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By Geoff Hall
Time is running out. Co-Founders of Green The Bid on why environmental measures in production are a responsibility for us all – brands, agencies and production.
Procurement and Sustainability
Procurement is essential in this conversation, and can be a driver in two significant ways: by enrolling the brands in the sustainability conversation, and protecting and supporting the budget associated with hiring the staff and paying for the resources needed to have sustainability on set.
Photo: Jessie Nagel (L) and Gabi Kay (R)
Marketing Procurement iQ spoke to co-founers of Green The Bid, Jessie Nagel and Gabi Kay, but firstly, what is Green The Bid?
Green The Bid is a US based organization that was set up to support the production industry to transition to sustainable and regenerative practices. It is a volunteer organization and run entirely through donations.
Green The Bid (GTB) say that brands and clients that are members lead the way in sustainable production by adopting reasonable financial responsibility to ensure that their productions aim for zero-waste and carbon neutrality.
GTB go on to say that brands can make the biggest impact by pledging to allocate funds to make their productions environmentally sustainable. While there are associated costs, they are small compared to the extensive benefits.
And here are some of the numbers published on GTB website. They make compelling reading and demonstrate why those who manage the marketing spend can make a very positive impact on sustainable production.
Production can be incredibly wasteful, with a huge carbon footprint and, in addition, flights add to this footprint exponentially. For example, a roundtrip flight from New York NYC to Los Angeles generates 1.8 tons for economy class and 3.92 tons for business class.
Each GTB compliant shoot day reduces and mitigates waste and carbon impact by an average of 5-15 tons (with international travel increasing that number by as much as 25 tons).
Many brands are already calculating and reporting this reduction to shareholders and other stakeholders as they move towards becoming carbon neutral. GTB say sustainability is an investment in your brand and the future of the industry (not to mention the planet.)
Q&A with Gabi Kay and Jessie Nagel
Q) Can you tell me a about your career background prior to setting up Green The Bid?
Nagel: Green The Bid is an all-volunteer effort, so when I am not working on GTB my other hat is as co-founder of Hype — a boutique communications agency that provides brand-strategic PR, Marketing, and Social Media services to creative companies.
Many years ago, I helped found Women In Animation, and I am also on the West Board of AICP ((the Association of Independent Producers), which is a volunteer elected position. All of these experiences (and more) are integral to my participation with Green The Bid.
Kay: My background is commercial production in the UK, first in sales, and then as an EP. I have spent the last 12 years doing the mom thing, and that has very much been the driving force (and still is) behind the work I do with GTB.
Q) How did you first meet and why did you set up Green The Bid?
Nagel: My participation in the development and ongoing nurturing of Green The Bid came out of volunteer work with the AICP, for which I helped develop the organization’s first sustainability guidelines with a committee that included Michael Kaliski (another one of the Green The Bid co-founders). A few years ago, Michael and I coordinated a panel at AICP Week on sustainable production, which sparked the idea of Green The Bid and connected us to our other Co-Founders – Gabi, along with Kat Friis and Julian Katz.
The name was inspired by Free The Bid, who were gracious enough to let us pay homage to their transformational work. As the name implies, Green The Bid aims to establish the built-in understanding that integrating sustainability into the mechanics of the process – from planning or bidding to completion, requires participation at every stage and with every stakeholder.
Prior to our official launch, we reached out to our industry contacts and had many thoughtful conversations about the concept of Green The Bid. It soon became very clear that building a community was integral to making an impact. We set up Green The Bid because nothing like it existed in the US advertising industry, and we knew there was an appetite for change.
Q) Do you have different roles within the organization?
Nagel: Each of the co-founders brings their industry expertise to their roles at Green The Bid, so I tend to focus on communications and community-building aspects of the organization. I don’t even know how to summarize what Gabi does because it’s so vast and deep. I’ll let her try to describe it.
Kay: My role covers making sure that we stay in communication with all our members requests and needs, building out the resources with our stakeholders, and working with the co-founder team to keep an eye out for whenever we can expand the work and effectiveness of GTB, whilst still taking care of all members of our stakeholder community.
Q) Are you still active as producers or totally focused on advising on sustainable commercial production?
Nagel: I’m not a producer by title, but there are similar skill sets involved in being a producer and managing a communications agency. My work with Hype connects me to EPs, producers, heads of production and company owners – many of whom were trained as producers. And I am a little compulsive, which comes with the territory.
Kay: I am not actually a producer either. I was an EP on the commercial production side in the UK, which I loved, and my admiration for on the ground producers knows no bounds. I have also had the privilege of working with some of the best in the business.
Our co-founder producers are Julian and Kat, both of whom have done many years on the agency and brand side, and we have packed quite a few producers into our advisory board too. They know how to get things done!
Q) Can you tell us more about Green The Bid, its aims and objectives and how you are working to achieve these?
Nagel: Our overarching goal is to support the industry in its transition to sustainable and regenerative practices, through education, framework resources, community building and pre-competitive collaboration across all of the stakeholder sectors – Brand, Agency, Production, Post, Vendors, and other Supporters.
Eliminating barriers to participation, establishing a shame-free environment, providing specific guides and resources, sharing experiences and best practices, researching solutions, asking questions – it’s all part of the process.
Q) What level of support are you getting from brands and agencies?
Kay: Brands and agencies have been great! There is the most fantastic willingness to participate and learn. In many instances it is brands that have approached us to join and we are blown away by the commitment from their end. As we scale and grow, we get to work with larger entities and again, their sustainability and production teams are really stepping up to the plate.
