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Cannes Film Festival Spotlights Sustainability

Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed a significant shift towards sustainable practices — and even attempts to reverse the damage already done. Now, these efforts are reaching and inspiring event committees.

Consumers and companies around the world are coming to terms with the impact we’ve had on the environment, and are stepping up to take a proactive stance on making sure the world is an enjoyable place for generations to come. 

The global health crisis hit events hard, and the Cannes Film Festival (or Festival de Cannes) was not immune. However, canceling 2020 and scaling down 2021 didn’t stop the organization behind the event from highlighting how they are going to buckle down on sustainability at their events. 

The two major focuses for sustainability at Cannes are Reducing and Taking Action. Reducing concentrates on issues like waste and carbon emissions, while Taking Action is about offsetting the remaining emissions and recovering resources The Cannes Film Festival then breaks its efforts down into an easy-to-follow 12-point outline.

This year’s festival has been a test of their efforts, and we look forward to the results.

12 Commitments Made by the Festival 

Leading up to the 74th Festival in 2021, the event website announced its dedicated commitment and broke its efforts down into 12 points.

  1. Replacing the official fleet with electric and hybrid vehicles
  2. Reducing paper printing
  3. Eliminating plastic water bottles
  4. Reducing the volume of red carpet
  5. Reducing all carpets in the Village International areas
  6. Working with caterers for eco-responsible policies
  7. Maintaining (and hopefully improving) waste recovery
  8. Contributing to environmental initiatives to help offset carbon emissions
  9. Raising awareness of eco-responsible actions
  10. Appointing a committee of scientific experts to select the offset initiatives to receive contributions
  11. Providing a mobility incentive through the City of Cannes public transport system
  12. Requesting contributions from festival-goers to add to the festival’s own contribution

“The challenge is huge,” the site quotes from a joint statement by President Pierre Lescure and General Delegate Thierry Fremaux, “but we will and must succeed, each year a little more, each year a little better.” 

In their statement, the pair refer to the Festival’s commitment to transparency, noting they will report on their results and initiatives regularly. And, starting with the 74th Festival in 2021, they did just that.

Areas of Action

The Cannes Film Festival recognizes that “the time has come for a radically different way of producing a major international event.” To help back up their conviction, the festival crew has taken a transparent approach, keeping track and listing current efforts and results.

Reduction of Carbon Footprints 

As of 2022, the official car fleet of the festival was made up entirely of electric or hybrid vehicles. For those not using the official fleet, the festival encouraged walking since the space is fairly tight-knit or using the City of Cannes’ public transport network with a dedicated pass that provided free access.

Another reduction was in printing, with the festival slashing printed material volume by 79% between the 2019 and 2021 festivals (we’re still waiting for numbers on 2022). Many of the things they would typically print, such as tickets and promotional materials, were digitized.

The festival committee completely eliminated single-use plastic bottles, instead of setting up water fountains throughout their spaces. They also worked with caterers to create eco-responsible specifications to reduce food waste, prioritize fresh, seasonal produce, and offer vegetarian options. They also switched their goodies and merchandise to come primarily from French manufacturers.

A reduction that isn’t often at the front of consideration was the red carpet. The replacement rate was halved, and the volume used was reduced by 24%. Additionally, the carpet is fully recyclable, which leads us into our next area.

Recycling as a Priority 

The 2021 festival numbers showed a waste recovery rate of 95% overall. This was helped through the implementation of more recycling areas set up across the Palais des Festivals for accredited visitors and a larger percentage of recovered materials.

Additionally, crews collected 2600 kilos of red carpet to upcycle. 800 kilos were reinjected into the PACA region’s manufacturing chain, which makes the material available to association members for reuse.

Strategic Efforts to Offset Travel Emissions 

“The Festival has been fully offsetting emissions related to guests’ travel since 2012,” the committee boasts on the event website. In 2021, they took additional steps to offset emissions by requesting accredited guests pay an eco-contribution; the Festival itself also made a donation. In total, they managed to raise 515,189 euros— excluding tax. A committee of independent experts was established to ensure the funds went to reliable programs involved in eco work. The committee chose six environmental initiatives; some were local, others national, and two international. These initiatives were the Ma Forêt sustainable forest management initiative, post-forest fire reforesting initiative at the Centre National De La Propriété Forestière, farmland reforesting initiative at the Centre National De La Propriété Forestière, Carbocage eco-methane Pur Projet and Bleu Blanc Cœur, Muskitia landscape protection – Southpole project, and Ribeirihnos Redd Ecoact project. For transparency, the Festival listed all experts, the exact amounts funded, the locations of the initiatives, and their missions on their website.

Mari-Jo Winkler (a cofounder of PGA Green, which is behind the Production Guide that helps films and studios with sustainability and reducing carbon footprints) noted in interviews that offsets are not a full solution. She explained to The Hollywood Reporter, “Though we need institutional changes to make the biggest impact in the carbon footprint reduction of film festivals, we also need to take personal action. Every ounce of carbon is precious right now.”

Here’s to a Brighter More Sustainable Future – together

Time will tell how well these efforts help reduce the impacts of climate change in France and beyond. As studios and events work to further reduce and offset their carbon footprints, it stands to reason that other entertainment industries will follow. Here’s to the future, where our skies may just remain bright and our oceans may well be clean.

Press Team
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