In Depth

NBCU Enlists All TV Units in Eco Agenda

By Allison J. Waldman

In 2008, Lauren Zalaznick, president of NBC Universal Women and Lifestyle Entertainment Networks, undertook the leadership role in an environmental awareness initiative for NBC Universal called Green Is Universal. A year later, the commitment to green remains an integral part of the NBC Universal brand and corporate identity.

“I think the Green Is Universal initiative has really taken off both externally in how we’re interfacing with our consumers, and internally as far as how we as a company are really embracing green and driving it through our own operation,” said Beth Colleton, vice president of Green Is Universal.

When the program began one of the goals was the creation of a handbook about how to enact green production. Today the handbook exists and is actively in use. “Referencing the manual, what we did worked really well,” said Colleton. “We did some pilot work on film and TV shows to really learn how to create green production and worked that information into a play-by-play instruction manual – one for film and one for TV – that is now integrated into the business process of our Universal Pictures, Focus Features and Universal Media Studio operations.”

The green process isn’t found only in production, but also all business offices and operations.

 "Green is sometimes very visual, you know you can see it right there with recycling, but sometimes green is the absence of activity. You might be in an office or in a TV studio and not realize that some green changes have been put in place,” said Colleton.

For instance, a green message might be found in a copy room. “We can communicate behavioral changes to our crews and employees, so there’ll be a message that if they print less, what the effect will be on the environment. The physical branding approach not only communicates information about best practices that are taking place, but informs our work force about the ways they can participate in change,” she said.

One new project NBCU is enacting is called “The Green Apprentice.” “We’ve put additional dollars aside to spur innovation and really encourage our work force to look for cutting-edge innovative ways to implement energy waste and water savings throughout our operations. The proposals are out right now and they’re starting to come in,” said Colleton. “Internally, we have just seen so much traction with green. People are looking for creative ways to implement green and are looking for more long-term solutions.”

Despite the recession NBCU hasn’t abandoned this effort, and the public has come to identify NBC as the green network. “We have some research that we did a few months ago that shows that. Consumers and the general public see the value of green not just in their belief system but in the way that they actually spend their dollars,” said Colleton.

The Green Is Universal message will be underscored during sweeps. “It’s the same as last year. From November 15 to 22, all of the brands of NBC Universal will go green, so to speak, and be dedicated to delivering green information in entertainment and content those seven days,” said Colleton.

Whether on Bravo or USA or NBC, many of the performers have shown great support for Green is Universal. “We are really lucky because our talent is so engaged in the cause of the environment that they often come to us looking for ways to get involved,” she said.

For the on-air, award-winning “The More You Know” PSA program, 23 different stars volunteered to participate in last year’s campaign. “We eventually had to tell folks beyond the 23 that we couldn’t take anymore. They’ve also participated in volunteer events and other public service initiatives to really drive the public to engage here,” said Colleton.

“One of the key differences is that green isn’t just a cause anymore, it’s really a lifestyle that people are recognizing locally, so it’s not a distant 100 years in the future what’s the state of the environment going to be,” she said. “People are seeing the effects of the environment in their everyday lives, so they are very much engaged in trying to change their own behavior for the betterment of themselves, their families and their communities, and most importantly their children.”

For NBCU, the initiative has proven to be a success. “Just this spring, the Audubon Society gave us the Rachel Carson Award,” said Colleton. “Since we’re not a manufacturing company or a building or textile company, they were appreciative of what we have in our arsenal to make a difference. We can communicate with 100 million people during a month and arm them with the right information so that they can make those changes in their daily lives. We do that in our entertainment shows, news properties and we deliver this information all year long.”