The Sustainability Channel in association withLBB & Friends Beach

Lights, Camera, Eco-Action: Rethinking Production Practices

Production Company
Warsaw, Poland
Lucky Luciano invites some of the top names in production for a conversation around sustainability and the intersection of creativity, this Earth Day, writes LBB’s Tará McKerr

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

It’s Earth Day, once again. It’s easy to find ourselves swept up in the annual ritual of eco-conscious gestures: recycling bins overflow, social media feeds flood with verdant vistas, and brands hastily don the cloak of sustainability. 

Yet, amidst this fleeting flurry of green-tinted enthusiasm, one question looms larger: is our commitment to the planet merely a performance? A brief dalliance with environmentalism before returning to business as usual? 

For creatives, this question cuts to the core of our responsibility. As stewards of imagination and innovation, we hold the power to shape narratives, inspire change, and challenge the status quo. But all too often, efforts that champion sustainability are limited – tokenistic nods to Mother Earth dissipating as quickly as the morning mist. The time for superficial gestures has passed. The planet demands more than momentary homage, it is asking for sustained action, systemic change and unwavering commitment. From production studios to advertising agencies, the creative industry stands at a pivotal crossroads. 

Today, we get into the heart of this conversation. Industry leaders share their frustrations and aspirations – from reimagining production practices to embedding sustainability into the very bones of storytelling. After all, the greatest stories are those that unfold not just on screen, but in the world around us. 

LBB> Many of us strive to reduce our impact on the planet, and there seems to be a will within the creative industry to change. That said, with the ever increasing push for sustainability, have you noticed new requirements and rules that the clients and agencies are implementing as a must to be in business with them?

Arleta Robinson, founder, managing partner, EP and sustainable production ambassador at Lucky Luciano

Sustainability and social responsibility have become very prominent subjects in our business. Clients and agencies are becoming more aware and are being pushed by their customers as well as regulators to include the cost of environmentally friendly solutions in their productions. Although we don’t yet regularly encounter formalised ESG or sustainable requirements, I feel like it’s a matter of time before most advertisers will want or need to implement some sort of impact management mandates for themselves and their suppliers. In this matter, it’s important to be one step ahead, to get a chance to assess your company’s impact and improve in a gradual, mindful way. Real change won’t happen if we’re forced to implement changes on the spot to meet the client’s new standards. It’s a greenwashing trap that’s more likely to do harm than good.

That’s why the Polish Advertising Producers Association has developed a Sustainable Production Guide. We’ve based it on similar European publications and widely consulted with crews and other suppliers. It’s extremely important to get as many stakeholders on board in the early stages of the process. Nobody likes being forced to abide by strict rules. Getting everybody involved allows us to create a system that is not only a good-sounding declaration but also works. Of course, these efforts have a far greater effect when everybody’s making them. That’s why our next step is to consult with clients’ and agencies’ associations to expand the scope of the guidelines to all the participants in the process. At the production level, our impact management is limited. If we pool our resources at every stage, we can then start making waves.

Rania Robinson, CEO and partner at Quiet Storm, B Corp 

Though not yet a universal ‘must have’ for all clients, we’re seeing sustainability considerations as a feature of RFIs and a factor in contractual agreements. This is especially true for bigger multinational organisations, and reflects the greater risk exposure these companies have to negative PR and investor pressures.

We may see the requirement from big corporates for their suppliers to demonstrate sustainability credentials start to cascade down to medium-sized and even smaller companies, becoming the standardised cost of doing business.

However, without evidence of sustainable behaviours in the day-to-day, the sustainability prerequisite from clients can seem more of a box-ticking exercise than a genuine commitment to the issue, or a drive for meaningful change in the world. It can sometimes feel like businesses are ‘outsourcing’ responsibility to third parties, so they can claim to be doing more than they really are.

Tim Lynch, executive producer and founder of Farm League

What we've noticed is renewed interest for the conversation surrounding sustainability and eco-responsibility and on our side we've been implementing standards for our own crew, vendors and partners in the process so that we can hold ourselves AND CLIENTS to the best possible standard. For the past two years we’ve been in the process of becoming a certified B Corporation and through the process we’ve learned a lot about not only our impact but all the important people that we bring along as well from clients to crew and beyond. We’re hoping this conversation continues to become more prevalent and engage a larger audience so we are all moving in the right direction.

