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Netflix, DWS, PepsiCo: Climate Action Matters, and Matters Now

Netflix is gaining on its climate action push, as its head of sustainability told a crowd at The Economist's sustainability conference in Washington, D.C.
By Leon Kaye

Herne Bay, Kent, coastal U.K., where the final scenes of Heartstopper were filmed.

Netflix may have seen the epic series Schitt’s Creek drift away to Hulu in the latest round of the streaming giant wars, but the entertainment leader is gaining in its drive on climate action.

That’s according to Emma Stewart, who leads sustainability efforts at Netflix. “We’ve put our company on a carbon diet in line with climate science,” she said earlier today at a sustainability conference in Washington, D.C.

The streaming giant’s commitments range from its ongoing work to protect and restore carbon sinks to a huge lineup of series and documentaries focused on sustainability. On the latter point, the company says at least 160 million households around the world have watched content centered around climate-related challenges. Such work is critical for a company of Netflix’s scope, especially if its filming locations, such as the U.K.’s Hearn Bay (where the final scenes of the streaming service’s Heartstopper was filmed), will continue to thrive and mitigate future climate change risks.

So how does Netflix stay on task? Stewart described the company’s framework as “OED” — three overarching pillars in which the company optimizes, electrifies and decarbonizes its operations.

You may be saying, in the words of Schitt’s Creek’s David Rose, “I don’t know what that means.” Well, optimize is the low-hanging fruit, as in energy efficiency and ensuring operations across Netflix’s operations run smarter and nimbler. Electrification can apply to how the company’s production sets operate, such as eschewing diesel generators on set and moving crews via electric vehicles instead of gasoline-powered ones. What can’t be optimized or electrified, Stewart added, needs to be decarbonized, as in investments in sustainable aviation fuels (SAF); the company recently co-founded the Sustainability Aviation Buyers Alliance in a the drive to expand access to SAF.

Other companies within industries vastly different from Netflix also need to embark upon a similar high-level approach as they seek to make their companies more responsible, more sustainable and more responsive to the demands of their stakeholders. Take Dupont Water Solutions (DWS), which shared the stage with Netflix’s Stewart. DWS’ has two massive pillars it’s aware of day-to-day: water and energy. “In our business, we wrestle between energy and water every day," said Alan Chan, a vice president and general manager at DWS. “On one hand, we enable our shareholders and stakeholders by optimizing water, and doing so by not consuming more energy. And we believe that water and greenhouse gas emissions have always been closely linked; you cannot separate the two.”

Worldwide, 40 percent of all generated electricity goes into water treatment, whether it’s purifying water for drinking or processing wastewater, Chan said.

Moving on to how food and beverage companies can become part of the global drive toward climate action, PepsiCo’s chief sustainability officer, Jim Andrew, noted how his team is contributing to the company’s evolution. The three pillars within this segment of PepsiCo’s strategy are regenerative agriculture, sustainable packaging and investments in renewables, said Andrew.

Such focus is crucial, explained Andrew: “We’re actually an even bigger food company – 55 percent food, in fact.”

Steward, Chen and Andrew helped kick off The Economist's second annual Sustainability Week U.S., the lineup of which includes many global brands, officials from the Joe Biden administration and elected leaders from across the United States.

Image credit: Claire Smith/Unsplash

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye