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TV Nets Map Eco-Friendly Campaigns

Corporate Parents Pushing Green Agenda in Programming, Workplace

For the major broadcasting networks, “going green” isn’t just a trendy marketing ploy—it’s becoming a way of corporate life as companies implement energy- and resource-saving techniques throughout their facilities and showcase environmental themes in some of their programming.

NBC Universal, like News Corp., announced its commitment in spring 2007, under the banner “Green Is Universal.” It geared up quickly for its first Green Week last November—providing more than 150 hours of environmentally themed content encompassing all of NBCU’s divisions across multiple platforms, 42 brands in all, from NBC Entertainment to the Sundance Channel, Universal Parks and the Telemundo Network.

“The environment has become both a corporate and cultural issue,” said President and CEO Jeff Zucker at the time. “As a leading media and entertainment company, NBC Universal has a responsibility, both in our own operations and in driving awareness. Green is good for the world and the bottom line.”

The corporation has a Green Council chaired by Lauren Zalaznick, which meets every month to plan and implement ideas, such as giving employees reusable cups and using a water vendor that employs 30% less plastic in its bottles and 10% less paper.

“We have the exciting opportunity to work cross-organizationally, and to identify opportunities to advance the green platform,” said Beth Colleton, vice president of Green Is Universal. “In addition, each division has a dedicated green point person within it, always looking for a list of ways to engage 16,000 employees.”

NBC Universal’s corporate commitment to green its own operations worldwide includes work on a new West Coast News Headquarters and Content Center, expected to be completed in 2011. It will feature sustainable design, construction and transit-oriented development under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® rating system. NBC Universal also plans to use LEED practices as a benchmark for existing buildings in its ongoing operations.

For lowering energy consumption, the Universal Studios lot in Universal City, Calif. installed its first solar energy system in May 2007, covering 1.75 acres, the largest in the industry. The corporation’s long-term goal is to secure an ever-increasing portion of its power from solar or wind generators.

On the transportation front, last year NBC Universal began using a different car service in New York, resulting in a 75% air pollution improvement over the old service, and also replaced 25% of its automobile fleet with hybrid vehicles by the end of 2007. The company is in the process of deploying multi-functional office machines that let employees scan and e-mail documents, eliminating the need for multiple devices and reducing paper use—and using paper with 34% recycled content.

“We’re committed to mobilizing our workforce around green,” said Ms.Colleton. “We have major volunteer days, with hundreds of employees cleaning up rivers, planting trees and bettering their own communities. Through the NBC Universal Foundation, we give grants to green organizations. In our own buildings, General Electric is a real leader in reducing carbon and waste. We don’t use any more Styrofoam, and our catering department does composting. Many of our divisions have carpooling programs.”

The company is gearing up for another Green Week, scheduled for Nov. 16-23, with more than a hundred hours of related programming. “We are preparing another roster of great activities, really focusing on green choices that are easy for audiences to understand and activate around,” she said. “We have a great list of talent participating in “The More You Know” PSA series, encouraging the audience to do the same. There are green storylines planned for “Lipstick Jungle,” involving all the three female stars, “Knight Rider,” “My Own Worst Enemy” and “Kath and Kim,” with a fun take on green and recycling. We are also launching an e-commerce site that allows consumers to buy green products.”

News Corp. Initiative

The broadcasting and programming divisions of News Corp. are also hard at work on greening their facilities, events and productions, continuing the initiative launched last May by Chairman Rupert Murdoch. Its ambitious and far-reaching goals call for achieving carbon dioxide neutrality throughout all the company’s business units—print, broadcast, film and online—by 2010.

“We’re trying for a 15% reduction of travel-related costs, a significant reduction of carbon,” said John Moore, vice president of Environmental, Health and Safety for Fox Networks Group. “We are shutting down employee desktops at night and gradually moving toward ‘point of use’ water. It’s like a water cooler, but rather than having bottled water delivered, it plugs into existing tap water and with a self-contained reverse osmosis system, virtually eliminates a carbon footprint—and it’s better quality.”

For some time now, Fox Broadcasting has used 30% recycled content copy paper for its printers and copiers, and recycled 80% of its paper and trash, including set waste like paper, paint, batteries and electronics.

Building on its work at the 2007 Emmy Awards and this year’s Super Bowl, Fox produced its most carbon-efficient and eco-friendly event to date at the “American Idol” finale in May 2008. It partnered with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to provide renewable energy to the Nokia Theatre, installed a solar system to power the red carpet, implemented a 98% waste diversion program and sourced reusable materials throughout the venue.

Also in May 2008, Fox made significant efforts to cut its carbon footprints at its upfront presentations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Detroit. From using renewable energy at venues to slashing the number of trucks used to transport equipment, the “greener” methods also included reusing Fox-branded carpeting from the previous year—which had previously been thrown out—and reusable centerpieces at tables.

Similar practices have seeped into day-to-day operations across the divisions. “What we are trying to do is further integrate energy initiatives into the business process,” said Mr. Moore. “Our goal is to make reductions an inherent part of our business.”

CBS in Focus

CBS, with 30,000 employees at 250 locations across the United States, Canada and Mexico is also concerned with more environmentally sound business practices.

“We have a group that represents each of our major units called the corporate Environmental Health Safety Council. Through them, we coordinate efforts and share best practices and develop corporate initiatives,” said Bill Wall, vice president and senior counsel of CBS Corp.’s law department, whose duties include implementing and managing environmental, health and safety issues.

“The real power of CBS is through its role as a broadcaster, and having the ability to raise awareness of and reporting though news on environmental issues,” said Mr. Wall.

In a series of environmentally themed public service announcements under the umbrella of “CBS Cares,” stars of its shows, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus of “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” ask viewers to make the world a better place for their children by doing something for the environment. Each in the series of PSAs then promotes an environmental organization from which viewers can find more information.

Other spots in the series get very specific, asking viewers to turn down their thermostats or to use less hot water and more energy-efficient products and recyclable materials.

Inside the organization’s facilities and productions, these mandates are also being implemented. “There is real sensitivity to address waste reduction and energy efficiency,” said Mr. Wall. “We will be looking at corporate initiatives to drive down to various locations. There is a lot of great effort, and it’s a grass-roots effort. That’s where the power of Environmental Health and Safety comes in, to share best practices. That requires effort, thought and planning in order to share it across business units.”

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