Leaning into Inclusion to Elevate Shared Value: How Warner Bros. is Tackling Hollywood’s Biggest Challenge, and Driving Lasting Impact
By James Parker
Amidst the backdrop of the higher-order challenge of diversity in Hollywood, and the ongoing challenge the media industry is facing at the hands of technology, changing demographics and content consumption patterns, Warner Bros. has found an opportunity to lean into the disruption.
Rather than be paralyzed by the inevitable change across the industry, this iconic film house sees opportunity in confronting these disruptions head on. Warner Bros. is boldly leaning into this challenge, seeking to create change that leads to greater diversity, creativity and opportunity – or as we like to say, “Shared Value.”
We believe that community programs can be more than philanthropic investments. If done well, these initiatives can drive real change in communities, build brand equity, and align and advance enterprise and community strategy to ultimately create more value for stakeholders.
In partnership with nonprofit group Ghetto Film School and mentorship program Young Storytellers, the 95-year-old film house is designing and implementing classes that teach the basics of filmmaking and storytelling to encourage young people from predominantly Latin and African American communities to find and hone their creative voices (1).
Advancing Cause and Commerce
For Warner Bros., getting involved in schools is not only a social impact initiative, but helps to position the film studio as a leading, future-focused content creator and employer that meets the needs of an evolving, maturing, and increasingly more diverse population.
“It’s almost a business imperative,” said Christopher Mack, head of scripted content at Warner Bros.’s Stage 13, a newly formed digital video studio focused on multicultural viewers. “In 10 years, the audience is going to be more diverse than ever, and if we can’t create content for that audience, we become irrelevant.” Source: LA Times, Ryan Faughnder, Movie studio seeks a behind-the-scenes role in L.A. schools to help fix Hollywood's inclusion problem
For the film behemoth and Hollywood, the journey towards inclusion has just begun and the work ahead is immense (nearly 90% of all leads are cast by white actors as recently as 2016). But, global blockbusters featuring predominantly black cast members, like “Black Panther,” which became the third highest-grossing film of all time, signal that the moment for change is right now.
What Organizational Leaders Should Take Away:
Community-focused efforts can deliver greater value when business and social outcomes are not considered to be in conflict. Pure philanthropy does not always produce more impact than strategic Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) - activities where both business and societies benefit. Corporations can also benefit from having a positive impact. Highly effective, high-impact strategic CSR faithfully deploys shared value principles in a way that maximizes both the business value and social impact of community investment.
By leaning into disruption and aligning social impact with long-term business strategy, Warner Bros. is amplifying its impact in the world and will ultimately be better positioned commercially to tap into this modern paradigm shift.
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- LA Times, Ryan Faughnder, Movie studio seeks a behind-the-scenes role in L.A. schools to help fix Hollywood's inclusion problem