Why it's not too late to make a difference
Gabi Kay's recognition of the impact that advertising productions have on the environment was a slow burn affair but, once ignited, she Co-Founded Green The Bid in an attempt to educate the industry while also understanding the needs of the business. Here, she explains why "there is no sugar-coating the climate crisis. It is the ultimate human fuck up."
I used to work in commercial production in the UK. I started out as the world’s oldest runner (I think I was 28 at the time) and worked my way up through sales to become an EP.
I can honestly say I didn't think about the environmental impact of what we were doing.
I can honestly say I didn't think about the environmental impact of what we were doing. The primary goal was always to get the best scripts, work with the best creative teams, pitch the best treatments, build the best crew and make the numbers work. If you fought for the creativity, and enjoyed yourself when the company won awards, you were doing good. I was young and there was money sloshing about (in the early days), and the people around me were bright and brilliant and fun.
Above: Advertising film productions, along with all industries, need to be aware of the impact they have on the environment.
Watching production do its thing is wonderful, and I loved being part of the energy and drive of that creative process, but once I had my kids, I just couldn’t keep up with it the way I wanted to, and I found myself burning out trying to do both at 100%. My 'a-ha' moment was when my four-year-old son begged me not to go to work one morning, and I realised that I could take that as an invitation rather than a complaint. I went into work that day and resigned. I didn't know how it would turn out, or if it would be ok, but I remember being certain it was the right thing for me to do.
It wasn’t really until I moved to Los Angeles seven years ago that the niggles about plastic packaging morphed into a proper full-blown anxiety about the climate crisis.
Leaving my career created a vacuum that gave me space to think about what mattered to me and, at first, that was really just raising my kids. My concerns about the environment have actually been pretty slow going, and it wasn’t really until I moved to Los Angeles seven years ago that the niggles about plastic packaging morphed into a proper full-blown anxiety about the climate crisis.
LA is obviously very climate vulnerable, and the annual wildfires, droughts and blackouts start to drip through to even the most complacent of us. I think it is harder in England to feel the same dread because constant rain is just a running joke, so extra constant rain feels about right. But the more I found out about the climate crisis, and the more I sought out and got information, the uglier the prognosis.
Above: Los Angeles is more susceptible to climate change.
At some point you look at your kids and think, holy shit, they didn't ask to be born, what the fuck am I thinking sitting here reading and knowing stuff and doing nothing about it? I have to do something. So I looked at what I had available to work with, and it was my skill set and my network and I thought, well, I have to start there. We all have a network and a skillset and those are our greatest assets, so I will see how far I can get with mine.
At some point you look at your kids and think, holy shit, they didn't ask to be born. I have to do something.
Advertising production is not the only area of industry that has to shift its behaviour, all industry has to do this. Advertising isn't by any means the worst, but we are the one I have a relationship with, so I thought, let’s see what we can get done. By teaming up with Jessie Nagel, Michael Kaliski, Kat Friis, and Julian Katz to start Green The Bid, I knew that, between us, we had a good understanding of the mechanics of our industry and a network that covered our whole ecosystem - brands through to vendors.
We spent a substantial chunk of time working out how to structure the initiative to make sure every stakeholder group was taken into consideration, and we tailored our pledges with that in mind. We knew we couldn’t just ask people to pledge and then leave them. We would have to commit to being there for whatever people needed to get this done. So we did. I love how we all said yes to that. It creates a special kind of bond.
Above: Green The Bid has a series of initiatives in place to help the industry work more sustainably.
I think that is what makes us unique. We are all in this boat and it's all of our industry and all of our planet on the line here. We aren’t activists making demands without appreciating what that might take, and we don’t have any incentive to get this done other than a deep wish that we (and every other industry) take this tiny window of opportunity to turn our ship around.
Building Green The Bid is inspiring. It is a huge honour to speak with all the individuals and companies that join us. The chance to see people as who they really are; concerned parents, passionate humans, willing to adapt much of their working systems, and courageous enough to ask the same of their clients, is enormously life-affirming. Our global community is full of people absolutely driven to do what it takes, and we love being able to support them with whatever they need to transition.
There is no sugar-coating the climate crisis. It is the ultimate human fuck up.
We hope that Green The Bid will continually expand to meet the demands of our industry. As agencies and brands gain confidence in shifting their carbon and waste impact, there is an opportunity for us to push this all the way. Imagine if every time we did a production we put more back into the community in which we shot than we took. If we created aspirational lifestyles that encouraged circular economies. If we educated as we went so that other industries would follow our lead in transitioning themselves. We could do that if we wanted.
There is no sugar-coating the climate crisis. It is the ultimate human fuck up. We do have to look at it and say “We did this. We are doing this.” But we don't have to continue. That is insanity. No other species is stupid enough to poison their well, recognise their well is poisoned, and keep drinking from it anyway.
Scientists have given us a working window of eight years to shift it all. That is entirely doable. Creativity thrives on a deadline, so all hands to the pump.