen internally at the BBC and it is crucial in achieving more.

Fantastic change can be achieved when working with industry partners; we believe more can be done by working collaboratively rather than imposing carbon reduction targets. Since commissioning albert the carbon calculator in 2010 we’ve made it an integral part of our in house programming and have also encouraged 60 indies to voluntarily submit their production footprints to us. We will continue to collaborate on sustainability; albert+ is a sustainable production certification scheme we helped to create and it is now widely in use across the BBC and the rest of the industry. I’ve a feeling that a supportive and progressive roll-out of our sustainability initiatives has achieved greater uptake overall.

The BBC has a responsibility to ensure that audiences can enjoy content in the least impactful way and we understand how changes to our output are reflected by changes in our audience’s technology. The switch to digital created a huge amount of e-waste. This is a big problem which the industry needs to avoid replicating on future technological changes. Although it is hard for an organisation like the BBC to intervene in the consumer electronic market, we notice that increasingly it is software (not hardware) which is a key component of technology upgrade. Software is within the scope of the BBC and we will continue to develop ours in a way which can lead to a reduction of e-waste.

I recently supported the re-procurement of our playout services, an integral part of our content distribution which consumes a great deal of energy. Discussion around the carbon impact of the tenders received was an absolute priority. No longer are deals solely struck on economics or quality; we are looking for our suppliers to support us in our corporate sustainability objectives too.

There is now a political urgency about climate action. And as the direction of travel points increasingly towards a sustainable future, organisations are encouraged to take it more seriously. All organisations must be more self-conscious and embed sustainability into everyday decisions. Despite not being a hard-line on green issues I do hold an environmental consciousness. We live out of London , we plant trees every year, we do this because we enjoy it – doing your bit for nature is an intrinsically satisfying thing to do.

The BBC is under no illusion about the length of the journey ahead, however. We understand the challenges climate change will pose to our operations and existence; restricting the resources we need to serve our audiences content. But the wheels towards an environmentally resilient BBC are in motion, both in house and with key suppliers. Sustainability needs to be moved up the agenda.