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Netflix Aims For Net Zero

Netflix announced an ambitious plan to become carbon emissions neutral by the end of 2022. The streaming service’s initiative is called Net Zero + Nature and will focus on decarbonizing its film production sets among other actions.

The announcement was made in a blog post by Emma Stewart, Netflix’s first sustainability officer. The initiative consists of three steps. The first includes reducing internal emissions in alignment with the Paris Agreement, as well as reducing Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 35 percent by 2030.

The second step is focused on emissions that Netflix can’t avoid internally, such as Scope 3 emissions. The company plans to neutralize them by making carbon-friendly investments to offset those emissions. An example is conserving at-risk natural areas like tropical forests.

The third step includes removing carbon from the atmosphere. Netflix’s goal is to invest in the regeneration of critical natural ecosystems around the world. This is part of the nature element of the plan and includes projects that capture and store carbon, such as mangroves, grasslands, and soils.

“Our 2020 carbon footprint was 1,100,000 metric tons. Roughly half (50 percent) of that footprint was generated by the physical production of Netflix-branded films and series,” said Stewart. This includes directly managed productions, those from third-party production companies, and licensed content. 

The other 45 percent of the company’s carbon footprint comes from its corporate operations and purchased goods. In addition, Netflix’s use of Amazon Web Services and a network to stream its service takes up another five percent.

Netflix’s plan to reduce emissions is based on the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) Guidance to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The company will specifically address self-managed production, such as electricity, natural gas, diesel, and gasoline use. It will also review its corporate jet fuel usage, as well as its consumption of electricity and natural gas, and refrigerant leakage issues at its corporate facilities. These measures are part of Scope 1 and 2.

Scope 3 measures include reducing emissions from third parties that Netflix can’t control. Those include data center electricity use, employee and production travel, and lodging, production of branded partner-managed, and licensed content, purchased goods and services, and upstream emissions from its own energy use.

To address these issues, Netflix plans to increase operational efficiencies, transition away from fossil fuels to electricity and other net-zero energies, and only buy renewable and additional electricity where possible.

“We apply these three steps first where we have the greatest operational control, which is primarily studio facilities we own (Albuquerque) or where we have master lease agreements (e.g. Madrid Content City in Spain),” Stewart said. “And then where we have influence, like in our long-term corporate office leases or with preferred vendors (e.g. in transportation, building materials, etc.).”

For the retain and remove phase, Netflix strives to fully compensate for any unavoidable internal emissions by investing in green climate action projects by the end of 2021. And by the end of 2022, it will add investment in the regeneration of nature’s critical ecosystems.

“These projects strengthen vulnerable and disadvantaged communities, protect biodiversity, increase food security, protect drinking water, generate new jobs and educational opportunities, and provide climate resilience,” Stewart pointed out.

Finally, for watching Netflix content and the internet use this generates, while the company does not have direct control over the equipment used by internet service providers, it has joined a research effort called DIMPACT to measure that footprint. The collaborative project is led by the University of Bristol. Its researchers have calculated that one hour of Netflix streaming in 2020 was equivalent to driving a gas-powered passenger vehicle a quarter-mile (400 meters).

“The film industry needs a leader when it comes to climate action. Changing the world begins with one company stepping up and inspiring others to join them,” said Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, chief scientist of The Nature Conservancy, and distinguished professor and chair at Texas Tech University. “I’m thrilled at how Netflix is taking on this leadership role, informed by both the physical science that explains how our choices affect our world and the social science that explains how we can make change happen.”

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