How Hollywood is Working to Tackle the Climate Crisis

Written by:
Vanessa Chumbley ’22
Managing Editor
Connect with Vanessa on LinkedIn

The relationship between film and television and American culture is a popular topic which many scholars have dedicated their careers to. Indeed, it is part of the evolution of the relationship that art has always had with culture. Through pre-historic drawings, sculpture, the written word, visual art, and now films and TV, art has always been both a product of a given culture and a vehicle for influencing and changing culture. Art reflects current attitudes, beliefs, and trends, but also provides new perspectives and has the power to change the way people understand and interact with the world around them. It is difficult to understand exactly the extent to which the content we watch today is a product of cultural trends versus the cause of cultural trends, but Oscar Wilde may have been on to something when he wrote, “Life imitates art far more than Art imitates life.”

It is through art and storytelling that we have come to understand our history as a species, and they remain a vital and integral part of our understanding of the world. Today, it is largely through film and TV that we tell the stories of our time – the stories that future generations will look to in order to understand this period of time in human history. One of the most important stories of our time, if not the most important, is that of our rapidly changing environment, climate change, and the role that human beings play in these changes.

The entertainment community is beginning to understand how they can play a role in tackling the climate crisis. A recent UK report, produced by the Behavioural Insight Team in collaboration with Sky TV, provided a strong call to action for the media and entertainment industry to use their platform to promote a more sustainable future, stating:

Broadcast organisations and content creators… have a unique opportunity to make a difference for the planet. Through the programs that they produce, the characters that they create, the plot-lines that they develop, and the adverts that they broadcast, content creators have the potential to have a far-reaching impact on the knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of citizens, and to spark conversations in boardrooms and political arenas alike. They are also pivotally placed to help people sift through the maze of choices and claims, to adopt behaviours – and products – that can get us to a greener future.1

The idea of entertainment content influencing and shifting cultural norms around sustainability and climate change is compelling and credible when we consider how content has shaped culture in the past. Film and TV’s influence on things like violence and smoking among children and teens has been widely discussed, but there is also data on the positive impact content has had on topics such as acceptance of homosexuality, public health, and having a designated driver.


As the world’s largest Entertainment and Media (E&M) industry, Hollywood is beginning to take this call to action to heart. In April of 2022, Good Energy – a “story consultancy for the age of climate change” – released their climate storytelling playbook: “A playbook for screenwriting in the age of climate change”. This playbook applies climate and behavioral science to the writing and storytelling process, outlining best practices for climate character development, how to talk about climate change, and how to portray sustainable behaviors on screen.

The conversation continued in June at the Hollywood Climate Summit, an annual gathering of entertainment, climate and behavioral science experts, and activists with programming aimed at how Hollywood can address the climate crisis. I attended a few of the Summit events as research for my Practicum Project with the Sustainable Production Alliance (SPA) – a consortium of the world’s leading film, TV, and streaming companies dedicated to accelerating the transformation of the entertainment business into a more sustainable industry. Working on this Practicum Project has provided introductions to many organizations working to tackle the climate crisis through content, including Green Product Placement, the Environmental Media Association, and Rare – one of the presenting organizations at the Summit.

The Summit brought together some of the industry’s most knowledgeable professionals, from the VP of Animation Film at Netflix to the founder of Good Energy to Erin Brockovich. Programming covered a variety of climate storytelling topics, including workshops on screenwriting, dispelling character tropes, unpacking climate emotions, and seminars on climate justice stories and elevating the voices of minority creators.

I was thrilled to see SI-MBA alum, Julie Keck, leading an event titled, “Kin Theory: A Community Centering Indigenous Creators”. Julie graduated from SI-MBA in 2019 and is now Co-Founder and Chief Business Development Officer of OTV Studio, an artist and IP incubator for intersectional creators that connects these artists to studios, networks, and audiences. She also works as a Consulting Producer with Nia Tero, a non-profit organization working to preserve Indigenous peoples, cultures, and land through advocacy, policymaking, and storytelling.

The industry is not only addressing climate change through its content, however. The major Hollywood studios and streaming companies are taking ambitious steps to reducing the carbon footprint of their business and physical production operations. For example, Sony installed solar panels on their lot, offsetting 100% of the electricity consumed by stage operations. Paramount constructed an alternative energy plant on their property, lowering energy consumption to below 1990 levels and saving 400 million tons of greenhouse gases over the past decade. Disney is piloting a digester, turning all their food and green waste into compost without needing to be transported to another facility. Studio crews take home the compost to use in their gardens, thus engaging and educating employees in the process2.


