Pietari Kääpä’s groundbreaking study of environmental management of the media industries in Great Britain and the Nordic countries is among the most important publications in the field of cinema and media studies in the past five years. I expect it will find a wide audience among academics, environmental media consultants, media producers, industry executives, and all those engaged in the effort to green the screen. The first half of the book sets up the theoretical and methodological framework and examines Britain as a generally positive case study of government-industry-media producer cooperation on a centralized regulatory approach due to the leadership of BAFTA and other key intermediaries. The second half examines the de-centralized approach being taken across the Nordic countries as a generally negative case study of current management practices. Environmental Management of the Media deploys environmental communication research methods through a focus on the efficacy of existing environmental communication strategies and recommendations for improving that communication. As co-editor of the highly-regarded collection Transnational Ecocinema (2013), Kääpä brings an awareness of discourses shaping the field of ecomedia studies that adds an additional layer of research depth and critical thinking. Of all the recent efforts to examine the people in charge of creating and managing the ecological footprint of film and media production on a national and international scale, Environmental Management of the Media is the most comprehensive, consistent, and well organized.
Chapters 1 and 2 introduce the project’s scope and aims. Kääpä summarizes the historical development of ecomedia studies during the twenty-first century, from the field’s initial interest in the discursive and inter-textual concerns of humanities scholars (ecocritics) to its recent focus on the material conditions of media production, distribution, and consumption. Kääpä intervenes to widen the field’s scope by investigating four key areas of current environmental management practices: (a) Regulation of industries (including domestic, international, and self-regulation); (b) Organization of labor; (c) Resource pathways; and (d) Networking among stakeholders. A case study of Hollywood’s Environmental Media Association (EMA) provides a useful point of comparison for the extended case studies of Britain and the Nordic Countries to come and enables Kääpä to explain how actor-network theory can be applied to the study of environmental media management.
Chapters 3 to 5 focus on environmental media management in the British network, which “operates as a complex collection of agencies that can be studied through the discursive practices of media organizations” (39). The book makes no pretense of providing a scientific study or complete environmental accounting of Britain’s media industry, because “the aim is to uncover the complex agencies and power relations that take place in management and policy frameworks.” Using analytic methods developed by Richard Maxell and Toby Miller, Sean Cubitt, Jennifer Gabrys, and others, Chapter 3 examines the corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies of the Media CSR Forum, a consultancy group that produces annual reports on sustainability in the industry. Analyzing Media CSR Forum reports from 2008 and 2015 and reports by the BFI, BAFTA, Sky Media, the Green Arts Initiative and other actors in the network, Kääpä tracks how much emphasis the reports place on (a) material issues, (b) strategic issues, and (c) operational issues of management. Such reports consistently downplay the material impacts of media production on the environment in relation to other industries and play up the discursive potential of environmentally-themed content to create public interest in sustainability. Despite these drawbacks, Kääpä presents a generally positive view of management practices in Britain, which do seem motivated and structured to create real change rather than just greenwashing. A treasure in these chapters is Kääpä’s analysis of a BAFTA monthly carbon literacy training in which he participated. Kääpä observes that the sessions focus on providing “transferable skills for all parts of the production infrastructure” (103) and the participatory nature of the training “opens more space for agentic materialities to influence the constitution of the network” (104). Overall, current practice in Britain represents a positive case study due to the collaborate spirit of its training, reporting, and regulatory efforts.
Chapters 6 to 8 turn to the Nordic countries. These chapters begin with Kääpä’s reflection that exclusively focusing on managerial discourses inevitably leads environmental managers to focus on anthropocentric concerns: “To attain a more ecocritical perspective, we need to approach media policy not only as a managerial tool but also as a means for grounded materialities to influence the constitution of the network” (117). The Nordic countries lack a centralized approach like that taken in Britain, so there are not many management and policy documents to analyze. Instead, Kääpä reaches out to multiple stakeholders in the region to supplement his research with interviews and personal communications. Chapter 6 examines the regulatory practices across countries in the region in relationship to the broader European Union. Across the region, environmental management of media has generally fallen between the regulatory cracks. Kääpä attributes this situation to what he coins a “responsibility deficit,” the practice of government and media industry regulators claiming that the environmental impacts of media production are already being addressed by broader changes in infrastructure, and that media production does not have a large enough carbon footprint on its own to be of primary concern for addressing climate change. Chapters 7 and 8 present case studies of individual publishing and media companies scattered across the region which are doing the most to lead on these issues; these include Yleisradio (YLE) and Alma Media in Finland and Schibsted publishing and Sveriges Television in Sweden.
In Chapters 9 and 10, Kääpä provides a model for researchers to further analyze and unpack environmental management of the media around the world, and concludes by reflecting on the future of ecomedia studies. Kääpä’s model focuses on four types of management concerns: (a) human resources; (b) finance; (c) regulation; and (d) organizational networking. This model shifts human resources to the foreground because “the clear allocation of managerial roles and responsibilities allows organizations to avoid an internal responsibility deficit and ensure that the specific emissions from production practices are being addressed” (196). Financial management is key because investors respond to the bottom line and environmental accounting skills are necessary for making wise investments in green technologies like LED lighting. As with censorship and other issues, Hollywood and other industries generally strive to keep government regulators out of their business. However, given the tendency of corporations to put the bottom line above all else and the rampant spread of greenwashing, Kääpä argues that “to facilitate the successful adoption of these [eco-friendly] practices, the positive value systems of environmentalist and economic repertoires are often not enough for full-scale implementation of sustainability – more thorough regulation is frankly necessary” (200). The book’s conclusion centers on a key question facing ecomedia studies in the years ahead: “Is the emphasis on footprinting the media industry a sensible approach or would these energies be better used for working on more effective means of conceptualizing the impact of content?” (207). Clearly, as his final chapter suggests, researching both the ecological footprint of media productions and their cultural brainprint is work that is certain to keep ecomedia studies busy for years to come.
Readers looking to build on Kääpä’s project would do well to consider how environmental management and accounting intersect with structural inequities concerning gender, sexuality, race, and and disability in the media industry to spotlight areas of intersections between environmental and social justice. Kääpä’s discursive approach to policy documents and industry communications could be fruitfully combined with site-specific infrastructure research, such as the work of Lisa Parks and Nicole Starosielski. By foregrounding issues of labor, including the labor of nonhuman agents in media networks (from animal actors to elemental media), Kääpä’s model will prove particularly effective for this intersectional work. It will also be helpful in casting a spotlight on wealthy celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and in building case histories of individual environmental media consultants and others doing work on the ground to make change. Ecomedia studies will continue to thrive as a field if we value a wide range of discursive, material, perceptual, and communal strategies for investigating the intersections of media’s environmental “brainprint” (or “mindprint”) and its “footprint.” This book effectively contributes to that goal.