Sustainability at Zattoo

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An interview with our CTO and Chief Climate Officer

Dr. Stefan Lietsch

Most people don't think of streaming when it comes to climate protection. How did this issue reach Zattoo? 

In recent years there have been more and more reports that streaming is the new flying and that it would be a real climate killer. While at the same time here at Zattoo, we had an increased desire to address the topic of sustainability. At a 2019 hackathon some of the team wanted to find out how much CO2 Zattoo generates each year. The team delivered the initial results within just two days. The project was so well received by the team and by us in management that we decided to pursue the topic of sustainability long-term.

Just one year later, and sustainability has become one of our corporate values. We've become carbon neutral by offsetting our CO2 emissions and we've implemented plans to reduce our emissions long term. We have our own Green Team at Zattoo who regularly discusses information on current and future measures, and we are a member of Leaders for Climate Action, a climate protection initiative consisting of over 300 digital entrepreneurs from all over the world.

Why is sustainability one of Zattoo's corporate values?

After we took the first steps towards sustainability at Zattoo, it became evident very quickly that we also needed to integrate this important issue into our guiding elements. The guiding elements are things that guide the company and determine the future of Zattoo in terms of content. The management team has discussed at length how we can integrate sustainability into our daily work. In the end we decided to include sustainability as one of our corporate values. These corporate values guide our daily behavior and influence Zattoo's long-term strategy at the same time. As part of our corporate values, sustainability has become an unchangeable guiding principle.

We apply the corporate values in every possible situation: when hiring new Zattooies, during feedback sessions where we ensure our daily actions are in line with our values, and in setting company goals. It's something that is constantly guiding us. That's why it is right and important to have sustainability as one of our six corporate values.

What goals have you set to improve your carbon footprint?

It's important for us to know how to actually achieve the goals we've set - and that applies especially to sustainability. At Zattoo we strive to be as carbon neutral as possible. We achieve this goal by looking at the areas where we can have the largest possible impact with the smallest carbon footprint. From there we develop concrete actions that we prioritize accordingly. That's how we make sure that we're really making difference instead of just talking about it.

One of our most important goals in the future is to power all servers and data centers with clean energy. That will reduce a large portion of our CO2 emissions. We've already successfully taken the first step by powering our own servers and our offices in Berlin and Zurich with clean energy. As a next step, we want to convert all external data centers, which primarily includes those from our B2B customers, from the general electricity mix to electricity from renewable energy sources. We're working closely with our customers and partners. Last year, one of our largest customers switched their servers over to clean energy and more will follow this year.

What simple actions can be taken with TV streaming to reduce CO2 emissions?

There are measures every company can implement relatively fast and easy. At Zattoo we prefer to use the train instead of fly, ensure trash is sorted correctly, offer discounted job tickets or provide the opportunity to lease bikes from us for free. Additionally, we can also have a positive influence on the areas that we control ourselves, like energy sources. Projects like the joint collaboration with windCORES, where we operate one of our data centers directly in a wind turbine, can be initiated fast and easy and the costs can be shared. The same applies to measures that directly affect our own service, such as setting a sleep timer or the option to stream with reduced picture quality.

In what areas is it still difficult to reduce CO2 emissions?

It's more difficult to reduce CO2 emissions in areas of the value chain that we don't control ourselves and where we're dependent on third parties. That includes, for example, the internet service provider distribution networks that carry our data streams. Or the emissions produced from manufacturing the devices used for streaming. There are also a lot of emissions that are often not even visible. For example, emissions that are generated during the production and operation of cable and mobile networks.

According to studies, a large portion of CO2 consumption for video streaming is in the network infrastructure and in household devices. Finding carbon neutral solutions requires close collaboration between the entire IT and telecommunications industry, from internet providers to device manufacturers and TV distributors. At the same time, consumers need to be made aware of the issue and properly informed. That's the most effective way for streaming to become more globally sustainable in the future.

What makes Zattoo different from other companies when it comes to sustainability?

Determining our carbon footprint and the corresponding off-set, is the same thing some other companies also do. What differentiates us from many others, is our motivation and ability to think outside the box. We're adventurous and believe that extraordinary ideas are needed to further advance climate and environmental protection. We started a pilot project with windCORES that has never been done before in this form. Thinking and doing things differently is what sets us apart.

At the same time, we know that we can only reach our goals by working together with others. We keep a close eye on our industry, are always looking for new opportunities, actively engage in dialogue and share what we know with others. Whether in cooperation with institutions or agencies, in our everyday work with customers, with media professionals, and even with students who are engaged in the subject of sustainability and streaming. We want to encourage others to join in. We don't have all the answers, but we move forward one step at a time. When we talk about protecting the climate, one thing is very clear: We can only do it together.

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