Disney’s environment-friendly DNA

The Walt Disney Company, founded in 1923 by Walter Disney and his brother Roy Oliver Disney, has always had a commitment to its environmental impact. But this “involvement with nature” is not the classic sustainability approach that we are used to seeing nowadays.

Walt, who spent some years of his childhood on a farm in Missouri, has always given importance to the rural world in his films; the company’s corporate social responsibility was innate and natural right from the start, ahead of the business objectives and strategies. In fact, from the very beginning the world of nature has always had a priority over the city environment in Disney’s animation movies.

Some of the best known and most-loved Disney cartoons take place in a natural setting: Snow White (1937), Bambi (1942) and Cinderella (1950) when Walt was still alive. After Disney’s death in 1966, his studio continued to develop stories based on nature and made it one of the main themes of the whole company: One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), The Little Mermaid (1990), The Lion King (1994), Pocahontas (1995), and Finding Nemo (2003).

Is also important to underline that the approach to nature is different in every single movie. Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora, and The Beauty and The Beast have an intense connection with animals, while in others the animals are the main characters. Moreover, the anthropomorphic approach is something that has been analyzed and studied as an important learning method which can sensitize the viewers.

The technique of making animals “humanized” with a voice, personality and human characteristics is something that immediately connects the viewer with the role. The “relationship” that we build when we first see the movie, like The Lion King for instance, creates an unintentional feeling inside us that instantly generates an animal-friendly approach.

As the nature theme became increasingly important for the company, in 2008 David Whitley looked at the topic in a book titled: The Idea of Nature in Disney Animation. In the book Whitley divides the Disney movies in three different categories: Fairy Tale Adaptations, The North American Wilderness and Tropical Environments. Through this differentiation he explores the ways in which pastoral, wild and exotic settings reflect cultural sensibilities regarding the environmental movement.

Nowadays, this attention to nature in its movies is just a small part of the environmentally-friendly approach taken by the second-largest entertainment multinational in the world. In fact, since 2012 the company has completely eliminated the plastic shopper bag from its stores, all over the world, replacing it with a recycled paper shopper; a percentage of the shoppers sales is donated to the WWF, in support of its animal conservation projects. But this is just the beginning. The company has announced a broader philanthropy initiative by …

” […] the creation of a new enterprise-wide community outreach and philanthropy initiative, Disney Team of Heroes. Through the Disney Team of Heroes initiative, The Walt Disney Company is committing $100 million over the next five years to deliver comfort and inspiration to kids and families in children’s hospitals around the world. By using the best of Disney assets and capabilities, we will bring our timeless stories to life in innovative ways that ease the stress of a hospital stay for young patients and their families,” said Christine McCarthy, Senior executive vice president and chief financial officer of the Walt Disney Company.

It will probably take a book to list all the corporate social responsibility actions of this company: they have reduced water consumption levels by 6% from 2013, and there are plans to achieve this goal also for emissions and waste.

The Walt Disney Company is involved in many other environmentally-friendly activities; not only a matter of pride for the company and its employees, but a continual challenge to itself “to ensure that our commitments and initiatives focus on those areas of greatest impact to our business and our communities”, Christine McCarthy.

What will be Disney’s next step?

Written and posted by Martina Tarantini.









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