Much of the work done by my Practicum host, SPA, has centered around reducing the carbon footprint of physical production. They have produced tools including a carbon footprint calculator and a plywood tracking worksheet to be used on set. They connect filmmakers to a variety of green vendors and published the industry’s first comprehensive report on carbon emissions from physical production between 2016 and 2019. What is inspiring about SPA is that it’s an alliance comprised of the industry’s largest competitors – always battling for projects, talent, and viewers. However, they’ve come together to work collaboratively to make the industry as a whole more sustainable. Lisa Day, Manager of Environmental Sustainability at Disney, is one the point people for my Practicum project. The Hollywood Reporter Sustainability Issue shared the following quote from Lisa:

From the early, early days of starting this work, we came together and we said, ‘You know what, we can be as competitive as we want to at the box office, on our linear channels and our streaming services, but this is an area where we really need to be cooperative and not competitive,’ speaking of the industry’s collaborative effort to tackle climate change.1

The entertainment community has only just begun these important conversations on how to be a force for good when it comes to the climate crisis. Much more work and research are needed to reach the full potential of the positive impact the industry could have. I am excited and honored to make even a small contribution to this effort through my Practicum Project. While there is still a long way to go, this movement within the industry is gaining significant momentum, and I am hopeful it will lead to more action and widespread positive impact.

1Londakova, K., Reynolds, J., Farrell, A., Whitwell-Mak, J., Meyer zu Brickwedde, E., Mottershaw, A., . . . Park, T. (2021). The power of TV: Nudging viewers to decarbonise their lifestyles. Retrieved July 1, 2022, from

2Chuba, K. (2022). Thr sustainability issue. Retrieved July 1, 2022, from

Opinion: SEC’s ESG disclosure proposal is a steppingstone, not a solution

Written By:
Carly Joos ’22
Digital Content Editor
Connect with Carly on LinkedIn

A new wave of capitalism may be looming as the latest proposal from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) directly ties the future of business to environmental and social impact. On March 21st, the SEC proposed new rules for reporting on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics. These rules would require public companies to disclose their contributions to global warming, such as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and evaluate the threats that climate change poses to their operations. This proposal is an essential step in compelling corporations to think critically about their impact on our planet and society, but is not a silver bullet to bring about true disruptive and systemic change. 

Many companies, both public and private, already voluntarily disclose their social and environmental impacts. KPMG’s 2020 Survey of Sustainability Reporting indicated that 80% of N1001 companies worldwide, and more than 90% in North America, report on sustainability[1]. So, if companies are already reporting on sustainability and ESG metrics, why is the SEC proposing new rules?

1The N100 refers to a worldwide sample of 5,200 companies. It includes the top 100 companies by revenue in each of the 52 countries and jurisdictions researched in this study. These N100 statistics provide a broad-based snapshot of sustainability reporting among large and mid-cap firms around the world.

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

A major problem in ESG reporting today is that companies lack clear guidelines on how to actually do it. There are countless reporting frameworks that companies can use, including the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), and many more. Each framework varies in scope, for example focusing exclusively on environmental impacts such as GHG emissions, or financial impacts of climate change, or a broad range of ESG topics. Sometimes companies elect to use more than one framework, but often they choose only one, omitting critical information that their stakeholders may want to see. This makes it difficult for investors to compare ESG risks across companies. The SEC’s proposal solves for this problem by offering consistent guidelines that all publicly traded US companies will be required to use.

You might be wondering why the SEC, which focuses on informing and protecting investors, is proposing ESG reporting rules rather than another governing body like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), whose mission is to protect human health and the environment. The EPA carries out their mission by sponsoring and conducting research and developing and enforcing environmental regulations. While these activities are critical for supporting climate science, the EPA does not shape financial policy. Investors have begun to realize the threat that climate change poses to the future success of business and are increasingly demanding insight into the non-financial performance of their investments. This comes as a new generation of employees and consumers, Millennials and Gen Z, are more inclined to align their employment and their purchases with their values. These generational trends also threaten businesses that don’t begin taking climate change seriously.

Photo by Markus Spiske:

The SEC’s proposal is an important steppingstone for the sustainability community. We can predict and hope that as companies begin disclosing their ESG metrics and climate risks, those who perform poorly will suffer from drops in share price and inhibited access to capital. But this is precisely why the proposal is not a silver bullet – there is no guarantee that ESG disclosures will force companies to actually transform their operations to be more sustainable.

“This proposal is long overdue (we are playing catch-up with Europe).  It would provide valuable information to investors and the public at-large, and would help inform the development of public policy,” commented Charles Schnitzlein, UVM’s Grossman Endowed Chair in Finance, and Academic Director of the Sustainable Innovation MBA program. “Nevertheless, critics of the proposal abound, and if the rule is enacted, it will surely face legal challenges from the usual suspects (right-wing think tanks, the fossil fuel industry, and politicians from coal and oil producing states).”

