Bafta delivers its first carbon-neutral ceremony

Bafta has invested in a string of initiatives to decarbonise and reduce the resource impact of its 2020 film awards ceremony, which took place in London this Sunday (2 January).

It is the first major awards season event to tout carbon neutrality. Image: Stuart Chalmers, CC BY 2.0

It is the first major awards season event to tout carbon neutrality. Image: Stuart Chalmers, CC BY 2.0

Prior to the event, attendees were told to adhere to a sustainable fashion dress code and to either re-wear or rent outfits rather than purchasing new. This requirement was set out in a guide penned by the London College of Fashion, which also recommended purchasing second-hand garments through channels such as consignment stores or Depop.

Attendees were also given the option to offset the carbon associated with their visit to the Royal Albert Hall. Those who chose not to pay for offsetting themselves had their carbon credits paid for by Bafta.

On the night, goody bags were scrapped in the name of preventing waste, and all drinks, starters and deserts on offer were vegan, in recognition of the environmental impacts of the global meat and dairy sectors.

Bafta also partnered with Audi to ensure that cars bringing stars to the event were fully electric and worked with the Royal Albert Hall to fit energy-saving LED lights on its red carpet.

The move comes after Bafta removed all single-use plastic from distribution at the event in 2019 and banned guests and press staff from bringing single-use plastic items to the venue from outside.

Bafta chair Pippa Harris said the decision to deliver a carbon-neutral event reflects a “sea change” in the climate discussion over the past year, amid a backdrop of strikes and other activism which has contributed to changes in climate policy across the world.

“It's no good to do your best anymore,” Harris told the Hollywood Reporter. “Everybody has got to pull together. It's a climate emergency, and people just have to start making these choices and shouting about them. There may be people who roll their eyes, but who cares?”

When asked why Bafta had chosen to offset emissions, despite controversies around carbon credit schemes, Harris said the organisation would only purchase carbon credits to cover “things we are unable to control” as “the last part of the jigsaw”.

Stars of screen, stage and… sustainability?

While it is the first major awards season event to tout carbon neutrality, Bafta is not alone in shifting parts of its operations in the name of environmental sustainability.

Both the Golden Globes and the Oscars have switched to entirely plant-based menus for 2020.

While these moves were welcomed by the vegan community, critics continue to highlight the fact that many stars choose to fly to awards shows – often by private jet – and to take private petrol or diesel cars.

Beyond events season, the need to decarbonise the wider film and TV industry is also evident, as is the need to highlight environmental issues and solutions in broadcasting.

To that end, Bafta is hosting Albert – an organisation providing businesses and individuals across the broadcasting sector with resources to help them not only minimise the environmental impacts of their operations, but change the narrative around sustainability issues. Tools offered through albert include a carbon calculator and a digital platform which identifies high-carbon “hotspots”; a specialist education course; and advice on developing narratives around topics such as renewable energy, the circular economy and low-carbon transport.

More than 200 programmes, including EastEnders and the 2018 World Cup coverage, have carried the Albert sustainability certification to date.

Given that most major broadcasters, including BBC and ITV, are now taking action to reduce their operational footprint, Bafta’s head of industry sustainability Aaron Matthews recently told edie that the challenges for 2020 will be reaching the rest of the sector and embedding climate conversations beyond factual programmes.

“The story of climate change is now being told very loudly and I think that all of the people who will be engaged through facts and figures probably are already,” Matthews said.  “We need to show that this isn’t all about CO2 – that it is part of the everyday narrative.”

Sarah George



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