How Disney is Committed to Being an Environmental Leader (Q&A)

The entertainment company will be recognized with the Jane Goodall Institute Environmental Leadership Award on Saturday.

The Walt Disney Company will be honored by the Jane Goodall Institute with an award for corporate social responsibility. The presentation will be part of the wildlife conservation organization’s 2011 Global Leadership Awards evening, to be held at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.

Dave Matthews, recognized for his activism in media and entertainment, is among the other award recipients. The singer will give a short solo performance at the 7:30 pm event, and Dr. Jane Goodall, the world-renowned primatologist, will speak.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Dr. Beth Stevens, the company’s senior vice president, environmental affairs, about Disney’s ongoing efforts in the area. The projects range from funding such organizations as Save the Elephants and International Rhino Foundation to planting nearly 3 million trees in Brazil through donated proceeds from first-week tickets sale of Disneynature’s film, Earth, Oceans and African Cats.

The Hollywood Reporter: How deep is Disney’s commitment to the environment?

Dr. Beth Stevens: I think this is first a recognition of the legacy that the Walt Disney Company has had really all the way back to Walt Disney himself. It all started with the True-Life Adventures, the first nature documentaries back in the 1950s. Now we have Disneynature and we’ve had our films Earth and Oceans and African Cats. Those have been wonderful movies for telling the stories of nature.

THR: Have you directly supported the Jane Goodall Institute?

Stevens: Yes, over the years we have made some direct grant. In terms of helping animals, our Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has been in place since 1995 and has given more than $17 million that help endangered species and the communities that live close by. For instance, we’re involved in a project in the Congo with gorilla rehabilitation, which is called the Grace Center.

THR: What about reducing the company’s environmental footprint?

Stevens: We announced some pretty major goals a couple of years ago on how we are going to reduce emissions, electricity use, waste and water use. We’re making progress in all of those areas.

THR: Are you going to be able to meet your goals? You announced that want to reach zero-net direct greenhouse gas emissions and to reach 50 percent of that by 2012.

Stevens: We will get there by reducing our use of fuels, looking for alternatives and offsetting the fuels we do burn. We have formed something called the Climate Solution Fund. We’ve already invested over $15 million in forestry projects around the world.

THR: How are you getting your employees involved?

Stevens: We have something in place called the Green Standard that is meant to apply to all of our employees no matter what part of the company they work in, whether it’s recycling or using reusable mugs and cups and double-sided printings and turning lights off. All of these things sound basic but they all ad up. On the movie side of the business, for all of our live action films, we have a position called Environmental Steward who is on each film working to reduce the imprint of those productions.