Prioritising Environmental and Social Responsibility

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RTL is a leader across broadcast, content and digital in Europe and embraces independence and diversity in its people, content, and businesses. With this unique market position and our global reach, we can have a real impact. We are aware that with this position comes a duty to act in a socially responsible manner. Moreover, our employees and audiences expect it from us. This responsibility has always been one of our key values and an important factor for our success over the years.

Our responsibility strategy is based on three pillars: Content, Social & Society and Climate Change. We regularly review our priorities by surveying our internal and external stakeholders and incorporating the results in our strategy. Based on the findings from a recent CR relevance analysis, the following fields of action were deemed as particularly relevant for RTL: Content Responsibility & Journalistic Independence, Diversity & Inclusion (D&I), and Climate Change.

To implement this strategy, RTL Group established a new CR Board at the end of 2020, bringing together executives from RTL Group and RTL Deutschland. The Board meets every six weeks to coordinate projects in the focus areas detailed below to develop new ideas and initiatives and to ensure efficient use of expertise in the Corporate Centre and the Group’s largest business unit.

Content responsibility and journalistic independence

Content drives our business. Especially in times of fake news and online disinformation, it is essential to maintain public trust and ensure that news and information are broadcast in compliance with strong journalistic principles – and without compromise. The news reporting from RTL channels is based on editorial and journalistic independence, as stipulated in our Newsroom Guidelines. These guidelines also highlight the importance of respecting personal rights and privacy, the careful handling of sources and images and the separation of editorial and advertising content. Moreover, RTL complies with all applicable EU and national child protection laws and regulations.

For RTL, journalistic independence means being able to provide news and information without interference from internal or external sources and without compromising its commitment to impartiality. Editors-in-Chief at each entity apply rigorous ethical standards and ensure local guidelines are followed – which gives journalists the freedom to express a range of opinions, reflecting society’s diversity and supporting democracy.


In 2021, RTL Deutschland, in cooperation with the Bertelsmann Content Alliance, launched the ‘Jahr zur Wahrheit. Weil’s stimmenmuss (Yes to truth. Because it has to be correct)’ initiative. At a time when populism, opinion manipulation and conspiracy theories unsettle and threaten social cohesion, RTL Deutschland and its partners capitalized on their large audience reach and demonstrated journalistic integrity, quality, responsibility, and reliability by launching a wide-reaching, cross-media marketing campaign on radio, TV and print. Various image and radio spots are broadcast on the TV channels and radio stations of RTL Deutschland. In addition, measures are also published online on various social media channels.

The campaign focuses on employees from the companies of the Bertelsmann Content Alliance who deal with the importance of truth and lies in society in their daily work. As Stephan Schäfer, Co-CEO of RTL Deutschland and CEO of Gruner + Jahr, said: “2021 is a decisive year in many respects, which we must and want to actively support and help shape, because the Bertelsmann Content Alliance encompasses a unique variety of media genres and can therefore reach every target group in Germany. This reach is both a privilege and a social responsibility: the truth is not always pleasant but can also hurt. We see it as our duty to also show the other side of the coin.” Particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of content responsibility increased. News was often broadcast in real time, and special programmes were produced on specific topics. During the initial Covid-19 lockdown, the newsrooms at M6 and RTL Radio in France adapted their programming to increase relevance to viewers and listeners, alongside increasing interactivity with the audience and strengthening the battle against fake news. RTL Radio also set up a team called ‘Covid-19 Brigade’, consisting of specialised journalists from the medical, economic, social, political and foreign desks to answer listeners’ questions live. RTL Deutschland’s news channel NTV saw its audience share double over several weeks during the spring of 2020, and young audiences in particular turned unusually often to the traditional medium of linear TV. Amidst high amounts of misleading information during the crisis, RTL Nieuws in the Netherlands continued to deliver high-quality, reliable and accurate news which consumers could rely on.

In the context of the Bertelsmann Working Group on Press Freedom, chaired by NTV’s Editor-in-Chief Sonja Schwetje, representatives of several Bertelsmann divisions regularly meet to discuss current issues concerning the editorial and journalistic independence of the news organisations across the Bertelsmann Group. In recent meetings, for example, the successive restrictions on the independent media in Hungary and disinformation campaigns regarding the Covid-19 pandemic across Europe were discussed.

Diversity and inclusion

At RTL, the focus of our responsibility commitment has always been to embrace independence and diversity in our people, our content and our businesses. It is no secret that a diverse workforce produces more creative results. In addition, companies with a diverse leadership team, be it gender, ethnic or cultural diversity, tend to outperform their peers on profitability. This is confirmed in the latest – and third – McKinsey report in May 2020 entitled ‘Diversity wins: How inclusion matters’. The latest analysis of data reconfirms previous findings that “companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 per cent more likely to have above average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile – up from 21 per cent in 2017 and 15 per cent in 2014”[1]. This lead increases for ethnically and culturally diverse corporations.

But it is not only about financial performance. “As a successful media business, we need to continue to work towards reflecting the diversity of the societies we serve, both in our business and our content. It is enriching and inspiring to be surrounded by people from different backgrounds, with different beliefs, opinions, and skills, and this contributes to creativity and innovation. Furthermore, when it comes to attracting new talent, if we encourage diversity and inclusion, we will have a larger pool of candidates to choose from since we are not looking for a particular type of person, but rather focusing on the skills an individual can bring to the business.”

