State of Green Business
10 minutes with Chelsea Davidoff, Paramount Pictures
This column is about the people of sustainability. What makes them tick? What have they learned that works? What do they do for fun? Second up in this series is Chelsea Davidoff, Paramount Pictures’ corporate social responsibility coordinator.
Bob Langert: Who has impressed you in your career thus far, and why?
Chelsea Davidoff: Jed Davis from Cabot Creamery. He's my former boss and he’s an amazing pioneer, an advocate for sustainability across his company. He really lets off his genuine passion to the people that he encounters.
Langert: Besides passion, what aspect of his leadership style made you say this?
Davidoff: A couple of things that I love. He always said that if you look under the table you should see every type of shoe. He does that. He leads by example.
Secondly, he's spearheading fighting this norm of what typical sustainability looks like by leading the implementation of context-based sustainability.
Langert: I don’t know what "context-based" sustainability means. Why haven't I heard of this term before? Is it because I'm old and out of it?
Davidoff: Cabot is a pioneer in applying this context-based sustainability. It's a method of sustainability management that expresses the performance relative to contextually relevant social and environmental thresholds.
Langert: Is it cool to work for a Hollywood studio? Are your internal stakeholders really into sustainability?
Davidoff: Paramount is a unique environment to work because we have so many different types of people that do different types of work here. There are the finance and the creatives. We also have people that build sets and create the lighting. The diversity of what happens here is really unique, which is really fun and interesting and allows for a robust conversation.
Langert: Is there a lot of waste and waste reduction efforts in making movies and TV shows?
Davidoff: We're always striving to be more environmentally friendly and more sustainable. An example: In 2014, while filming the movie "Noah," Paramount employed an eco-management firm to put the sustainable practices into motion throughout the film. The film diverted 55 percent of its total waste from landfills. They avoided the use of more than 60,000 plastic bottles, recovered almost 13,000 pounds of leftover food for shelters and recycled approximately 450,000 pounds of scrap and steel. I think we're always trying to move towards those big wins like that.
Langert: What would it take to make "Noah" the norm versus a test?
Davidoff: It tends to stem more from the desire of the production. Does the director, does the producer want something that is more sustainable?
Langert: So how do you motivate them to do it?
Davidoff: We have three prongs to our green and sustainability side of our initiative. So there are those things in which we can educate our employees on how to live a more sustainable life. There are those things that we do to make our facilities a lot more sustainable, and then there are those things we do to make productions more sustainable.
Langert: I noticed that you did something really interesting last year, recording a moment every day and creating a video from it. It was fascinating. What did you learn from it?
Davidoff: It was a really fun project. It was a one-to-two-second clip from every day of last year. I got married and I had a lot of big things happening. I wanted to find a unique way to capture it. What I learned is that people always say that time passes so quickly, but the video really made me sort of stop and think that, if you really look at all of the moments and all of the days and all of the years, it doesn't pass quite as quickly as we think it does. It really allowed me to pause and remember some of the ordinary as well as extraordinary moments that happen in a year. I think it is really revolutionary to see that so much happens in a year. You forget about it.
Langert: What is it that you see in society that excites you about the nature of the work you're doing and what most disappoints you?
Davidoff: What most excites me is that the conversations are changing from sustainability and corporate responsibility being something that should or shouldn't be done to how it should best be done. What frustrates me the most is that we still have a very long way to go as people and as companies and really as a society as a whole to be more empathetic.
Bob Langert: That's an interesting term. What made you use the term "empathetic"?
Davidoff: There is a person behind whatever it is you're doing. There are people with different stories and backgrounds, that have had different types of days. We need empathy to understand that we're all human and bring these really large and sometimes controversial issues down to more human and person-to-person interactions.
Langert: What's your all-time favorite movie?
Davidoff: "Forrest Gump." I watched it probably 100 times when I was a kid. My favorite quotes in the movie is when he says, "My mama says, 'Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get.'" It’s applicable to so many parts of my life.
Langert: Who’s the actress you want to play you?
Davidoff: Jennifer Lawrence. I say that because she isn't your typical Hollywood actress in the sense that she challenges the norms of what a typical actress should or can be.
Langert: Cool. So hopefully you're doing that at Paramount?
Davidoff: Yeah, that's the hope for every day, right? Challenge what you can and should be.