Content Cafe


Celebrating World IP Day 2020

by Lori Flekser, Creative Content Australia — 26/04/2020

Every April 26, The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) – a global forum for IP information and cooperation - celebrates World Intellectual Property Day to highlight the role that intellectual property (IP) rights play in encouraging innovation and creativity. Their remit is for all IP – patents, designs, trademarks, original, technical and creative works - across all industries, from seeds to software. Innovate for a Green Future is the theme of World IP Day 2020, putting innovation – and the IP rights that support it – at the heart of efforts to create a green future.

While the theme seems somewhat obtuse in relation to screen content, the film and television industry has, like so many others, been working hard to evaluate and amend business practices to reduce its eco-footprint and operate in a sustainable manner – from development through to release.  

In 1987, the UN World Commission on Environment and Development defined sustainable development in their report Our Common Future, as ‘development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.’   

Sustainability impacts were evaluated against three key areas: environmental, social and economic, or more commonly – Planet, People and Profit. 

Environmental (planet) considerations included: 

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, waste and the use of harmful toxic substances 
  • Reducing resource usage, such as materials, water and fossil fuels 
  • Protection, and rehabilitation of local ecological environment 

Social (people) considerations included: 

  • Communicating sustainability to the community by demonstrating best practice 
  • Leaving a legacy of physical materials, enduring infrastructure, or financial support of community initiatives 
  • Ensuring a safe and healthy working environment

Economic (profit) considerations included: 

  • Encouraging innovation of sustainable solutions in the supply chain and providing a market for these products and services 
  • Reducing costs through resource conservation and reduction of waste and energy consumption  

In January 2010, the Australian state and federal government screen agencies announced a united environmental coalition for the national screen industry, demonstrating a commitment to  environmentally sustainable business practices in the industryThey developed guidelines, resources and standards to transform all sectors of the screen industry into  environmentally responsible operators. 

Calling on all creative sectors to embrace the challengethe screen industry showed leadership by developing a nationwide strategy for environmentally sustainable practices while ensuring it made sense commercially, financially and socially. 

Initiatives were implemented at each stage of production – including development, pre-production and production, post-production and the launch of the film – and by every department, including the production office, construction, locations, post-production and merchandise.  

On set – a phase that involves more people than any other stage of the process and creates the most waste  crews were encouraged to think about how paper, fuel, electricity, water, food scraps, transport and building materials were used.  These included ensuring consumables like copy and toilet paper were made from 100% recycled contentgenerators were run on biodiesel or other renewable fuelplastic waste was reduced and that composting and recycling were available. 

Thoughtful strategies significantly impacted on the sustainability mind-set of a production, including circulating scripts and schedules electronically, re-using as much material as possible from other productions or salvage yards, shutting off power and all appliances when not in use and using rechargeable batteries. 

Sustainable principles were also applied by film festivals which not only presented more films with sustainable and ecologically green messages but minimised their carbon footprint through active environmental consciousness across the festival’s activities.  

From this positive start, the emphasis on sustainable production practice is still facing challenges in both policy and resourcing. Film agencies, with urging from practitioners, are being encouraged to turn their attention to developing policy, improving best practice, building a measurement and accountability framework and supporting costs and resources for ensuring  “clean and green” production sets are the norm rather than the exception. 

Grassroots industry groups, such as Sustainable Screens Australia, are working to  share examples and offer guidance on potential environmental issues – sustainability analysis, best practice systems, greenhouse gas reduction strategies, training, placement of sustainability staff, performance measurement and reporting.   

Canadian, US and UK practices and resources (Green Spark GroupGreen Production GuideAlbert, and more) are the benchmarks for Australian companies and producers. Positive action by independent companies, including Endemol Shine and Fremantle, demonstrate how leadership is an essential part of building a compliant sustainable production industry 

At this precarious time, when Covid-19 restrictions have brought the production industry to a standstill, it’s crucial that when it returns to full productivity, the production of world-class content by the Australian creative industry will be augmented by world-class “clean and green” practices that reduce the negative impacts of production on the environment.   

While it’s likely that no-one on a film set considers themselves to be engaged in the production of “intellectual property”, that is the net result.  Hopefully, Australian teams will soon be out there again doing just that: making “IP” sustainably and responsibly.   

Wishing you all a happy World IP Day. 

Don’t miss IF magazine’s detailed coverage of this issue in their May issue.