How is the BBC aiming for net zero?

It’s set a 2050 target for cutting its carbon to zero but with almost 500m viewers, how has it started on this journey?

Big Zero Report 2023

The BBC has set a target for achieving net zero by 2050 – but how is it hoping to do this?

Danielle Mulder was hired in 2021 as the Director of Sustainability; tasked with turning a company with an audience just shy of 500 million people into a zero-carbon business.

In a recent interview she explained how the strategy has been outlined and the business will look to achieve this.

“The core pillar homes in on net zero. We also have a pillar on nature – we call it nature positive – where we take responsibility for our impact on biodiversity and nature itself. And our third pillar is people positive, which is about the impact of our programming on people, as well as our staff,” she said.

The BBC’s 2020 carbon footprint was the equivalent of 283,000 round-trip flights between London and New York – so cutting this to zero requires a multifaceted approach, Ms Mulder stresses.

It has implemented a new carbon and sustainability managing software made by Microsoft to track emissions throughout all parts of the business.

Short-term targets for reduction in carbon are then set based off of these levels – with the Carbon Trust revealing that the BBC has seen a 15% decline in its emissions so far.

Explaining the importance of technology in becoming net zero, she said: “It underpins a lot of what the media system does, from production technology to how we transmit and distribute data. Cloud services also play a role – we need to know how efficient that technology is in terms of energy consumption.”

Aside from purely technology, she added: “Some of this change depends on people. We need engagement and behavioural change too, where consumers make different choices but also employees.”

Given its huge audience, it has a large influence on society and has looked to slowly incorporate sustainability into some of its productions – with electric cars in Eastenders, David Attenborough’s recent climate change documentary and green topics of discussion on The One Show.

Ms Mulder explained: “There’s a big role to be played in having climate science implicitly weaved into our content. It’s all about the normalisation of sustainability. We build it into storylines – characters talk about recycling and reuse and food banks. We’ve even had special edition end credits highlighting how climate change will impact London and the River Thames. It’s subtle but it normalises important topics.”

By 2030, the BBC is targeting a 50% reduction in emissions.

“Make sure you get buy in from the top, as it makes the whole transition a lot easier – and that’s essential for success,” she concluded.

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