While Hollywood gets global attention this week for its self-congratulatory handing out of golden statues, the industry won't be winning any awards for being an environmental star. A new survey reveals that entertainment and digital media companies aren't following the script for being as green as celebrities would have us believe.
When it comes to pollution and energy consumption, Tinseltown is pretty brown. According to a 2006 study from the UCLA Institute of the Environment, the film and television and film industry is one of the major polluters in California, trailing only the petroleum industry in some categories.
And it's not just blowing up cars and building temporary sets that are contributing to the entertainment industry's footprint. Creating special effects and animations requires networks of power-hungry computers, while saving and streaming all of those images and sounds involves countless servers and storage devices.
Released on the day after the Oscars, the "IT Sustainability Imperatives in Digital Media & Entertainment Business" survey says that only 24 percent of industry IT professionals rated the industry's sustainability efforts thus far as worth of an "A" or "B." Less than half of the more than 100 information technology (IT) professionals in digital media who responded could verify that their organizations had corporate sustainability initiatives.
The survey, which was jointly produced by the Think Eco-logical initiative and the Global Renewable Energy and Environmental Network (GREEN), found that the industry's actions have not lived up to their understanding of the importance of managing an organization's environmental footprint.
Nearly 90 percent of people surveyed said that having network servers that consider the environment is important. However, more than three-quarters said their IT departments were spending 10 percent or less of their budget on green initiatives.
The report did cite media & entertainment companies NBC, Apple, Sony, and Warner Brothers as having the best reputations for "Eco-Logical" practices.
George Skaff, the vice president of Marketing at Rackable Systems, which hosts the Think Ecological website, said greening digital media should also benefit the bottom line. "At the end of the day, [greening your IT] should not cost you more money," he said. Skaff said that buying all new equipment isn't needed either. Companies can use their existing infrastructure more wisely, such as improving the ways hardware is stacked and cooled.
The digital media energy footprint is projected to grow faster than a blockbuster's production budget in the coming years. Between 2005 and 2012, the digital storage capacity for the film and television is expected to grow tenfold, according to a study by analyst firm Coughlin Associates. This is in part due to the conversion of Hollywood's archives from analog to digital, along with the creation of new online digital video streaming services.
The survey was created to spur conversation about the topic and to enable companies to share ideas and questions about how to become more energy efficient. Both GREEN, which is an interest group of the Business Performance Management (BPM) Forum, and Think Eco-logical will work with their members and advisory boards to encourage the adoption of clean energy and sustainability solutions. "The next phase is to communicate directly with [participating] organizations and provide them with the means to push the agenda, including materials, content, and the means to communicate the message," said GREEN director Derek Kober.
Kober said GREEN will conduct webinars on subjects such as how to make the business case for greening IT and how to get started with a corporate sustainability initiative. He hopes that survey's findings will prompt discussion and a grass roots movement where people will blog about what they are doing to address their environmental impact.