Q) Green The Bid recently launched the Complete Green Production ‘How To’ Manual, what does it cover and who is this aimed at?
Nagel: The guide was created for any production, agency, or brand producer looking to manage a sustainable production internally, when the support of a sustainability consultant is not possible. It is broken down into chapters that guide the steps and practices recommended to create a sustainable and regenerative production.
This includes, but is not limited to:
In this case, the guide was designed in collaboration with Green The Bid members Green Spark Group, Harvest, Madam, Sweet, Assembly, The Light, and The Lift who volunteered their experience and many of their resource documents to support the design of this free-to-use manual.
Q) In a recent AICP Town Hall to launch the Complete Production Guide, Gabi you presented a damning statistic taken from a production case study that noted that 69.8% of the production carbon was travel and transport rising to over 90% when you include the agency. How is it going to be reversed?
Kay: That statistic was on a specific case study production that we shared from the manual (credit to Adgreen for the calculation and Green Spark Group for the case study.) That 90% figure is particularly high, but (anecdotally) I think it is fair to say that on productions with travel, 60-70% of carbon impact measured coming from the flights is very common.
The only way to reverse that is to stop flying of course. I know that still occurs as hard, even after Covid, but the sheer number of people attending shoots from agencies and brands could definitely be reduced with the technical solutions now available for remote shooting.
Q) Green The Bid member brands adopt reasonable financial responsibility to ensure that the organization’s productions aim for zero-waste and carbon neutrality. Can you elaborate?
Nagel: To have a sustainable production requires dedicated staff, and time to set everyone up for a successful sustainable shoot including how to ensure that everything procured for a production is returned, donated, composted, or recycled.
With that in mind, we recommend that brands add approximately 1% on top of production and post budgets to protect and support sustainability measures on set and ensure production companies have what they need to get the job done. This amount can flex up depending on how complex the shoot will be.
Q) Green The Bid has lots of members that are production companies, a good number of agencies and a few brands. Given that the budget ultimately belongs to the brand, how important are they in specifying sustainable production?
Kay: The brands are vital – When a brand requests and funds sustainability practices (with reporting) on set, it gives permission to the whole agency and production team to do their best. It is also worth saying that procurement advocating to their brands makes a world of difference. Often brands have no idea that this way of doing production is possible.
Q) Can you really offset your way out climate change?
Kay: Nope. Not at all. We have to shift all our greenhouse gas emitting behaviors, it’s a big ask but there isn’t an alternative viable option.
Q) How do you work with other sustainable organizations?
Nagel: Building alliances is an essential part of the process, especially since there are a variety of organizations that are committed to the same thing but coming at it from different vantage points. We are in a race against time with the climate crisis, so if something has been built there is no need to reinvent the wheel, rather we can build on our individual but complementary strengths to achieve a sustainable and regenerative future.
For example, albert’s Studio Standard is an incredible program and we had Steve Smith as a guest on one of Green The Bid member meetings to explain how it works and in the hope that we could encourage participation.
Q) How important are trade bodies such as AICP, 4As, WFA, ANA and others in changing attitudes within brands and agencies?
Nagel: They are pivotal. They represent a large number of entities and can communicate, educate and advocate to entire sectors of the industry. Having support from, and collaboration with, trade organizations has provided Green The Bid an opportunity to speak with wider audiences and helped build the trust with the industry at large.
We can be a resource to their members, and we also learn a great deal from their areas of expertise. We hope to continue to build these alliances as we move forward.
Q) What role can marketing procurement play in driving through increased sustainable production?
Nagel: Procurement is essential in this conversation, and can be a driver in two significant ways: by enrolling the brands in the sustainability conversation, and protecting and supporting the budget associated with hiring the staff and paying for the resources needed to have sustainability on set.
Carol Pock from APR is on our advisory board and, in conversations with her and others, we saw the need to create a sustainability consultant rate range document to help provide clarity on costs associated with the process. Ultimately, Green The Bid is about collaboration and agreement between all of the stakeholders, and that includes procurement.
Q) If you look ahead 5 – 10 years, are you confident the industry will have significantly changed and reduced the carbon footprint in production?
Kay: Yes. I do believe that. In the last 3 years the landscape around this conversation has moved dramatically. There is an appetite for change globally, so it is a matter of us doubling down, keeping the conversation and agreements going and pushing to keep transitioning together.
Q) Is the long term aim of Green The Bid to put yourself out of business?
Nagel: Realistically we are a long way off from this being a reality but, yes please. I have a series of cocktails with tiny umbrellas that I will be happy to order in celebration.
Kay: I’ll take a Pisco Sour, thanks.
Q) As this series is called Women of Influence, which women have inspired you most or you most admire?
Kay: My grandmother was my first inspiration, she was extremely environmentally conscious, grew her own veg (as a vegetarian, when no one else I knew was a vegetarian), lived as a humanist, sang a capella, practiced tai chi, and took no shit from anyone.
In the public world; Bell Hooks, AOC, and Margaret Atwood, women that speak and write their minds with passion, love and humanity.
Nagel: My mom is my original Woman of Influence in so many ways. I recently found a newspaper about a protest blockade she participated in to protect a forested area, and I have many memories from my childhood of her leading park clean ups and marching for human rights. She is a feminist, an accomplished documentary editor, and outdoorsy in a way I’ll never be.
And, like Gabi, I admire many women – present and past including Helen Coldicott, Malala Yousafzai, Emily Carr, Alice Munro, and the women I have the honor to collaborate with every day via Green The Bid.
The Women of Influence insight series is published in partnership with Decideware
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