[BEHIND TALK] Sustainable Diversity : How K-Content Thrives in the Global Market

7월. 19. 2023
ESG management has emerged as a prominent global trend, demonstrating unwavering longevity. ESG serves as a measure of a company's performance based on its social and environmental practices. Aligned with the ESG movement, the content industry is increasing its emphasis on sustainable "content diversity." Let's delve deeper into K-content, which currently focuses on diversity as a means to practice ESG, through the insights of pop columnist Kim Tae-hoon and Professor of Media & Communication at Korea University Choi Se-jung. 

ESG Management : Building a World of Value
ESG stands for “Environmental,” “Social,” and “Governance” and refers to the non-financial aspects of a company's operations. ESG management transcends financial considerations, emphasizing the importance of corporate participation in sustainable development for the betterment of society. As companies recognize the pivotal role of the environment and consumer behavior in driving profits, their contribution to creating a better society becomes increasingly crucial.
During the annual meeting of the influential "Business Roundtable," comprising 181 companies, including industry giants like Amazon and Apple, a significant statement was made. It declared that corporations' primary goal should no longer be solely focused on maximizing shareholder profits. Instead, companies should prioritize "creating value for all those involved," encompassing customers, employees, suppliers, and local communities as a whole.

As the expectations placed on companies have extended beyond solely pursuing profit to taking social responsibility, industry leaders like Amazon and Apple have taken the forefront in implementing ESG management practices, inspiring other companies to follow suit. 

ESG management has also gained traction within the domestic content industry. A recent survey conducted by the Korea Creative Content Agency (KCCA) revealed a relatively strong awareness of corporate social responsibility, with a rating of 3.17 out of 5 for the significance of ESG management among over 2,500 content industry companies. However, the survey also highlighted that the level of actual implementation of ESG practices, rated at 2.2, falls below average. As the interest in ESG management continues to grow throughout society, it is anticipated that both companies and consumers will follow this growing trend.

ESG management is no longer an option, but a necessity
Why should the content industry pay attention to ESG management? First of all, if you take a look at the recent policy agenda of the Financial Services Commission (FSC) in Korea, the FSC stated that all KOSPI-listed companies will be mandated to disclose their ESG performance by 2030. This signifies that ESG is no longer an optional aspect of corporate management; it has become a necessity. Consequently, ESG practice is an element that is linked to financial outcomes.

Secondly, the K-content, which has a significant global reach, should be more mindful to adhering global standards as it targets consumers worldwide. Moreover, Millennials and Gen Z, the primary consumers of the content industry, have high expectations for corporate social responsibility, showing a keen interest in social value and ESG. They tend to reject companies that fail to fulfill their social responsibilities and even boycott products, services, and content associated with such companies. Despite potential higher prices, they prioritize value consumption by actively choosing products from "good companies."

Finally, community-based creativity lies at the core of the content's strength. Producing exceptional content relies on enhancing creator rights, making ESG principles essential within the content industry.

Considering the cultural impact of content, diversity serves as a practical approach to practicing ESG. However, diversity extends beyond the content itself, encompassing an inclusive diversity that permeates the entire production process, including gender and social equality and the composition of production teams.

Global companies prioritize diversity 
Numerous global content production companies are actively making an effort to practice ESG. BBC’s “50:50 Project” focuses on achieving an equal representation of gender in its content, aiming for a workforce consisting of 50% women, 20% black, Asian, and minority ethnic individuals, and 12% disabled individuals.

Disney is witnessing “a new wave of princesses,” bringing diversity to the lead characters in its animated films under the banner of diversity and inclusion. This can also be seen as an aspect of ESG management from a macroscopic perspective.

Similarly, Warner Bros. Discovery incorporates local talent into its content production processes, enhancing authenticity and elevating content quality.

Good content : The rising trend in dramas and variety shows
How are Korean companies that have an edge in the global market practicing ESG management? In the gaming industry, companies like Netmarble, Nexon, and NC Soft have established dedicated ESG management committees and are actively pursuing ESG practices.
Among broadcasting companies, CJ ENM stands at the forefront of strengthening ESG management. CJ ENM publishes an ESG report and expresses its ambition to expand diversity and inclusion through the positive influence of its content. This management philosophy is actively integrated into the content produced by CJ ENM.
As a notable example, Our Blues by writer Noh Hee-kyung emphasizes diversity in the community by shedding light on the various discriminations and prejudices prevalent in our society. Notably, actors with actual disabilities were cast to portray the roles of a person with developmental disabilities and a person with hearing impairment, sparking a discussion on the topic of “cripping up” and the importance of authentic representation.

▲Actor Kim Woo-bin and actors Han Ji-min and Jung Eun-hye, who played siblings in the drama Our Blues.

Under the Queen’s Umbrella became a hot topic for tackling various themes that were hard to find in traditional period dramas, such as women’s empowerment and gender issues. The cross-dressing scene particularly grabbed attention for its episode on sexual diversity. 

▲The Queen and Grand Prince Gye-seong walking in the rain under one umbrella (left),
Grand Prince Gye-seong cross-dressing (right).

Likewise, the drama XX+XY explored diverse values that Gen Z and Millennials consider significant, such as sexual identity, while Street Woman Fighter, Street Dance Girls Fighter, and Street Men Fighter drew attention to Korea’s street dancers. Super Action put the spotlight on stunt actors, who are usually hidden behind cameras, and highlighted the hard work that goes into creating amazing stunts, changing people’s perceptions of these professions.
Expanding diversity is also evident through the "barrier-free" service provided by TVING. This service aims to improve accessibility for people with disabilities and those who are digitally underprivileged. Currently, the barrier-free service is provided for over 1,800 content. Unlike standard subtitles, barrier-free subtitles provide additional explanations of the speaker, music, and sounds.

In addition, CJ ENM is making various efforts to create more value in the world by developing ESG assessment indicators and formulating a blueprint for the future of content from an ESG perspective.

Time for good, entertaining, and sincere content
Traditionally, “good content” was associated with being boring. However, given the global significance of ESG management, it is now all the more crucial for content production companies to adopt the mindset that content infused with ESG values can also be entertaining.

Moreover, sincerity forms the foundation for practicing ESG. It is crucial to avoid insincere ESG efforts, which can have the opposite effect. Examples of "greenwashing" by some falsely eco-friendly products serve as reminders of the importance of genuine commitment.

K-content captivated viewers all around the world. Securing content diversity has become a necessity for the sustainable survival of K-content in the global market. With CJ ENM leading the way, we expect ESG management to take root in the domestic content industry.

<BEHIND TALK> was produced based on CJ ENM YouTube channel's "Con Ssul Ting."