Sustainability in sports broadcasting: “Tech companies have a huge role to play in arresting climate change”

Following the launch of its ‘Committed to Sustainability Programme’, DPP managing director Mark Harrison sat down with SVG Europe to outline the reasons behind the intervention and to discuss the positive impact that media and technology companies working in all genres of television, including sport, can make.

In November 2019, the DPP launched a major new initiative devised to promote environmentally sustainable practices among broadcast industry suppliers and content providers.

Harrison: “Who wants to work with a company who doesn’t appear to care about the environment?”

Supported by SVG Europe, the ‘Committed to Sustainability Programme’ provides a self-assessment checklist that enables companies to record their progress in implementing sustainability policies and awards them a score out of five.

Completion of the assessment entitles a company to display the Committed to Sustainability mark, and to publicise their engagement with the Programme.

The score is private to the company concerned, but it can be used in procurement submissions, in marketing, and as a motivating force for further improvement. The DPP will monitor the average score for the media industry as a whole and report regularly on the sector’s progress

The Programme is available to all companies, free of charge, irrespective of whether they are a member or sponsor of the DPP or SVG.

Following the launch, SVG Europe sat down with DPP managing director Mark Harrison to find out more about the initiative.

What are DPP members telling you about environmental sustainability? How important is it to their businesses?

Harrison: Environmental sustainability is now a major priority for a huge range of media companies. At the DPP’s 2019 Tech Leaders’ Briefing, nearly a quarter of all the speakers from content providers, highlighted sustainability as a strategic priority. Several of our supplier members have also told us it is of central importance to them.

There are two reasons why this issue is being taken so seriously.

The first is the recognition that tech companies – and most media companies are also tech companies – have a huge role to play in arresting climate change. The World Economic Forum estimates that the digital sector can half CO2 emissions by 2030 through a mix of direct and indirect actions – including the influence media has on people’s lives.

The second is that companies increasingly recognise the need to demonstrate their business values to society at large. Consumers – in business to business as well as the business to consumer markets – are reluctant to buy from companies that fail to reflect their values. And who wants to work with a company who doesn’t appear to care about the environment?

Why did the DPP decide to intervene and why now?

Harrison: Sustainability was raised at our Tech Leaders’ Briefing in 2018. It was interesting that while only three speakers referenced it directly that year, it created a buzz around the whole event. There was an explicit call for the DPP to use its ability to bring together all parts of the media supply chain, to formulate an industry-wide scheme.

We were keen to respond because we could see that, while the need for action had become urgent, most companies needed help to work out how to measure their impact and improve their performance.

From our own research into the carbon footprint of sports TV production and outside broadcasting, in particular, we know that travel and energy use are two of the areas that require improvement. But are there other areas that need to be addressed?

Harrison: Waste management is also an important area to be addressed. Waste that ends up in a landfill site, or is simply dumped, can emit Green House and other toxic gases as it begins to break down. Plastics are especially harmful as they also tend to find their way into the waterways – which has a huge impact on marine life.

Many waste disposal companies acknowledge this problem and offer zero-to-landfill services. This means they will sort, reuse or recycle waste wherever possible; and if it can’t be reused or recycled then it will be incinerated and used to produce energy.

The other aspect of waste management relevant to our industry is the recycling and reuse of technical equipment. Media companies have a lot of kit that reaches end-of-life. Organisations have a legal requirement to dispose of that equipment responsibly.

Some waste disposal providers will handle it for you; however, there are also third-party organisations that will take your tech equipment and repurpose and reuse it to give it a new lease of life.

While the immediate target for the Programme is suppliers and content providers, how can other organisations, in particular broadcasters and federations or leagues, help to make this programme a success?

Harrison: The principles outlined in our programme apply to any company. At the DPP, for example, we have put ourselves through the Programme, even though we are not a supplier or content company. We are just a group of people who work on our laptops at home or in an office! When the self-assessment gave us our score, it wasn’t great – but that provides the incentive for us to do better so that we can see our score gradually improve.

And that is the purpose of this Programme: to provide a framework to help all companies understand what they can do to make a difference by improving their own environmental performance.

What is the ultimate goal of the DPP’s ‘Committed to Sustainability Programme’?

Harrison: The ultimate goal is simple: for every company in the media sector to embrace the Programme. It is open to everyone – non-members as well as DPP members. It is simple. It is free. We have kickstarted something, but we would now like to see it shared and promoted by everyone – which is why the support of SVG is so important and so appreciated.

To find out more about the DPP’s ‘Committed to Sustainability Programme’ visit or contact programme delivery manager Abdul Hakim.

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