NBC Universal is launching a broad commitment to environmental awareness with a new initiative called Green Is Universal. The weeklong global event, which runs from Nov. 4-10, is the first project launched by the newly formed NBCU Green Council chaired by Bravo Media President Lauren Zalaznick.
“What we wanted to do with Green Is Universal was two things: to make a big statement to get it kicked off in the right way, and then also to be very committed to a consistent and sustainable way of delivering the same message throughout the week, throughout the month and throughout the years to come,” said Ms. Zalaznick. “The Green Council will actually design the strategy and the mandate for Green Is Universal and make it an ongoing concern for years to come.”
All of NBC Universal will participate in Green Is Universal, including NBC Entertainment programming. Across the board, both scripted and unscripted, there will be environmentally oriented messages to promote ecological awareness. Shows including “Heroes,” “The Office,” “My Name Is Earl” and “30 Rock” will incorporate green themes in their content.
“It’s a big commitment on the behalf of the creators and the actors and all the participants of all these shows,” said Ms. Zalaznick. “This is a big idea, and we’re coming out with a lot of content that week. At the same time, the real challenge is to figure out how to keep it going. It’s not a one-time-only thing. That’s what the Green Council is all about.”
The Green Is Universal concept began at the very top of NBC Universal. “This is the brainchild and the mission statement from [NBC Universal President and CEO] Jeff Zucker, who took this on with a nod from GE Ecomagination,” Ms. Zalaznick said. “We have this really incredibly great role model in GE, one of the biggest companies in the world, which has identified green and sustainability and environmental concern as (A) of great importance, and (B) of great business importance. I think that Jeff Zucker had been empowered by [GE CEO] Jeff Immelt to take it and run with it. We’ve taken that vision and that announcement to fruition.”
At the time of the announcement, Mr. Zucker said, “We need to not just think green, but act green. This commitment to a week of programming is an incredible opportunity for NBCU to use the collective power of its platforms — broadcast, cable and film — and consumer expertise and reach to further the message of environmental awareness and change.”
In an effort to underscore the importance of this project, NBC purposely chose a sweeps week. “We didn’t want to shy away from this,” Ms. Zalaznick said. “We didn’t want to come out of the box and be looked at as being timid, like, ‘Oh yeah, they put it on Saturday morning at 7 o’clock.’ … It was chosen with the help of Ben Silverman, who’s obviously driving NBC prime time, along with Marc Graboff, and they were the first, Marc and Ben, to literally jump on board and offer a week of sweeps.”
NBCU is counting on sponsors to share its passion for the Green Is Universal concept. “Everybody agrees that green is good for business, but sponsorship-wise, people are not lining up,” said Ms. Zalaznick. “They want all the credit for being green, but you have to spend money to create awareness. You have to spend money to get people aware of great green products and ways of changing their lives, to have more sustainability in their lives.
“We didn’t launch the sponsorship first and put in the programming to fit the sponsorship. We committed to this in the hope that sponsors would come along. The commitment is from a pure business perspective first, which is exciting for a company of this size to make that commitment.”
The ultimate goal of Green Is Universal is to reach the industry and consumers, too. But to get into a position to educate others, the company faces its own learning curve.
“We’d like to be able to provide a handbook for any and all productions coming through NBC Universal — whether it’s news, studio-based, remote-based, comedy, drama, reality, movies — that promote close to zero carbon emissions. It’s really a very rigorous process. You can’t just see these things, so we’re trying to educate ourselves. That, I think, is very important,” said Ms. Zalaznick.
“We are well-intended, but not well-enough-educated yet,” she added. “The first thing that you have to do is a self-examination called a green audit. That’s going to form the basis of our priorities, and then we’re going to layer on top of that this concept of green production. The third part would then be to take our knowledge and begin to message those things to consumers to get them to act.”
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