Prudence Beecroft, managing director at Odelay Films, B Corp 

Essentially while there are a few agencies and clients who are really keen to work sustainably, we haven’t ever had anyone mandate this to be working with them. However, it’s something that we would love to see prioritised more regularly. We do see that many agency producers are AdGreen trained, which is certainly a step in the right direction. Knowledge is really key to be able to see where and how to make changes (no matter how micro or macro!). At Odelay we share our environmental policy, and calculate the Footprint Carbon Data to correlate with our bid letter, budget and treatment on every pitch, but it’s not something that is requested at all.

One brand that I see really implementing greener working practices is Lush. We did a project a few years back and they requested vegan catering. I loved this as it really felt aligned with their values as a business too. We provide vegan catering as standard now as it’s an effective way to mitigate carbon at source.

Stitch Richardson, managing director and executive producer at Spindle 

What’s positive is there seems to be an continually-growing collective responsibility for improving sustainability within advertising. We’ve seen new requirements coming through from agencies in the last 12 months, for example the request to work with a carbon calculator partner such as AdGreen, or have a sustainability consultant like Greenshoot on productions.

I do think there’s scope to collectively push this further though. More and more production companies, including Spindle, now have the capability to produce detailed Environmental Impact Assessments that cover everything from carbon footprint reduction to leftover meal donations. The great thing about production is that it’s an entire industry of problem solvers, so there are new ideas on how we can reduce environmental impact every day. Clients and agencies could certainly tap into this more if needed.

Margaux Beaumier, executive producer at Loveboat 

We are increasingly being asked to present a financial study for the implementation of a carbon footprint and/or CSR production. We feel very strongly that, in the near future, clients will be demanding to work alongside CSR-certified production. To date, only a few agencies have asked us to fill in a CSR enquiry on our in-house CSR initiatives and procedures, but this has not yet been democratised in the sector and, above all, it is a simple protocol which in no way determines whether or not we can work with this agency. 

LBB> Bare minimum requirements have proven insufficient over the years, relieving our conscience more than the planet. What do you think we could do in the future to go above and beyond to really use our business as a force for good? Not merely for the environment but for society, too.

Arleta Robinson, founder, managing partner, EP and sustainable production ambassador at Lucky Luciano

I think that the plan for the future of sustainable production should be to avoid the greenwashing trap. We can do that by constantly educating ourselves and taking a holistic approach that favours optimal solutions that best use our resources. It’s so easy to fall for a snake-oil remedy that has the most publicity and waste your effort with minimal overall effect. We need to realise that, unfortunately, our business has always been environmentally impactful. Thinking we can undo it in one swoop will only slow down the process. That’s why ESG and sustainability certifications like B-Corp or EcoVadis are so useful. It’s amazing that you can tap into the hours and hours of research they’ve done to keep you on the right path.

The routes to reduce pollution and waste are sometimes hard but rather clear-cut, yet there’s a whole spectrum of possibilities waiting to be utilised. We should keep a constant dialogue open between clients, agencies, and us to use them and keep discovering more. The right script can not only limit our negative impact but also have a positive one. Using Planet Placement in everyday content that everybody consumes is invaluable in spreading sustainable habits in a subliminal way. These creative avenues should be one of our focuses.

We also have to remember that Earth is not just the environment; it also includes people. It’s very important to me to find ways to give back to society. We do it on a larger scale, producing PSAs for free, donating to foster homes and charities. However, it’s equally important to do it at a direct level. That’s why we have adopted the Ethical Code of Conduct developed with the Women in Film Association to make sure our workplace is safe, inclusive, and respectful. It empowers everybody to speak up whenever they feel mistreated. Our door is also always open to young filmmakers whether it’s expertise or our infrastructure that they need to help with their projects.

Rania Robinson, CEO and founder of Quiet Storm, B Corp 

We know that sustainability is not a primary reason for consumers to choose a product or service, but it can be a key factor in their decision-making, and it strengthens relationships with existing customers. This is not because people necessarily prefer brands that behave in this way – but because it reinforces loyalty among existing customers, especially where values align.