Already the proposal is receiving critical feedback from industry groups protesting that the new rules will drive up compliance costs and impact company profitability[2]. If companies aren’t willing to spend money to report on what they already do, then they certainly won’t be willing to invest in more environmentally sustainable practices. Meanwhile, environmentalists argue that the new rules won’t require all companies to report on Scope 3 GHG emissions due to various exemptions. Scope 3 emissions are those that are generated outside the walls of the company, such as by suppliers or consumers, and are often much greater than Scope 1 and 2 emissions combined.

The reality is that traditional business leaders and environmentalists are unlikely to agree on the role of business in the fight against climate change. We are in a race against time as we work to limit the impacts of global warming and must accept and celebrate small steppingstones, like the SEC’s proposal, as wins. “There is scientific consensus that there is a rapidly closing window to prevent catastrophic climate change.  This proposal would help. Let’s hope it is enacted!” Professor Schnitzlein concluded hopefully.

When it comes to climate change, the widely debated quote “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” reigns true – businesses must begin quantifying their impact on the planet to begin reducing it. The SEC’s proposal lays the foundation for exactly that. From there, we can continue to advocate for systemic change and support businesses as they transition to truly sustainable operations.

The opinions expressed in this article are my own, and do not represent the views of UVM or the Sustainable Innovation Review editorial team.

[1] Threlfall, Richard, Jennifer Shulman, Adrian King, and Wim Bartels. “The KPMG Survey of Sustainability Reporting 2020.” KPMG, December 2020.

[2] Kiernan, Paul. “SEC Floats Mandatory Disclosure of Climate-Change Risks, Emissions.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, March 22, 2022.

The Forgotten Power Source

Written By:
Josh Kriesberg ’22
Editor, Clean Energy & Technology
Connect with Josh on LinkedIn

As countries, companies, and households across the globe transition towards clean energy, decision makers take every opportunity to tout flashy numbers and projects. Installing solar panels and batteries, erecting wind turbines, and building microgrids have profound impact and the clean electricity they generate is essential to reaching our climate goals. However, meeting our climate goals requires more than clean energy generation. All too often, cost effective and locally supplied solutions go overlooked and underutilized. To increase our impact, we must become more efficient at using the energy we produce, in other words, more energy efficient.

Photo by Federico Beccari on Unsplash

In almost every situation the cheapest energy is the energy we never use. Retrofitting buildings with new, more efficient technology can reduce energy usage across all sectors of the economy while contributing to substantial cost savings. For example, in 2015, 51% of all energy used in American homes was consumed by two sources: heating and air conditioning[1]. Reducing our heating and AC consumption through strategies like insulation, window and door sealing, and equipment upgrades will have a profound impact on the environment and our wallets. E4TheFuture, a non-profit advocacy group, calculates over $66 Billion, that’s right, Billions with a B, in savings PER YEAR if the US could retrofit all homes built before 2000[2]. Furthermore, the International Energy Agency goes as far as to say “energy efficiency measures deliver the largest overall reductions in emissions”[3], highlighting the potential for both people and the planet to share the profits from energy efficiency measures.

“Energy efficiency measures deliver the largest overall reductions in emissions” – International Energy Agency

Given the opportunity for shared value, why is energy efficiency so overlooked? For starters, energy efficiency is invisible. Most people don’t have a sense of how efficient their home is and how much energy buildings consume. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us all how difficult fighting an invisible enemy can be. Furthermore, low income households are disproportionately impacted by energy costs (a term known as energy burden) and, traditionally, the for-profit sector has ignored opportunities in less wealthy communities.

Beyond systemic issues, the energy efficiency industry is suffering through a major workforce shortage. In many geographies, even those who want to retrofit their home could wait 6 or more months for a technician. The 2020 US Energy and Employment Jobs Report (USEER) found that nearly 83% of energy efficiency companies across all sectors said hiring was “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” in Q4 2020[4]. This is where I see tremendous opportunity. Companies across the country are seeking talented and motivated individuals who can make a difference. This industry needs a talent infusion if we are to meet our climate goals – this means you can make an impact whether you can help on the technical issues, research & development, business operations, and/or marketing.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

The last piece of the puzzle is more government support for energy efficiency. The beauty of energy efficiency jobs is that they are long lasting and provide significant economic returns to local communities. Unlike other industries, energy efficiency cannot be outsourced. We cannot ship a house or building to China, have it retrofitted, and sent back. These jobs must be done by local contractors whose wages will further stimulate local economies. Job creation, economic development, and environmental progress can make energy efficiency a unifying issue at the local, state, and federal level.

