Europa Distribution organises the third edition of the online Green Distribution Lab

By Sarah Quinless

On the 4th of June 2024, Europa Distribution held the third edition of its online Green Distribution Lab. The session, aiming to help further green the distribution sector, gathered more than 20 distributors for a 3-hour long online brainstorming session. The lab used the previous editions and the evolutive ‘Green Toolbox’ created during these sessions to build on previously discussed topics and dig deeper into how the distribution sector could become more sustainable.

Europa Distribution’s Toolbox on Green Distribution consists of various good practices to make business strategies, travel arrangements and office work more environmentally friendly. The toolbox divided ‘green actions’ into three clusters: Markets & Acquisitions, Publishing & Distribution, Office Green Routine. During previous editions, participants brainstormed about practices they could use to reduce CO2 emissions when travelling, implement environmentally-friendly business practices in the areas of promotion and distribution, and foster green office practices. These discussions and the resulting toolbox offered distributors practical ways to increase sustainability in all areas of the business and highlighted the areas where further investigation was needed. For the 2024 edition, the workshop focused largely on promotion, as this was the area with the greatest room for development, focusing on two key strands: digital footprints and impact campaigns.

When preparing the annual Green Lab and liaising with members, Europa Distribution found that many of the practices or organisations working to green the film sector focused largely on production. In light of this, and inspired by a presentation during the 2023 edition when a member presented a report commissioned by their company on the carbon emissions of one marketing campaign, Europa Distribution turned to marketing agency BIGGIE group for this year’s Green Lab. When considering environmentally respectful strategies in the area of marketing, the focus is often on a transition from physical to digital and electronic materials in an effort to reduce waste. However, the environmental impact and carbon footprint of these alternatives is not something which is always taken into consideration. This is why Europa Distribution invited Araceli Almada, Sustainability Products & Services Manager at Biggie Group.

Almada began her presentation by highlighting that even though there is not the same physical proof from digital footprints as with other forms of pollution, the environmental impact stemming from marketing campaigns can still be significant. “We don’t realise all of the resources needed just to get everything going for these digital marketing campaigns” Almada remarked. Data centres used to power our digital technologies account for 1-1.3% of the world entire electricity usage, indicating a real impact on the environment. Almada explained the emissions created at each stage of the media supply chain before moving on to how these carbon footprints from marketing campaigns could be measured: “As with most things, you cannot manage what you don’t know”. Carbon calculators are important to allow distributors to quantify the environmental impact of their actions, pinpoint areas for improvement, set goals, track progress and make informed decisions. Almada highlighted the high volume of carbon calculators available and emphasised the importance of selecting one which can measure the entire life cycle of a distributor’s marketing campaign. The variety of different carbon calculators can cause some difficulties as it is difficult to create benchmarks in the marketing industry when everyone is using different measurements.

The next point to consider, once it was clear to distributors how to measure their carbon footprint, was how to then reduce it. Almada proposed that distributors should optimise their media plan by giving preference, when possible, to less carbon intensive broadcasting settings – favouring things like first party data and contextual targeting over third party cookies. Another way to lower emissions is to target devices which are compatible with the asset’s format, in the case of distributors, largely videos which work best for mobile phones. An overall mindset of ‘less is more’ was recommended by Almada throughout campaigns – advising distributors to consider the length and number of assets produced, the time content is posted, as well as the weight of the materials produced – the heavier the assets are digitally, the more resources needed to diffuse them. In this vein, BIGGIE group have developed their own tool called ‘small’ which reduced the weight of creative assets and thus their carbon footprint. Considering sustainability as a factor in marketing campaigns requires new KPIs and Almada explained that BIGGIE are currently using CPM and CPAM (electrical consumption per 1000 impressions and carbon emissions equivalent per 1000 impressions) to give an overall impression of the ‘carbon intensity’ of a campaign. A clear sentiment from the presentation was that things are changing rapidly in the realm of digital marketing and the general consciousness regarding carbon footprints from digital campaigns is increasing. Additionally, introducing sustainability measures could bring other benefits to distributors in their campaigns – enhanced audience targeting and of course reduced costs from energy efficient methods. For many the presentation from BIGGIE group provided a wealth of information on the environmental impact of their marketing campaigns in addition to many practical steps to reduce them.

The next presentation of the day came from Laure Caillol, discussing French distribution company, Haut et Court’s release of Green Tide (Les Algues Vertes) by Pierre Jolivet to stimulate discussions on how distributors can help raise awareness and engagement on sustainability and green issues through their releases. Caillol began the presentation by remarking that films on social issues were “in the DNA of many independent arthouse distribution companies” and offer an opportunity for distributors to showcase big questions or issues. Green Tide follows the story of a reporter investigating the deaths of locals on Breton beaches caused by mysterious green algae which had appeared and the controversial links of the agricultural industry to the issue. As part of the release, Haut et Court partnered with various organisations including: Zero de Conduite (an organisation focusing on films as education tools for teachers), Greenpeace, LPO (League for the Protection of Birds). The release on 12 July also coincided with the summertime in Brittany when the issue of the green algae is most prominent in public consciousness as well as the introduction of a farming and agriculture law in France which brought further interest to the subject among the press. Haut et Court also organised various screenings with debates (almost 50 in total) featuring representatives from the aforementioned partnerships as well as farmers using environmentally-friendly practices, in an effort to further stimulate discussion and awareness of the issue. Caillol explained that Haut et Court had also worked with influencers focused on social issues to further expand their outreach. The film did very well with over 400 000 admissions, 100,000 of which were in Brittany. The film was even shown in the French parliament during the debate over the new agricultural law. The release of Green Tide acted as an inspiring example for participants of how they can help green causes through their releases through innovative and engaging release techniques such as debates and Q&As.

After the presentations, Europa Distribution members had the opportunity to discuss more broadly any topics falling under the umbrella of green distribution. Discussions ranged greatly, touching on how to re-use banners, whether or not to still produce any printed material and sustainably producing merchandise for a release. A common theme among all these discussions, was the sentiment that in order to be sustainable, distributors must think consciously about what they produce; what impact will the material have, who is it targeted to and how many are needed. Many participants noted that they now opt to produce promotional materials in smaller amounts and then produce more if needed, so that no waste is created.

Undoubtedly, the annual Europa Distribution Green Lab provides distributors with an invaluable space to discuss sustainability in the sector. The unique setting gives an opportunity to ED members to learn from one another and share best practices related to sustainability and greening the distribution sector. Each year, the Green Lab builds on previous editions and continues to hone in on different areas to provide distributors with new tactics to implement environmentally friendly distribution strategies, with a focus on practical actions. Certainly, there is more to come!

Europa Distribution will continue their activities over the summer with their Distribution Innovation Hub in the scope of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, a public panel in the scope of New Nordic Films and a common working session between producers and distributors in the scope of the Venice Production Bridge.