Until there is a wholesale shift in social and cultural values on sustainability and other issues, there is little reason for businesses to change. Ultimately, the core functionality of a product or service, how well these meet people’s needs, and the price holds more sway.

However, from a wider business perspective, the rewards of following effective, well implemented sustainability practices can be significant, whether that’s through reduced operating costs, an improved ability to recruit and retain staff, or the business partnerships it opens up.

As a certified B Corp, Quiet Storm is firmly committed to the idea that businesses can be a force for good in the world, and we’re always looking for ways to do this better. A more interesting question however could be how do you encourage businesses who have not yet made this step, or even seen the need for it, to commit to change too?

Tim Lynch, executive producer and founder of Farm League

It starts with listening and more importantly, it starts right now with breaking down some of the conventions in our business. As a company we’re privileged to be in a position where we can work towards better controlling our own variables that equate to our environmental impact but also shepherding in the reality that it’s attainable in our industry. It has to be a priority for people first and foremost. Whether it’s hiring a sustainability officer, prioritising green sets, offsetting production carbon emissions, etc., it needs to be baked into the process from the start. When it comes to eco-responsibility, there’s always more to be done and we’re hopeful that this shift will continue to grow and encourage others to follow suit.

Prudence Beecroft, managing director at Odelay Films, B Corp 

Working sustainably means so much more for us than just operating as a carbon neutral business. Paperless and single use plastic free sets are the bare minimum we would or should expect from most production companies now. It’s ensuring that we also operate a fair, inclusive, equitable business with like minded collaborators and clients too. We have built a vast network of service companies, post houses and individuals who are also keen to create excellent work, while being mindful of the impact that work will have on the planet and/or people. However, I think there is no harm in applying pressure upstream to advertisers or institutions to also maintain and aspire to higher standards of equality and sustainability. Ultimately it’s good for the planet and their business too; these days consumers are far more conscious and savvy and there is nowhere to hide. Brands need to be working mindful of what they stand for, while also not greenwashing or being hypocritical either.

Odelay is a certified B Corp business and we are on a constant path of improvement and betterment. We have set targets to maintain and improve upon how we operate and that external accountability is a helpful driving force. I would love to see more brands making pledges or joining us as a B Corp-certified business. It’s a stamp of approval and intent which I think is very powerful.

Stitch Richardson, managing director and executive producer at Spindle 

I think if we’re truly going to make an impact in the world beyond our own industry, it has to come from the top. Business leaders that themselves are passionate about making a difference. Production can be wild, and doing extra on top of just making the film itself is difficult unless you can make it a key priority in your business. This sets the tone for the entire team and shapes everything from processes to recruitment.

With Spindle for example, we have an in-house Green Steward that specially monitors our projects and collaborates with the wider teams to reduce our carbon emissions and environmental impact, but this can only work if the whole business is willing to get behind the process. Another thing we’ve done that we found has really pushed us on, is a concerted effort around transparency. Publishing data on our carbon footprint for both productions and the wider business keeps us accountable and allows us to track progress. We then offset our entire residual footprint in a commitment to be a Climate Positive company, and are also part of 1% for the Planet – a global movement where members contribute at least one percent of their annual revenue to environmental causes.

In terms of people focused initiatives, there’s some great work being done to break down barriers to entry level positions within the industry. Companies like Just Runners who represent runners that don’t know anyone in the industry, and Shiny that run a fantastic director shadowing scheme that allows young directors to come on our sets and work closely with our directors on a live production. I think initiatives like this are already making a huge difference and will only gather speed in the coming years.

Margaux Beaumier, executive producer at Loveboat 

Unfortunately, we have to recognise that our industry, in addition to being rather polluting, is servicing a system that is at the very root of the crises we are experiencing. In my opinion, the only way for our businesses to be part of a positive dynamic would be to serve only brands that actually take positions on these subjects. But this vision being very utopian we could start by doing our best to reduce the carbon print of our daily projects. Still, this cannot be done at the production level only. This will only work if there is consideration for this at the concept level, right from the beginning, and if all partners want to commit. Our business is very strong in creating awareness and brands should be using it more in that way.

Work from Lucky Luciano