There’s been a push to improve sustainability in production over the past few years, with individual markets and committed companies investigating and implementing green policies and processes. But, just as the commercial production industry is an interlinked, international web, green production must be interlinked and international. That means agencies and brands working with production companies. It means competitors collaborating and sharing advice. And it means reaching out to peers in other markets. Ironically, Covid-19 has provided an unexpected catalyst as the industry has been forced to develop alternatives like remote production – and so the scene has been set for a global reset on green production standards.
Green The Bid was co-founded by Jessie Nagel, Kat Friis, Gabi Kay, Julian Katz and Michael Kaliski, with an advisory board that draws together some local green production organisations, like Britain’s Ad Green, as well as individuals from brands like Ford, agencies like FCB and Wieden + Kennedy and production and post companies from the US, UK, Latin America and Australasia. The platform brings together resources, ideas and advice for improving the sustainability of productions.
Co-founder Jessie Nagel and advisory board member Ariel León Isacovitch (who is founder of The Roots Production Service) talk to Laura Swinton about what they hope to achieve and why a collective effort is key.
LBB> What was it about Green The Bid that appealed to you and why did you think it was important to join?
Ariel> Embracing green principles is not a trend. Cultivating sustainable and green practices helps our productions become more efficient and competitive. We can reduce energy-related costs, go paperless, add sustainable practices in every department, and boost workforce morale, innovations and societal impact. That’s great!
Jessie> As a founding member of Green The Bid, I hope people are encouraged to join no matter where they are in their sustainability journey. What appealed to me about being a part of getting this going was connecting with and learning from others who also want to move the needle. Channelling some of what I am honoured and privileged to do in my career to make our future better.
LBB> What have you learned since being involved in Green The Bid that you've found particularly enlightening or surprising?
Jessie> Nearly every day I speak with someone who opens my eyes to the incredible work they or others have been doing in this area. We are truly an industry of bad-asses, of action-oriented, big-hearted people. We also have the tendency toward independence that can lead to loneliness or a feeling of helplessness when looking at something as overwhelming as the climate crisis. It’s empowering to see how coming together has a ripple effect and quickly makes one action into many, scaling up our impact.
Ariel> Things everyone can do, along with helpful resources and checklists for each department designed to enhance the ecosystem approach of the advertising industry and make our own contribution to make our shoots more sustainable. It’s been remarkable to see so many others who are taking action to support the initiative to make the advertising industry shift to zero-waste, net-carbon neutral, sustainable and regenerative practices.
LBB> What's Green the Bid like as a community?
Ariel> While a lot of the companies are based in the US, there are a number of us who support the US advertising and production industry who have signed on and are making it a truly global group - that feels very purpose driven.
Jessie> Green the Bid is a place to learn and improve step by step, where dialogue is crucial in order to get to results. Green the Bid community has the power to help shape positive stories around the environment. It’s a welcoming group of people - there’s no shaming or people one-upping each other.
LBB> How has Covid-19 made you think about other options for green or more sustainable production?
Jessie> Originally, we had hoped to launch Green The Bid in March, 2020 - then the world shut down. During the next few months, the founding team had conversations with people throughout the industry and what emerged was the need to create community. Everyone felt the implications and impact of the pandemic - and for many it was a time to make some key decisions about how to evolve industry practice. When we officially launched in October with our first member meeting, it was powerful to see the faces on Zoom. Our world had changed and, with it, we found an alliance.
Ariel> The pandemic situation created a new standard among us; it locked down the entire world in one corner. More than ever, it requires concerted efforts and collective commitment to address the various ongoing challenges related to environmental degradation and climate change, so that we can stay on track. The creative and innovative nature of our industry means we have the power to shift non-conscious collective behaviours into constructive narratives and practices that can make us rise stronger.
LBB> From a personal perspective, why is it important for brands and agencies to think about sustainability when deciding which production and service production companies to work with?
Ariel> As we say in our company ‘Your Roots Our Roots’. In other words, we are all in this together and what we do impacts each other. Service companies have an important role to play in the context of sustainability in that we are on the ground and know our countries’ intimately. So in addition to producing exceptional work, we can ensure the green practices happen effectively. That’s an important trust bond. Hopefully we all start to work in a more environmentally friendly way so that it isn’t about choosing a partner who is aligned in this effort because we all will be.
LBB> What are the biggest challenges involved in becoming a greener company and ensuring productions are green?
Arie> Scepticism about the value of an environmental commitment. Reconciliation between environmental and economic concerns is no longer a choice. Our very global well-being is sustainable only if it integrates economic, social and environmental commitment and that includes training our crews.
Jessie> I don’t work on the ground in production, but speaking more broadly the challenge is in education and communication - Green The Bid was founded to be a response resource to our community’s needs, from checklists to workbooks, quarterly meetings, and seminars. If people follow the guidelines and ask for help when they need it, and if they communicate to the other stakeholders involved in production that it is a priority, that’s a massive step to overcoming hurdles. We know there will be challenges, but if we are honest about our failures we can help ourselves and others to improve along the way.
LBB> What are your tips for making sure a production is green without sacrificing production values?
Jessie> Green production isn’t a compromise in production value. You can produce brilliant, beautiful work AND have a green set. This isn’t about sacrifice, it’s about working more effectively and thinking big picture. One of the priorities of Green The Bid is transparency and pre-competitive conversations and solutions so that we can reduce siloed behaviour and bust some myths, like this one!
Ariel> Start with simple steps, get in contact with consultants that can assist you with specific needs to effectively plan and execute cost-effective sustainable and healthy initiatives. Also, donations to non-profits and providing resources for those who are in need such as leftover food, sets, props, wardrobe and materials will help contribute to a zero-waste production and can make a ripple effect of your goodwill. And, of course, become a member of Green The Bid!
LBB> The next step beyond the discussion of sustainability is regeneration. How do you bring that to bear in what you do?
Jessie> As an industry we need to think hard about every ton of carbon we produce, as it is so much harder to draw it down than to put it up. Living in California, I’ve been conditioned to think about minimising water use to the point that it feels second nature; we need to do the same with carbon production.
Ariel> Right now, restoring and protecting forests, rain forests, and pastures is a vital action to undo some of the damage we have already done. One of the things I have been involved with is a tree planting initiative where we are creating a Roots Forest through a partner organization. We plant native trees in the Chilean Patagonia for every project we work on.