December 7, 2021

Green Industry

'Clean technology is just better technology': Netflix calls on suppliers and viewers to embrace net zero transition

'Clean technology is just better technology': Netflix calls on suppliers and viewers to embrace net zero transition

Streaming giant reveals shows focused on environmental issues are finding a growing and highly engaged audience

Global streaming giant Netflix has revealed how it is stepping up efforts to tackle emissions across its entire value chain from the production companies that produce its shows to the viewers who watch them, as it strives to meet its goal of delivering net zero emissions by the end of 2022.

Speaking at the Net Zero Festival this afternoon, Netflix’s sustainability officer, Emma Stewart, said tackling emissions across the entire value chain – known as Scope 3 emissions – was a challenge all businesses needed to tackle as a priority.

“A recent study showed that around a fifth of the Fortune 2000 companies have a net zero target,” she said. “But most, if any, don’t include a Scope 3 target. One of the things we felt deeply about was the extent to which Scope 3 should be included within [Netflix’s net zero] boundary.”

Stewart added that there while there was a growing focus on the issue there was currently little guidance from third party NGOs who set net zero standards on how to quantify Scope 3 targets and how far they should reach into a supply chain.

However, Netflix has decided to set a target covering all Netflix-branded productions, which includes hit shows such as Stranger Things, Travels with my Father, and Sex Education, as well as feature films such as The Irishman, as well as both downstream and upstream emissions from data centres, internet provision, and the devices used by those streaming its shows.

To help understand where these value chain emissions originate from Netflix is one of a number of streaming services and broadcasters to join DIMPACT, a collaboration with the University of Bristol to measure the carbon impact of streaming.

“It was really quite poorly understood until recently,” Stewart said, highlighting how the work of DIMPACT was now helping to identify where emissions savings could be realised.

The research project and a recent white paper from The Carbon Trust – titled The carbon impact of video streaming – has found the majority of video streaming emissions actually come from the device used to watch shows. Netflix has therefore committed to engaging with device manufacturers and encouraging them to ensure their climate targets include emissions from the use phase of their phones, TVs, and tablets. This engagement comes despite internet provision and devices use not officially being classified as Netflix’s emissions under Greenhouse Gas Protocol measurements, Stewart added.

Stewart advised all businesses should now embrace Scope 3 emissions targets. “Think deeply about Scope 3 because that is the new frontier and that is where expectations continue to rise,” she said.

She predicted Scope 3 would become easier to achieve as more businesses set net zero targets of their own. “By definition there is overlap on Scope 3 because one company’s Scope One and Two is another company’s Scope 3. But until the entire planet has a net zero target there has to be overlap.”

Stewart also highlighted how Netflix was working with its customers to raise awareness of the need to decarbonise. She revealed that 160 million households had watched at least one programme focused on the climate crisis in the past year, including shows such as Breaking Boundaries, narrated by David Attenborough, which was showcased by US President Joe Biden and Climate Envoy John Kerry at the recent Leaders Summit on Climate.

In addition, Stewart revealed how Netflix is piloting a range of new green technologies on its productions, including battery-based electric generators and generators using moveable hydrogen fuel cells. Currently, the TV and movie production industry uses diesel-based generators when on location, leading to significant emissions and air pollution.  

“A lot of this clean technology is just better technology,” she said. “Green hydrogen fuel cells make no noise and if there’s one thing that productions are very sensitive about it’s audio pollution. It also means that they can be placed anywhere. [These generators] are not creating fumes that the cast and crew are inhaling, it’s not contaminating catering and it’s certainly not effecting the audio quality of the film shoot.”

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