Making Sense of Sustainability Jargon: Transparency Defined

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The sustainability space is filled with buzz words and jargon.  Words like transparency, materiality, framework, and even “green” are pervasive, yet they conjure different meanings depending on context. To an architect, the word “green” evokes thoughts of a shiny LEED certification; to a politician, it’s a deadline or progressive vision; to a CEO, a carbon offset obligation or, increasingly evolving ideas of corporate citizenship. In a new series on buzzwords in sustainability we will attempt to define these catch-terms and bring clarity on how they relate to the film industry.

Transparency will be our focus now. In public opinion research tank GlobeScan’s Regeneration Roadmap report, which analyzes the future of corporate leadership in sustainability initiatives, transparency was established as one of six “inevitably vital attributes.”

In many ways, transparent – and instantaneous - access to information is the default state in which we now live. The task for institutions everywhere has been to decide what information they want displayed, where, why, and how. In an article published by Greenbiz.com, executive director of SustainAbility Mark Lee evinces that being transparent throughout the improvement of your business is the go-to, “carrot on a stick” approach for attracting investors.

In the wake of the U.S. financial crisis four years ago, companies like J.P. Morgan Chase have been “pulling all the strings it has available” to build up a positive public image through corporate transparency. In an interview with CEO of the Nature Conservancy Mark Tercek, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon describes how they have placed a firm wide hierarchy of overseers to ensure corporate transparency, along with reexamining every aspect through which their company relates to the public.

Companies like J.P. Morgan Chase are building transparency as a means to disprove negative business practices and showcase positive ones.

Can the motion picture industry be more transparent to showcase their positive production practices?  Yes, but this is a journey.  Below are a couple of examples of increased transparency.

In 2013 Warner Brother Studios’ The Great Gatsby, became the first attempt for the studio to green a production in Australia. It was the biggest gig yet for GreenShoot Pacific, a green film consulting company based in Sydney. The good news did receive recognition on the PGAGreen.org site.

What is inspiring and receiving recognition is the recent work done by Earth Angel, a New York Limited Liability green film consulting company founded in 2012. Earth Angel executive director Emellie O’Brien’s work as professional Eco-Supervisor ensured The Amazing Spider Man 2’s success as a carbon-neutral film and as the most eco-friendly film in Sony Pictures history.  Additionally, Earth Angel worked on Noah (Paramount Overseas Productions, Inc., 2014) to green their set.

How excellent would it be if publicity for sustainable film achievements was delivered on a wider, more consistent and purpose scale? Studios would be able to gain full credit for their responsible practices, incentivizing increased traction for the ever-growing global green film movement and perhaps even disproving perceived negative business practices.

Green Spark Group is striving to make its website a place where films can improve their transparency by showcasing their sustainability efforts. This would provide concise information to stakeholders, investors, and customers about positive recognition well deserved.