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Sustainability in the broadcast industry: progress made and challenges ahead

Ahead of Earth Day, Alexandra Maier, director, global marketing and communications, media solutions at CGI, writes that the industry has a huge opportunity to promote sustainability, and shape the future of work through innovation, collaboration, and operational agility

Sustainability is undeniably a central topic for any company within the broadcast industry. But no matter how much professionals in the sector want to reinvent their businesses, change is difficult and sometimes long and costly. 

Significant progress has been made on the journey towards net zero, with many inefficient processes and technologies now thankfully consigned to history. For example, many people working in our industry will be familiar with legacy technology procurement that centred around buying machines, and servers, adding power and cooling, and never giving a thought to power consumption or carbon emissions.

In recent years, this approach has changed massively; from the macro level of building a new facility, where questions about using renewable energy and dealing with suppliers with credible ESG policies have become important, to the micro level and issues, such as considering the CPU load (and thus energy costs) of software A versus software B.

Moreover, taking proactive steps to enable the transition into areas such as remote production can contribute to a more sustainable model. But clearly, much more work remains to be done, with a range of issues at play that should be driving organisations’ sustainability strategies across the broadcast industry.

For example, the huge surge in the popularity of streaming services has offered tremendous growth opportunities, with broadcasters and content creators bringing limitless options to market. While technology is, of course, the key enabler behind these transformational developments, it must also be the driver for sustainable investment decisions.

The options available include placing energy efficiency higher up the list of tech purchasing criteria, particularly when replacing inefficient legacy solutions. Arguably of greater importance is the potential that still exists for broadcast organisations to reduce the carbon footprint of their workers, particularly where the adoption of web-based applications, connected workgroups and data exchange means staff travel less, reducing their carbon footprint.

The role of business agility

While better technology investment decisions play an important role in the overall drive for environmental sustainability, achieving a more holistic approach means organisations also need to re-examine how they operate.

In particular, optimising business agility can help companies be more sustainable by allowing them to quickly adapt to changes in the market and take advantage of opportunities that arise. But what does this mean? According to the Agile Business Consortium, “agility in an organisation’s culture, leadership, strategy, and governance… adds value to all stakeholders who operate in uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environments.”

By being agile, companies can respond to environmental, social and governance requirements and opportunities in a more timely manner than those using traditional business models. In doing so, they make changes to their operations to reduce their impact on the environment.

More businesses now have direct experience with an agile model’s role, challenges and benefits than they did just a few years ago. This increase can be attributed – at least in part – to the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced organisations to act swiftly, prioritise core business activities, collaborate online and innovate to solve new and extremely challenging problems. As a result, many businesses achieved remarkable technology and process implementation times by deploying new solutions to sustain their operations.

Additionally, many organisations have seen significant improvements in leadership and governance, progress has been particularly evident among those who have more confidence in their people. These developments have contributed to accelerating decision-making and adopting new approaches, including those that impact sustainability efforts.

For example, agile companies are often quick to adapt to changing market conditions or regulations by implementing sustainable practices such as using renewable energy sources or recycling programs. Their ability to collaborate and share information effectively allows them to identify and address sustainability issues more efficiently. Additionally, their customer-focused approach means they better understand and respond to customer needs and preferences, including those related to sustainability.

Looking ahead, the broadcast industry has a significant opportunity to promote sustainability and address a wide range of organisational objectives. Adopting sustainable practices can help achieve net-zero transformation and ESG goals. At the same time, the industry also plays a crucial role in shaping the future of work by fostering innovation and collaboration. For organisations across the industry, taking an agile approach to the way they operate can help deliver a win-win of environmental sustainability and business success.