UK film industry pioneers sustainability standard developed by BSI

Press release - 15 May 2011

The British film industry, in conjunction with BSI, is taking the lead in the global entertainment market with the announcement at the Cannes Film Festival of a new British Standard that will improve the industry’s environmental, social and economic impact. For example, in London alone, screen production accounted for 125,000 tonnes of carbon emissions in 2009, 40% of which came from studios and 28% from TV and film production.

After seeing how the British Standard, BS 8901, has helped the events sector address sustainability issues and save money ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games, the UK Film Council, whose funding responsibilities have now transferred to the BFI, asked The British Standards Institution (BSI) to work with it to develop a new industry standard for film.

The resulting standard, BS 8909, is a specification for ‘sustainability management’ in the film industry from production through to cinema exhibition and home entertainment that helps companies focus on how their activities impact the environment, the communities they work in and their wider economic influence.

Oscar winner Colin Firth, who is fully behind the new British Standard said, "As one of the founding partners of Eco Age, I'm delighted that Eco Age has project managed the trials of the new British Standard for sustainable filmmaking. BS 8909 is an exciting step forward – it gives the film industry a robust framework for managing our social and environmental impacts."
Eco-Age, Firth’s corporate sustainability consultancy has played an integral role in the launch of the standard, having run three of the pilot schemes and offering support and guidance to the pioneering organisations who have adopted the standard - including Ealing Studios, Dogwoof, and the BFI.

BS 8909 can be applied across the film supply chain from planning to production, through to editing, distribution, screening and archiving. These extend beyond ‘going green’ and into areas such as the way filmmakers interact with communities where they film; for example, providing local employment opportunities or sourcing local products.

BSI’s Director of Standards Mike Low says: “The film industry has pockets of excellence around sustainability issues, however, the new British Standard BS 8909 provides a comprehensive framework for all parties involved in the development and launching of films to adopt. It encourages companies to address the environmental, social and economic impacts of their work – from the initial concept for the film right through the process, even down to any merchandising and advertising.”

Complying with the new standard shows that processes and protocols are in place so that a film company’s environmental impact is minimised and its social and wider economic benefits maximised. For example:

  • Environmental: by reducing carbon emissions produced by wasteful travel arrangements; such as improved route planning, selecting vehicles with lower CO2 ratings, ensuring that more people travel together or adopting a more sustainable means of transport
  • Social: by establishing clear guidelines for minimising the impact of the filming schedule on local communities; such as limiting hours of work, engaging early with communities about parking arrangements, noise, and catering, or by ensuring that child cast members are chaperoned are able to cope with the demands of a busy working environment. The entire supply chain can be considered too, which means, for example, that companies that produce a film’s associated merchandising will be able to adopt the standard too
  • Economic: by helping communities benefit from film activities: for example, by hiring local people and compensating them properly or sourcing local props, extras and catering.

The introduction of BS 8909 is expected to be just the start of a process of assimilating sustainability management into film production. Whilst companies may be undertaking many activities that comply with the standard - such as recycling office supplies or running low-emitting vehicles, for example - they will need to examine their whole range of activities to achieve best practice. As the standard is adopted by the industry, the British Standards Institution expects to develop a certification scheme that could be offered through trade associations or supplier audits.

BSI partners in development of BS 8909

The origins of BS 8909 began in 2010 when the UK Film Council asked BSI to develop a standard specifically for film after noting the success of a similar standard in the events management sector. Although the UK Film Council has now been disbanded, BS 8909 has the support of the UK’s leading film organisations, including: