Interview with Josh Mark, Director of Sustainability for FOX Broadcasting Company

Posted on 02. Nov, 2009 by in Interviews

FOX Solar Event

Josh Mark is the Director of Sustainability for FOX Broadcasting Company. FOX Broadcasting is deeply committed to greening the filming industry, and is kind enough to share their wealth of knowledge with their competitors through the FOX Green Guide.

OG: What are you looking forward to the most about the conference?

Josh: I went last year, it was great! It was very inspirational, I saw what others were doing, took ideas from totally different industries, and found ways to apply it in ours. Nothing specific, but I took bits and pieces of this and that, and later found myself more easily inspired. I was recharged, and felt like I could always do more to make FOX more sustainable.

OG: I love how clear and simple the FOX Green Guide Best Practices section is. How widespread is the FOX Green Guide? What are you doing to popularize it within and outside of FOX?

Josh: A team of us developed the guide to enable our productions to have a simple resource for greening their work.We designed it for internal use, for our employees, production crews, and vendors. We don’t plan to advertise it and there’s no money involved in the guide. Initially, we discussed making it password protected, but that was too costly. Besides, we want everyone to be green, and there’s no competitive advantage to us being green, so the more people who know about the guide, the better. If everyone is greening their productions, it escalates people’s baseline commitments to sustainability, which can only be good.

OG: Does FOX have any employee incentive initiatives, like Wal-Mart’s Personal Sustainability Project?

Josh: We measure the CO2 footprint of all 20th century FOX productions. For now, it’s just carbon, but we’re developing a tool that will measure the full sustainability picture- waste, recycling, etc.- as much information as we can get. Until you capture all the information, you have no baseline for people to measure themselves by. We want to make it easy, and not add a lot of work for people who are reporting.

Each production self-reports, and many have found that by following the best practices, they’re saving money, particularly when it involves transportation or re-use. This includes our film division, TV, with 25 series currently airing, and FOX Sports with 10,000 live broadcasts per year.

OG: Because so many people in the industry are independent contractors, how do you motivate them, particularly when the best practice may require a significant behavior change?

Josh: Well, it depends- the shows controlled by us are easier to manage, we have rules & protocols built in that FOX employees follow. Shows have a formula for everything, so sustainability is not a stretch for people. But for reality shows and other types that we buy from external production companies, we have different approaches.

Our primary tool is that at different points in the year we meet with the executive producers of the shows, tell them about our tools for best practices. We explain to them that we want to help them improve, and ask how can we help. It’s harder to manage, eventually we may try to mandate best practices protocols, but not now. Really, the hard part is collecting data from external production companies, since they’re not required to measure and report to us.

On the lot, all trash is recycled on-site, we have an 84% recovery rate, and recently added composting. Currently we’re only composting kitchen waste, but it will soon be at our commissaries as well, and we’re planning to make our to-go containers compostable.

OG: Looking through the best practices, most of it seems like common sense to me. But tell me how it’s received by people who haven’t been obsessed with sustainability for the past few years.

Josh: I’ve seen that fewer and fewer people are not into sustainability. There’s always at least one person on a production who is deep green. When you have the executive producer or someone else who’s fairly high up, committed to greening, it’s a lot easier. Having that top-down commitment always makes it easier.

OG: How are vendors selected and monitored for the guide? That could be a full-time job in itself.

Josh: We research each vendor before we’ll add them, and then we rely on user feedback to monitor as they go along. We don’t have enough staff to monitor all of our vendors. If we get feedback, we’ll use it. The more information we get, the better, as shows go to certain locations, they add it to the guide. We have shows filming all over the world, so we rely heavily on the production crews to find and report green vendors wherever they might be.

Also, we have very long relationships with some vendors. We never want to leave them, instead we try to convince them to change. So we ask them to supply us with the products or services we need. It’s easy enough for us to get vendors to carry what we want since we bring them so much work. Anyone, even a vendor, can suggest a vendor, and we will review them and put them in the guide if they check out.

OG: Did you hear about LA Greensters, the group that made an entire feature film using only bicycles for transportation? How do you think that extreme users like that can help you find unforeseen ways to green filming?

FOX hybrid trucks

Josh: For a mainstream production, we can’t do it without the trucks, but it can be good on location, a lot of our lots do use bicycles. Depending on where you are, there’s things to do. For example, we’ve been doing the Emmy’s for years, which take place over a four-block area. We used to always rent golf carts, but last year we used a bunch of bicycles, had on-site bike-sharing for the event. People really got into it.

The other thing about extreme users, is that it inspires people to push the envelope. So while we can’t use bicycles for everything, we can try something else that’s greener.

Photos courtesy of FOX Broadcasting.

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