Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production

OKAY STUDIO: A Route to Carbon-Zero

Post Production
London, UK
Executive producer Sophie Hogg charts the ups and downs of the London-based production studio’s ongoing journey to becoming a carbon-neutral company
It’s unlikely that OKAY STUDIO is the first company you’ve seen announce a drive towards sustainability. It’s equally probable that this won’t be the first time you’ve read about a company reflecting on its carbon output during this pandemic - and that’s a good thing.

Every effort to reduce emissions, raise awareness and become more thoughtful with regards to our environmental impact needs to be welcomed. However, ‘sustainability’ is too often ill-defined, and can feel a bit like a bottomless pit. It’s the kind of word you can see thrown around a lot without anything constructive coming out of it. We need to ask ourselves: what are we actually aiming for when it comes to sustainability, and how can we measure our success in achieving it?

That question drove us at OKAY STUDIO to set ourselves the goal of becoming totally carbon-neutral. No ifs, no buts, we want to reduce our emissions to net zero. The truth is that we set ourselves that mission long before Covid-19 threw everything into chaos. However, like the rest of the world, the virus totally upended our best-laid plans. 

Amongst many other things, the pandemic has shown all of us the enormous impact our day-to-day life has on the planet. Nature has a rude but effective way of showing us the difference we make - we see it in the clearer waters of the Venice canals, the reduced carbon emissions in Beijing, and the sudden appearance of blue skies in Mumbai. In this sense, it has confirmed that making a difference to our emissions is possible, attainable, and a necessary step we have to take. 

A Remote Possibility

The most profound impact the virus has had on our day-to-day emissions has been the arrival of widespread remote working. It’s thrown up a huge mirror - how complicated actually is our set up, and how can this process be streamlined as much as possible? By throwing the whole lot of us in the deep end, we’ve learned that working from home is a possibility for more than a few, and has opened up the option for negotiation. More remote working means fewer unnecessary commutes, which in turn means reduced emissions. 

The work that we do as a post house means that often, we are the connecting link on many of the projects we work on. The advantage of that is that we don’t require a huge office staffed with lots of people on a regular basis, we can scale up when needed and have specific partners on-hand. In a post-Covid world, that flexibility will be more important than ever and it’s something we’re currently looking into as a company.

The reduced commute is also (somewhat ironically) a two-way street. It’s not only reducing our own travel expenses and emissions, but also those of our clients when done in the right way. The key is to ensure that clients trust us and feel that doing a colour grade or edit remotely doesn’t mean a reduction in safety, speed or creativity. So far the response has been very positive. 

And the benefits extend to our staff, too. With the reduction in carbon emissions comes the added value in quality of life for all of us. For those with a garden, working from home certainly means an uptake in Vitamin D when compared to a dim suite! 

Don’t get me wrong - a face-to-face conversation between creatives in the suite is a brilliant thing. But if a world post-covid means less of that, we are ready for it and it can help us to get a big step closer to having zero emissions.

Hitting The Target

In addition to this, we’re running a number of initiatives that look to bring down our emissions. These include using our HQ’s local bakery to cater for clients, sourcing our vinyl stickers at a local place, and ensuring the menu in our cafe is now half vegetarian/vegan, which have been effective in bringing down our total emissions. 

Since Covid-19 hit, we’ve also been taking a second look at our reliance on couriers. Before, it was second nature; finish a project, upload it to the hard drive and send it off to the client. Now, we have to ask ourselves- do we actually require a courier for this, or can we find an alternative? In doing so, we’ve also begun to test out a bike-only courier service for non-urgent deliveries.

One of the huge bonuses for us has been becoming more of a part of our community and the networking opportunities that’s afforded us professionally. We’ve become aware of just how many production companies are based in East London. Some of our existing clients such as Iconoclast, Dupe VFX, Builders Club, and Armoury are within walking distance. Networking is an essential part of our business (not to mention that it accounts for a big portion of our travel), so having locally-based connections allows us to create genuine partnerships without racking up a large environmental cost. With that in mind, we are reaching out to other nearby companies in order to extend our local network.

Plenty of easy online tools allow you to calculate your carbon-footprint and offset it immediately; with a choice of schemes and projects designed to help you do just that. For flights, MyClimate is a great online tool to help you establish the emissions of your journey and the best way to offset them. If you want to look into offsetting your emissions for specific events, ecoact is a brilliant organisation who can help you. As well as offsetting, the process is fantastic for supporting charities who provide clean water for rural communities, protect the rainforests, or simply plant trees. 

For our part, we’ve totalled our invoices and calculated how much it would cost to include a carbon offsetting fee of 3-5% for each invoice. This would give us a pot to immediately either contribute to carbon offsetting plans, or keep aside to offset for planned flights (for example our trips to Berlin Commercial, or Kinsale in Ireland). Using the aforementioned online tools to find carbon offsetting also allows us to target where the money is needed most. With options such as tree-planting or water-based schemes, we can create specific campaigns to help at certain times; such as at times of flood or wildfire as there was earlier in the year.

Everything Is Changing, And Anything Is Possible

It’s true that being a smaller company makes implementing policies like this easier. There’s no long, winding chain of command for these ideas to get lost in, and everyone at the company has the opportunity to chip in. As much as anything else, the road to sustainability is a problem-solving exercise and it’s been helpful getting the opinions of staff who are passionate about making this work. 

That may not be feasible for a huge company, especially in post production, with a large number of staff and dozens of suites. But for us, it’s worked brilliantly and we’d be delighted to talk to any companies of a similar size who are looking to cut down their own emissions. 

Everything is changing right now, and that means anything is possible. The creative industries have forever been on the frontline of inciting change, and driving our business towards sustainability is the latest manifestation of that. We’re all storytellers at heart and we have platforms to speak from, which puts us in the perfect position to help each other on this journey.

This crisis has shaken our world in many terrible ways. However, what it has also shown us is how attainable meaningful change can be when we put our minds to it. A recent report from Carbon Brief shows that our total emissions are on track to fall 5.5% this year - the largest drop ever recorded. Let’s not make this a temporary response to a pandemic; let’s make it our future. 

If you have any questions about OKAY STUDIO’s route to Carbon-Zero, please contact Sophie Hogg:

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