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EcoAct’s Northern Europe CEO, Stuart Lemmon speaks to ITV Director of Social Purpose, Clare Phillips to find out about ITV’s net zero journey, what’s behind their ambitious sustainability drive and what are the main challenges of transitioning to net zero.
Can you give us a summary of where you are on your net zero journey, including the targets you’ve set, the milestones your meeting and achievements you’ve made?
ITV wants to become net zero by 2030, so we need to reduce our Scope 1 and 2 by half and reduce our Scope 3 by a quarter. We’ve had our targets approved by the Science Based Targets institute, so we know that we’re doing it properly and rigorously. Initially, setting the target required a lot of detailed work that the EcoAct team helped us with. There was also a lot of buy-in that we had to engage our board and management board on, and then beyond that right across the organisation, which we’ve done. The stage we’re at now is in working to meet those targets. I definitely feel like the clock is ticking now we’re halfway through 2021 – we’ve only got nine and a half years! But I think that also focuses the mind, we set targets and now we must meet them.
ITV moved very quickly on this. What were the main drivers for putting in place such a comprehensive programme with real momentum behind it?
Carolyn McCall joined in 2018 as our new CEO and helped to kicked it off. She recognised that businesses nowadays need to think beyond profit and economic success, and instead consider how to successfully work within the planet’s boundaries. She made her remit broader than just economic success, expanding it to include how the business operates socially and environmentally. I think you absolutely need chief executive or management board buy-in, it would be very difficult to deliver a successful net zero strategy without it.
How have you managed to integrate sustainability throughout the business?
At ITV we have sustainability baked into our brand purpose. We talk about ITV being more than TV, and it breaks down into three areas. The first area is about distribution: How do we get our content to viewers? And the second area is around content: We’re a TV organisation, we live or die by our programming. The third area is around how we can reflect and shape culture. And that’s where my team comes in, as shaping culture for good then leads to an environmental and social strategy. ESG is part and parcel of what our brand is all about because we recognise that our reputation and what we stand for, both to the trade, to other broadcasters, but also directly to viewers is made up of how we operate sustainably. It’s important that sustainability sits at the heart of the brand. It can’t be an add on because it affects too much of the way we function and operate as an organisation.
How much is that cultural purpose driven by the customer? What’s the cultural expectation of society on your role in saving the planet?
There’s a lot of interest and pressure from consumers. The environment has become very mainstream as a topic, such a shift from five years ago. We want to make programmes that reflect that change in order to bring in a bigger audience. Big audiences are now wanting to hear these stories and about what we’re doing. There’s also pressure from our advertiser clients and that’s really helpful for this agenda. Increasingly, they have sustainable products that they’re wanting to sell and they’re now making sure that they are presenting their products on a platform that doesn’t run counter to their messaging. So from a commercial perspective, it’s very helpful for us to have set net zero targets, because it helps us attract advertising business. And then the third push we’re getting is from investors and that’s actually been incredibly powerful, where we have massive funds questioning us on sustainability. But as well as getting pressure from consumers, advertisers and investors, we’re also getting internal pressure from colleagues who say, I don’t really want to work for an organisation that isn’t operating within the planet’s boundaries. And we know from our HR colleagues, that the work that we’re doing is hugely attractive to talent. We want the brightest and the best people to work for our organization and one of the ways that you can attract talent is by having net zero targets and having a good environmental strategy in place.
It is impressive how much ITV have achieved in such a short time. It’s clearly not an easy task though, what are some of the challenges that you faced along the way?
I think one of the challenges is ensuring that people feel accountable and responsible for making this happen. It’s very important that it’s not just the sustainability team who are coming up with the targets and trying to achieve them – we are a team of six and there’s 6,000 people at ITV, so there’s no way we can do it alone! You need to get other people in the organisation to build sustainability into the way that they operate and to report back on their progress. Second, you need the governance structures in place, which includes inevitable conversations about cost and investment to make the changes that you’re suggesting. And I think the third challenge is about supply chain, because 98% of our emissions are in our supply chain. We have thousands of little suppliers, as well as the big organisations, how do you how do you ensure that they’re part of our net zero journey?
Does that mean that you need to join up with other peers within your industry to tackle challenges with your supply chain?
Definitely, and I love it. Ordinarily television is incredibly competitive. We all show TV programmes – dramas, and comedies and factorials and stuff but we’re all we’re competing for a limited amount of attention. But what’s so brilliant is that you have a completely different kind of conversation when it comes to sustainability. Suddenly, you’re working collaboratively with competitors and that’s that is joyful. Everyone helping each other; it’s just a breath of fresh air. We are also lucky in TV because BAFTA have a sustainability arm called Albert and so we have a mechanism by which all of the broadcasters can meet and come together. There’s also an initiative called Impact, which is trying to understand the carbon hotspots in digital transmission organised by the broadcaster’s and the Responsible Media Forum. This started because we had the same suppliers – it’s not fair on small organisations to demand completely different systems, standards or questionnaires that they’ve got to fill in. If we agree on a common set of standards that we that we want to see, we’ll get to net zero quicker because whether they’re supplying ITV, Discovery, Sky or BBC, suppliers understand that this is the way that they need to operate.
Your net zero programme of work and stakeholder engagement have real momentum now. Was it daunting at the start?
One of the most important things for me was realising the scale of our task and the urgency to make changes. I then had to convey that to other people in the organisation. We have quite a lot of training now, where we take people on the journey. We use language and images to communicate – we’re quite a visual creative organisation obviously, so that’s quite fun to do. We ensure that every single person who works at ITV understands the issue and takes mandatory training. Once there is a basic level of understanding across the organisation, then people start to push each other. It doesn’t work if you only have a small number of people who understand it and feel quite passionate about it. It’s about normalising it and you can’t come across as a zealot, that definitely doesn’t work! Making it relevant is super important and for people to understand why it is so important and what’s happening around climate and why there is such urgency.
The second part to starting our net zero journey was understanding what our baseline is so we could set our target. This is where the EcoAct team came in. It’s important that you have an organisation that you can work with that can help explain it to you as you go along. Now though, we really getting our sleeves rolled up and getting stuck into understanding where are the biggest problems, what are the easiest to fix. It will be hugely satisfying when we get start executing the plan. We also need to start thinking about policy, and how do we as a UK business ensure that the right regulation and legislation is in place in order to get to net zero.