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We have a responsibility to not just demand change for the sake of it: Viaplay Group sets out its sustainability targets

Lena De Geer, head of sustainability at Viaplay Group, tells TVBEurope about the company's aim to become one of the world's most truly sustainable, diverse, and inclusive entertainment providers

Earlier this year, Swedish media and entertainment company Viaplay Group was recognised for its sustainability performance for the second year in a row.

The company ranked eighth in a list of 294 global media businesses by Sustainalytics, an organisation that assesses a company’s exposure to industry-specific material sustainability risks, and how well the company is managing these risks.

Lena De Geer, head of sustainability at Viaplay Group tells TVBEurope how the company has achieved its goals so far, plans to go further, how technology vendors can help it meet its targets and how other streaming services can learn from their example.

Why is sustainability important to Viaplay Group?

We see our commitment to sustainable development, creating long-term value for all stakeholders, and sustainability leadership in the industry – as key to our future success. The long-term vision for Viaplay Group is to become one of the world’s most truly sustainable, diverse, and inclusive entertainment providers. 

These commitments and our ambition are important to us because they allow us to act on our values, live up to our commitment to our people and be a great company to work with. In addition, our work with sustainability is a vehicle through which we are able to have a positive impact on the world, while also helping us ensure the long-term success of our business. 

We have set an extensive sustainability strategy roadmap which is integrated into its overall business strategy with 15 long-term goals across three strategic focus areas: Climate and the environment, diversity and inclusion, and well-being and ethics. 

We have already made significant progress towards our long-term climate goals in our own operations Scope 1 and 2, which were recently validated by the Science-based targets initiative. The Group reduced emissions from fuel use and purchased energy (Scope 1 & 2) by 64.9 per cent, compared to 2019 levels, primarily by switching purchased electricity contracts to renewable energy. On top of this, the Group upgraded systems and processes in its facilities, beginning with retiring energy-intensive onsite servers and migrating to more efficient hyperscale cloud services. This change led onsite-server energy use to be cut by 50 per cent in 2022, and the Group now aims to cut this a further 33 per cent in 2023. However as 60 per cent of our climate impact comes from our productions, which are mainly produced by partnerswe are focusing a lot on our supply chain and productions:

  • We want to create content without a huge carbon-footprint, and through responsible production practices (taking well-being, work environment into consideration)
  • We want to engage with all our production partners and support them in this journey – measuring and reducing their climate impact, so they can set their own climate targets.

To make this happen, we have set up a sustainable production programme, which includes tools, training and guides to support our partners.

What measures have you introduced to make productions more sustainable?

To us, sustainable production practices are ones that both uplift the people involved by ensuring a safe and healthy work environment as well as protect the planet by minimising the environmental impact of putting on a production. Last year we launched Viaplay Group’s sustainable production programme. It consists of several different initiatives working in concert to make productions more sustainable, while also working to safeguard our values and principles of sustainable productions in our supply chain. 

Screenings and work-environment pulse surveys:  As part of our supplier due-diligence and corporate compliance efforts the Group screens all commissioned productions and identifies any in which there are elevated sustainability risks; we then deploy a system of work-environment surveys in these productions to check the “pulse” on the work-environment in the productions to ensure that any issues that might arise can be quickly addressed. 

Lena De Geer

Onsite third-party audits: To ensure that the production companies we work with abide by our supplier Code of Conduct and upload Viaplay groups principles for sustainable productions, we have also initiated a third-party onsite audit programme. Identified key productions are audited by a third-party to ensure that any issues (human rights, health & safety, climate issues etc) that might arise in a production, are addressed. Additionally, onsite audits are conducted in productions if we get any indications of deviations showing that sustainable production practices are not being respected. This is a very effective tool safeguarding responsible production practices in our value chain.

New sustainable production guide and people and planet storytelling test: In May, the Group will launch its Sustainable Production Guide. This open-source guide sets up an easy-to-use system to help productions in implementing sustainability standards and best practices, integrate measuring and reducing of GHG emissions into production processes, as well as ensure the storytelling in both scripted and non-scripted content promotes or reflects sustainability.   

In terms of your technology supply chain, what are you looking for from vendors regarding sustainability and carbon neutral products?

The Group’s steaming currently accounts for 6.4 per cent of the climate impact in Viaplay’s value chain. We and our partners work to optimise each part of the streaming value chain’s energy demands and in doing so minimise streaming’s impact on the environment– from onsite servers running constantly to the processing power required to meet the demand surges in streams at peak hours. We collaborate with industry partners through DIMPACT to optimise processes and technology across the streaming value chain.

We have focused our efforts to reduce energy use and emissions from our CDN suppliers by incorporating specific sustainability criteria into the procurement process for services. We have procurement guidelines for streaming suppliers which require prospective suppliers to provide their Sustainability or Environmental Policy as well as figures for kWh and g of CO2 per GB delivered. 

Do you think the broadcast industry will ever become completely carbon-neutral?

We firmly believe that the streaming and broadcast industries, as well as society at large have the capacity to become net-zero by mid-century and aim to contribute to leadership to help make this ambition a reality. The majority of carbon emissions in production come from fuel, energy, and air travel. So we are dependent on other industries in our decarbonisation journey, such as the travel industry, which in turn will have to transform rapidly in the coming years, and that will support our decarbonisation as well. 

Our corporate climate targets are aligned with the science-based targets initiatives, meaning they support decarbonisation at the rate outlined by the Paris Agreement. While our current goals commit to halving the Group’s emissions by 2030, we plan to continue our net-zero journey after we have achieved them. 

Viaplay Group has been named one of the most sustainable media companies in the world, what does that mean to the company?

Recognition of our efforts in various ESG indices such as the S&P Dow Jones Sustainability Indices and Sustainalytics makes us proud. Qualifying for these indices inspires us to move even faster. At the same time there is more we can do to improve and show leadership in the industry, in particular in our productions and we aim to continuously raise our ambitions in the future.  

How can other broadcasters learn from Viaplay Group’s example?

We see industry collaboration as a key factor to our success. We have a responsibility to educate and share best practices, and not just demand change for the sake of it. Other streamers can learn from our example by taking part in industry forums where we work together to address systemic challenges and share knowledge to help drive progress on sustainability in our own operations and supply chain.