Entertain to sustain: Netflix’s sustainability officer Emma Stewart on acing environmental storytelling
Published as part of edie’s Engagement Week campaign, this exclusive video address from Netflix’s sustainability officer Emma Stewart explores how multimedia storytelling can be used to mobilise science-based climate action.
Stewart was appointed as Netflix’s inaugural sustainability officer in late 2020 and has spent the past 15 months or so designing and delivering the streaming giant’s ‘Net Zero + Nature’ strategy, headlined by a 2022 net-zero target and a vision to conserve and restore at-risk habitats globally.
She delivered this address, virtually, from her home in California, as part of edie’s Sustainability Leaders Forum 2022 in March. Now, the session is being made available publicly as part of edie’s Engagement Week editorial campaign, which shines a spotlight on the need for great sustainability communications.
Beginning the call, Stewart reflected on the history of environmental disaster movies, including The Day After Tomorrow, Snowpiercer, Wall-E, and, most recently, Don’t Look Up. She summarized: “Every disaster movie begins with a scientist being ignored. So, let’s not live in a disaster movie. Let’s let science guide our hand.”
In her mission to embed a science-based approach to sustainability across Netflix – and to improve the way it mobilises audiences on environmental issues – Stewart explains why she oversaw the development of an advisory group of 10 experts from around the world including Christiana Figurers and Tom-Rivett Carnac, alongside climate scientists, youth activists and experts in storytelling. The group acts in both an advisory and prevocational capacity, she explains.
Working with the group, Netflix has developed 10 principles to guide its sustainability work. These are:
- Move fast, but ground everything in science and data
- When in doubt, take responsibility
- Don’t just offset emissions – reduce them in-house
- Capitalise on employee enthusiasm
- Materiality: Focusing on what matters most, not just what is most visible
- Be candid, transparent and avoid greenwashing
- Prioritise scalability over novelty
- Use Netflix’s buying influence to influence others
- Use storytelling to inspire others
- Don’t do it along – drive action in concert with policymakers, researchers, NGOs and peers
Watch this video in full to learn more about how these principles were selected and how they are being enacted. Commenting on the points around collaboration and storytelling, Stewart highlighted how, in 2020, 160 million households globally watched at least one piece of content on Netflix with an explicit focus on environmental sustainability. This number looks set to grow; Netflix’s suirvey of consumers found that 60% are extremely interested or very interested in seeing more shows and movies that touch on climate-related issues.
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