Netflix Pledges Net-Zero Emissions by 2023

Graphic by Annabel Driussi for ODP

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

Netflix has announced a commitment to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2022. The plan, called “Net Zero + Nature,” was announced on the Netflix blog by Dr. Emma Stewart, who became the content platform’s first sustainability officer in the fall of 2020. 

  • Netflix estimates that its 2020 carbon footprint reached 1.13 million metric tons, down from 1.31 the previous year. 
  • About 50% of those emissions came from the production of Netflix originals and partner projects. 
  • Netflix hopes that by reducing emissions, aligning with the goals of the Paris Agreement, and investing in projects that remove carbon from the atmosphere, it can eliminate its carbon footprint in just 21 months. 

Why This Matters: The production of films and shows requires machinery, building materials, electricity as well as hundreds of crew members to make it all happen. Those workers often travel to on-site locations, which for some projects can be in several different countries at once. The emissions from all this activity and travel add up: a 2006 UCLA study found that U.S. film and tv production created 15 million metric tons of CO2. In addition to increasing carbon emissions, production often threatens the local environment and native species through pollution, habitat damage, and even the introduction of invasive species at filming locations. 

No Second Takes: To do its part in reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement, Netflix plans on making big changes to its production practices including hiring local crews to cut back on travel emissions, replacing gas-powered vehicles with electric ones, and reducing on-set diesel generators. In addition to reducing its CO2 production, it plans to “decarbonize” by investing in conservation projects that protect natural carbon sinks. 

Netflix also said it looks forward to the streaming industry and the internet service industry working together to reduce their emissions. Recently, the streaming service joined a research project called DIMPACT that researches how to best measure the footprint of the streaming industry as a whole. The project has already confirmed an earlier estimate from Netflix, which found that one hour of binge-watching contributes an amount of CO2 similar to driving one mile in a gas-powered car.

Experts and critics are pleased with Netflix’s ambitious and thoughtful plan, which, according to Stewart, was the product of consultations with more than 60 experts

Christiana Figueres, co-architect of the U.N. Paris Agreement and co-founder of Global Optimism, said, “Netflix’s sustainability strategy is music to our ears,” noting that 

Netflix’s power to change minds through storytelling can help advance its climate action. “We are delighted to see Netflix apply the same positive disruption to sustainability that they’ve applied in their business,” she said. In addition to the new plan, Netflix has established an environmental and sustainability advisory group that includes environmental leaders and experts from around the world.

Go Deeper: Watch Netflix’s supercut of originals focused on sustainability and environmentalism.

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