How NBC Universal Shows it Means Business with Green Efforts

To implement an effective green campaign within an organization, the first order of business is to establish a green mission. What are your company’s objectives and how can they be achieved? NBC Universal’s mission is to effect positive change to the environment by raising awareness and educating consumers, as the company substantially greens its own operations. NBCU has publicly pledged to reduce its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions at least 3 percent by 2012.

Like any new business practice, it helps to brand an initiative to help consumers to embrace it, and for it to become a part of the fabric of the company. Hence, in May 2007, NBCU officially launched its company-wide green effort, “Green Is Universal.”
In today’s segmented marketplace, TV remains one of the most powerful mediums of influence. Media and entertainment companies can capitalize on this, by using their many distribution platforms to educate, inform and entertain consumers about protecting the environment. NBCU launched its first “Green Week” in November 2007, during which 37 different business units across the television, theme park and film studio divisions participated in green-themed programming and activities.

Collectively, the networks of NBCU broadcast an unprecedented 150 hours of green-themed content. Highlights include a Today Show series featuring the show’s anchors on a journey to the ends of the earth to report the effects of global warming; an appearance by Nobel Prize winner Al Gore in a green-themed episode of NBC’s hit series 30 Rock. The company also created a “Green is Universal” website, featuring green tips, news clips and links to other useful green sites. Viewership and online interaction during this week spiked, and a result of this success, NBCU has scheduled additional Green Weeks in April (centered around Earth Day) and November.

But “Green Is Universal” is not just an on-air and online awareness campaign. To encourage employees and consumers to adopt good green habits, companies need to practice what they preach. To that end, NBCU is conducting eco-audits across all its businesses, in order to identify areas of green efficiencies. As a result, NBCU has implemented changes, yielding significant green savings. At NBCU’s corporate headquarters in New York, in December 2007 and January 2008 alone, over 404 tons of paper and other recyclables were prevented from going into a landfill. This equates to saving 6,596 trees, 30,652 gallons of oil and 2,716,000 gallons of water. In addition, certain areas of the building have been placed on a lighting time schedule, and retrofitted with CFL bulbs.

In Los Angeles, Universal has also installed its first solar energy system on its lot, the largest in the industry, consisting of 630 solar panels capable of generating in excess 100 kilowatts of power, enough to sustain 1,396 homes for one day.
Companies must also take steps to green the most visible areas in the office. We can’t expect employees to take green seriously, if the commissary is still using Styrofoam. NBCU has recently switched to eco-friendly coffee cups in key locations such as its New York headquarters, Englewood Cliffs, Universal City and Burbank. Although these cups are three to four times more expensive, NBCU believes this is a worthwhile investment. NBCU’s East and West Coast commissaries now also offer brands of bottled water that provide environmentally friendly bottles, which use 30% less plastic.

Companies also need to provide incentives and make it easy for employees to be environmentally responsible. To encourage its employees to make eco-friendly choices for business travel, NBCU, along with parent company GE, arranged a deal with Hertz, which enables US-based employees to receive discounted rental rates on Hertz’s hybrid cars that get over 28 miles per gallon.

When it comes to green, it is also important to encourage employees to give back to the community. In November, NBCU offered its employees the opportunities to participate in an LA beach cleanup, as well as a park restoration in New York. As a result, over 400 employees volunteered their time with these green nonprofits. Additionally, in a corporate show of support for green, the NBC Universal Foundation awarded $100,000 in “green grants” to three environmentally focused organizations.

Companies must also make it a priority to actively engage consumers in their green efforts. For example, Universal Studios Hollywood held a “hazardous waste event,” and collected approximately 143,000 pounds of hazardous waste from consumers and employees. This event earned the theme park a “Green Seal Certificate” from the Environmental Media Association.

It is not realistic for any company to become 100% green overnight. It is an ongoing commitment that we must chip away at every day. The industry can achieve its green goals faster, if we unite behind the cause and share best practices. In a fiercely competitive business, green is the one area where we can take our boxing gloves off. The more companies that support green, the greater the impact we can have on protecting the environment.

This article was excerpted from PR News' Going Green: Case Studies in Outstanding Green Business Practices Guidebook, Volume 1. It was written by Hilary Smith, vice president of corporate communications and media relations for NBC Universal. To order this or other guidebooks, please visit