As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must prioritize efficiency at every level. Corporate and political decision makers must embrace the data and look beyond the “sexy” options when considering which options are truly cost effective and impactful. We must develop programs that support companies, households, and individuals who want to make an impact in the field. Businesses, governments, and households can do more to support this critical industry and empower us to meet our climate, economic, and societal goals.

[1] US, E. I. A. (2021, June 23). U.S. Energy Information Administration – EIA – independent statistics and analysis. Use of energy in homes – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Retrieved December 21, 2021, from

[2] E4TheFuture (2021, October). Energy Efficiency Jobs in America – Energy Efficiency Jobs in America. Retrieved December 21, 2021, from

[3] IEA (2021). A sustainable recovery plan for the Energy Sector – Sustainable Recovery – analysis. IEA. Retrieved December 21, 2021, from

[4] US DOE (2021). Department of Energy. Department of Energy, USEER. Retrieved December 21, 2021, from

No Better Time to Study Sustainable Business

This post was written by:

Josh Kriesberg ’22
Contributing Writer
Connect with Josh on LinkedIn

The planet is burning, but make no mistake, this is not another sob story about mother nature. This is a story of opportunity.

As world leaders meet at COP26, they’re discussing what it will take to address the climate crisis. But what exactly is needed? Paradoxically, the same human activity that got us into this mess has the best chance of helping us dig ourselves out. The same way Thomas Newcomen changed the world with the steam engine, entrepreneurs today have the chance to reinvent our way of life, our economic system, and, yes, our relationship with mother nature. 

While that challenge may seem daunting, the world has never been more prepared for this moment. Brands like Kind, Patagonia and many more are showing that customers, job seekers, and, yes, even investors, react positively to genuine efforts by business to make the world a better place. This is not your parents’ world. In 2011, JPMorgan, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), published a report claiming impact investment would reach between $400 billion and $1 trillion in assets under management by 2020. Mercifully, 2020 has come to pass and in fact, GIIN estimates impact investing reached $715 billion in assets under management. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) put the estimate even higher: $2.1 trillion[1]. What will this figure look like by 2030? 

Furthermore, governments across the world are turning their attention to this opportunity. Beginning with the Paris Agreement in 2015, nations have been devoting resources to spur innovation, recognizing that the nation who produces the next great innovator has more to gain than simply financial returns.

Morocco recently invested over $600 million in the worlds largest concentrated solar farm. Situated on the edge of the Sahara Desert, it stretches more than 3,000 hectares in area – the size of 3,500 football fields[2]. Many European nations have made strong commitments to reduce their impacts on the climate and have created funding opportunities for entrepreneurs to research, develop, and commercialize new products.

Here in the US, the Biden Administration includes funding for innovation as a key component of the domestic agenda and a new infrastructure bill earmarked $47 billion for combating climate change. The reality is that national political desires can change on a whim, as administrations change, and new issues become priorities. Locally, however, clean energy initiatives have tremendous opportunity to save people money, increase quality of life, and create opportunities for breakthroughs across all income levels and ways of life. Between the growth in impact investing and the proliferation of government funding programs, entrepreneurs looking for their big breakthrough or their next financing opportunity would be foolish to ignore these bountiful sources of capital.

The SI-MBA program is lucky to have Stuart Hart as a founding member and professor of Business Strategy. Professor Hart is the author of Capitalism at the Crossroads and a leading voice on reinventing capitalism with an eye towards creating sustainable value. In a recent conversation, he remarked:

Photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash

“The stars may finally be aligning when it comes to clean tech entrepreneurship: exponential clean tech evolution combines with the emergence of patient capital, supportive Next Gen, corporate purpose, and a shift from neoliberalism to an activist government focused on creating a sustainable future.” – Stuart Hart

Professor Hart’s class and the entire curriculum at SI-MBA prioritize sustainable innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. There’s never been a better time to join this movement and simultaneously become a leader in business and an advocate for sustainability.

It’s clear we’ve reached a unique inflection point in our shared history. For generations we’ve chased GDP growth as the holy grail of societal welfare. However, as David Attenborough succinctly said during COP26, “No nation is yet ‘developed’ because no nation is yet sustainable.” Wrapping our minds around such a large challenge is daunting, but great moments are born from great opportunities. Entrepreneurs seeking ‘the next big thing’ need not look any further. The breakthrough is upon us, for those bold enough to reach out and take it.

[1]Lamy, Y. S., Leijonhufvud, C., O’Donohoe, N., & Lamy, Y. S. (2021, March 16). The next 10 years of impact investment (SSIR). Stanford Social Innovation Review: Informing and Inspiring Leaders of Social Change. Retrieved November 5, 2021, from

[2] Shields, N., & Masters, J. (2019, July 16). Morocco in the Fast Lane with world’s largest … – CNN. Retrieved November 5, 2021, from