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Zena Harris and Green Spark Group are transforming the entertainment industry for the better through their work behind the scenes. By identifying and addressing the entertainment industry's lack of sustainability, Green Spark Group has brought innovation to the industry. The group advises production companies on how they can reduce their carbon emissions while still advancing the film industry toward profitability in the long run. Although the entertainment industry has historically been one of the worst in terms of environmental destruction, with the leadership of Green Spark Group, the current ethical climate can shift toward one that values both sustainability and profit.
Zena Harris and Green Spark Group consult production teams in the entertainment industry to create a business model and product that is made sustainably. Before Green Spark Group was founded 8 years ago, sustainability was not a hot topic of discussion. Entertainment companies and their production teams were focused on creating works of art that would be praised and even more importantly bring in lots of money. However, production sets have many indirect effects on the environment as there is often lots of travel involved, crews must design and create sets with raw materials, source large amounts of energy, maintain the operation of a set, and more… Green Spark Group’s innovation is the service of bringing together knowledgeable people and information on sustainability and applying it to the entertainment industry.
Zena Harris believes that there are three segments to the entertainment process: the corporate side, the operation side, and the financial side. On the corporate side, since the industry is old, there are people that have their old ways of thinking which leaves sustainability as an afterthought, Green Spark Group attempts to change that mindset. By trying to change organizations towards having employees that care about the environment, there will be visible progress. To do this, the group has assembled guides of educational resources that crews can easily access.
On the operation side, productions struggle with keeping carbon emissions low as they travel worldwide to get the perfect shot. Green Spark Group tries to solve this by pushing companies to shoot all the scenes from one location in one day rather than returning to get the remaining shots. Additionally, the group works with the cities to become entertainment hubs and it helps provide the necessary resources in one location.
Lastly, on the financial side, sustainability can be more costly than its counterpart, however, Green Spark Group can help work with their clients to create a successful business model that works now as well as years from now. Green Spark Group does not work with every production team, but their goal is to spread the wisdom and knowledge needed to make the next positive steps.
The business idea emerged over time as Zena gained industry knowledge over time. She realized which industry had the worst sustainability metrics - “I came to film and TV after doing my master’s degree and I learned that the entertainment industry was ranked very low in national sustainability surveys,” thus, Zena wanted to further understand the state it was in.
Zena and her team also noticed there was an education gap in sustainability, particularly in the film and TV industry, and saw an opportunity to help production crews integrate this into their strategy. Green Spark Group got together as a team and came up with a curriculum and the production of a one-hour online self-guided class that includes training, increasing awareness of sustainable production, and encouraging words for people on sets in the entertainment industry reduce the carbon footprint. The company started its service in the third year of its existence and the innovative ideas about sustainable practices in the industry were tweaked along the way. Over time, other methods were developed to convey information.
The overall motivation behind the innovation that Green Spark Group developed is to help create a more sustainable production and reduce the carbon footprint within the industry. Zena and her team are clear about their goal, and they are driven by their internal motivation in whatever they do. It might manifest in many different ways through their training, strategy, or work. She claims that “the vision of Green Spark Group is to change the climate of entertainment and the goal is to transform the [film and TV] industry”.
Zena Harris thinks that Green Spark Group makes a powerful impact socially because they work with many different stakeholders, so she feels like Green Spark Group’s employees are influencers in the industry. For example, when they work with a studio to develop a strategy lowering the carbon footprint in production, it creates a ripple effect when more and more people become aware of their individual and social carbon footprint. The impact on the industry overall is illustrated by the Sustainable Production Alliance which is a collaboration of studios under the Green Production Guide. The group works together through sharing knowledge in order to transform the entertainment industry into a more sustainable one.
Zena Harris believes that collaboration between organizations is the key aspect for the industry to successfully develop and have more positive impact. Many companies’ actions influence the entire ecosystem and joint efforts are more powerful. In terms of the impact on the environment, “Green Spark Group hovers around 5 metric tons of CO2 emitted per year” and this is how the company measures its carbon footprint.
The company also helps in planting trees by collaborating with organizations that specialize in such activities. Additionally, several of the company’s employees drive hybrid or electric vehicles which produce fewer emissions. Zena wants to expand Green Spark Group and offer its innovative services to more people. She states, “For us, as a little company, we hope we can continue to grow, bring on a few more team members so that we can continue to service more productions or studios consistently.” She thinks that in five years there will be more clarity and more collective actions toward sustainability within the industry.
Green Spark Group has been able to collaborate with a wide range of stakeholders, and they believe that their employees' efforts to promote sustainability in the film and TV industry has benefited their company. Furthermore, being a part of the Sustainable Production Alliance allows them to share their innovative ideas with other groups and gives them the advantage to grow their company at a faster pace. Growing faster allows them to have a greater impact in the entertainment industry. Because the company's innovation is a service, the internal stakeholders play a significant role in the services beneficial to the business.
Zena mentioned that one of the main struggles that Green Spark Group has is simply “believing in what is possible and knowing what they are capable of.” Once stakeholders believe in the company's mission and understand that they are capable of having a significant impact on not only the environment, but also their business, Green Spark Group will revolutionize the way businesses function in the film and TV industry. According to Green Spark Group's website, “sustainable solutions do more than lower your environmental impact. Many sustainable best practices result in significant cost savings and improve operational efficiency.” Many productions that Green Spark Group works with benefit from them tremendously. They have helped productions save $73,000 on average. This is done through goal setting, monitoring data, and implementing sustainable practices that Green Spark Group encourages all productions to do.
The societal and environmental advantage of Green Spark Group is that its services revolve around engaging with industry stakeholders to help develop a greener, more sustainable future. Because environmental health is still a relatively new topic, it is vital to increase interest and position environmental issues at the top of people's priority lists. Green Spark Group operates in Canada and the United States, and they are aiming to gain government support for a range of climate action initiatives and concepts. Their teams work with major and small productions, government agencies, corporations, studios, film commissions, and others aids in the pursuit of environmental protection. Green Spark Group implemented into its practices five of the Sustainable Development Goals and these are:
● Goal 11 Sustainable cities and communities - by helping their clients divert waste on their productions by installing comprehensive waste management stations and conducting waste training sessions
● Goal 12 Responsible consumption and protection - by ensuring productions reduce their consumption of single-use items, focus on circular economy principles, learn how to dispose of waste and hazardous chemicals responsibly
● Goal 13 Climate action - by providing consulting to corporations on sustainability strategy and sustainability consulting on productions
● Goal 14 Life below water - by working to reduce marine pollution by, for example, eliminating consumption of single-use plastic items or reducing carbon emissions that contribute to ocean warming and acidification
● Goal 15 Life on land - by promoting the use of re-claimed or re-used lumber and construction material
Progress toward these long-term goals will benefit society and the environment tremendously, leaving our world in a better state.
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Zena Harris, Founder, President
Green Spark Group is a sustainability consultancy founded in 2014 in Vancouver. It is the industry leader in the field of sustainable production, collaborating with creative industry stakeholders all around the world to help create a greener, more sustainable future for the earth. The company engages all levels of the motion picture industry from crew to studio to government bodies in multiple countries to advance sustainability. The vision that leads Green Spark Group is a transformation in culture to change the climate of entertainment.