As such, diversity is essential to the quality of RTL’s programmes and offerings, as highlighted in the following examples.


RTL Deutschland has implemen­ted various diversity measures. For example, a guiding list supports producers in casting diverse formats and breaking established behavioural patterns. In addition, all employees are offered the opportunity to participate in unconscious bias training with the aim of breaking subconscious thought patterns and thereby increasing diversity in the workforce and company. Finally, the company founded a Diversity Circle, led by the Director of Sustainability, with representatives from operations, such as the TV channels, and support functions. Members meet frequently to discuss various diversity measures on- and off-screen to increase diversity throughout the organisation and in its programmes.

Fremantle committed itself globally to more diversity across its business and content by focusing on three key areas. ‘Unlock’ is a commitment to creating opportunities across the business, including the expansion of mentoring initiatives to broaden the diversity of the hiring pool and to promote change across the wider industry.

‘Unlearn’ is a new and ongoing cultural learning programme which includes mandatory bias training. ‘Untitled’ is a communication platform designed to amplify and involve all voices, where Fremantle facilitated multiple open-forum sessions for its employees to discuss equality or voice concerns. In the US, Fremantle is working with The Hollywood Bridge Fund, a scheme which trains and connects below-the-line, underrepresented workers to job opportunities in Hollywood and helps broaden the diversity of the hiring pool. In the UK, Fremantle created a mentoring initiative with the TV collective Breakthrough Leaders to develop a mentoring programme designed to support 50 Black, Asian and minority ethnic future leaders. In Germany, UFA made a commitment to becoming more diverse both on and off screen. By the end of 2024, UFA’s full-year programming portfolio should reflect the diversity found in society.

RTL Nederland launched an extensive multi-year plan to ensure D&I on a business level in the company’s culture, branding and content. Several of the plan’s initiatives have already been implemented. For instance, RTL Nederland rolled out a company-wide D&I scan, integrated D&I in the company’s management goals, and launched an internal D&I editorial team and a dedicated section on the intranet.

In addition, RTL Nederland’s UX designers have made it their mission to make the streaming service Videoland more accessible for blind and visually impaired people. From the content side, shows such as Drag Race Holland or Prince Charming are making an impact on diversity and new diverse drama series are currently in production.

Climate Change

At RTL, we feel it’s important to combine our business success with responsible action towards environmental protection. Given the increased urgency of climate change, RTL is committed to reaching climate neutrality by 2030. To achieve this goal, an RTL-wide Climate Task Force was launched early in 2021 with the aim of sharing knowledge on carbon footprint measurements and working together to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The objective is to avoid, reduce and compensate for unavoidable emissions. Since 2018, RTL has decreased its carbon footprint across its businesses by 36 per cent. The main drivers for this reduction have been a move to renewable energy sources and a reduction in business travel and commuting.

The reduction of carbon dioxide emissions is of course an ongoing effort. RTL Deutschland, for example, has been purchasing green electricity from RheinEnergie AG in Cologne since 1 January 2021. This will cut over 5,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year at the Cologne-Deutz site.

BY 2030

Fremantle is also dedicated to the topic of carbon emissions and, along with BAFTA’s Albert – an industry consortium – has launched an updated carbon calculator and certification toolkit for the film and television industry. This allows carbon emissions to be calculated and, above all, reduced in a controlled manner. In 2021, the global calculator will be rolled out to all Fremantle offices around the world, making Fremantle the first TV company to calculate its carbon footprint on a global scale using the Albert toolkit and measure its impact against internationally recognised standards.

The subject of carbon emissions reduction is also important to RTL Deutschland. In 2021, it established an in-house Green Production Board which sets resource-saving and carbon dioxide-saving minimum standards that will apply to in-house and commissioned productions from June 2021 onwards. “Working with our contractual partners, we are pursuing, together with Bertelsmann, the aim of making all forms of production as environmentally and climate-friendly as possible and thus jointly fulfilling our social responsibility. Green productions are a long-term commitment for us, as well as a matter of course,” says Julia Reuter, Managing Director Strategy, Human Resources & Culture at RTL Deutschland.

RTL Deutschland also regularly addresses socially relevant topics in its programming. One such example has been to promote a sustainable future in the ‘Packen wir’s an’ (Let’s do it) themed weeks this year, an initiative which will continue in the future. In autumn 2021, the companies of the Bertelsmann Content Alliance are initiating a new theme week from 4 to 10 October with the motto “So that it will still be running tomorrow.” RTL Deutschland, UFA, RTL Radio Deutschland, Penguin Random House Verlagsgruppe and Gruner + Jahr are pooling their media power and reach to raise awareness of water as a resource and habitat, and to show how climate change can alter our lives.

Groupe M6 also held Green Weeks in 2020 and 2021, devoting a large part of its programming to the topic of environmental protection. The over-arching programming enabled it to emphasise the central importance of the topic. To sensitise even the youngest viewers to the topic of environmental protection, the children’s channel Gulli broadcast programmes suitable for children.

We’ve launched important and successful activities in all three areas in recent years and made good progress. However, RTL continues to pursue ambitious goals. We will stand by our commitment to integrate sustainability into our daily business and value chain, and we will develop and drive forward the expansion of CR across the Group.

[1] Source: McKinsey & Company: Diversity wins: How inclusion matters. May 19, 2020

Anja Reichert

Anja Reichert

Head of Corporate Responsibility & Diversity Coordination, RTL Group

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