Buzzwords: Upstream and Downstream

As we continue our buzzword series, another set of terms, “upstream” and “downstream” pervade the sustainability field and relate to product supply or value chain.  These might be considered material topics for the sustainable film production industry; but what exactly do they mean? 

The Global Reporting Initiative (if you haven’t already caught on GRI is really the big sustainability buzzword trend-setter) bases their definition of upstream/downstream entities on the following:

 “The concept of a production chain that extends from the extraction of raw materials to the use of a good or service by an end-user” (GRI Media Sector Supplement).”

An example of upstream and downstream activities (also known as "scopes"). Credit:

An example of upstream and downstream activities (also known as "scopes"). Credit:

Film production companies are “downstream” organizations. In other words, they are the end-users of a whole plethora of products and services, such as camera equipment, costumes, and construction materials, to name a few.  Think about what it takes to assemble a camera (many of the raw materials come from a mine), the farm that grew the cotton to make the material for the costume, the forest where the trees grew that you now use to construct your set.  The list goes on and on.

While it of course is also imperative for early-stage, “upstream” organizations, such as the mine or farm, to create sustainable products, “downstream” organizations also have the choice of where they source their products and services!

“Upstream” and “downstream” are material (relevant) for the motion picture industry and buzzwords indeed!