• 03.01.11

Green Leadership at The Grammys

When leadership in an industry converges on a stage to discuss how their individual programs have lead to a collective shift in the entire equation, you have to admire the process unfolding in front of your eyes.

When leadership in an industry converges on a stage to discuss how their individual programs have lead to a collective shift in the entire equation, one may sit back and admire the process unfolding in front of his eyes. Or at least I did last Friday at the Conga Room, at L.A. Live, where an auspicious event took place to a “by-invitation-only” audience of movers and shakers in the corporate sustainability, social media and entertainment industries. A high-level panel of experts were gathered to discuss – and to some extent celebrate – the advances in green innovation in the music industry. The panel was diverse enough to include entertainment giants Sony and Universal, the iconic Bob Marley brand, the Warped Tour creator and corporate leaders from Clorox’s Brita Brand (on the sponsorship side) and Waste Management. So who was behind this gathering… no less than The Recording Academy®, in conjunction with the 53rd Annual GRAMMY® Awards weekend, and Waste Management.


The evolution of business is becoming more systemic and innovative when our continent’s largest trash collector becomes the leader in recycling and supports the “Cradle to Cradle” philosophy where everything we create is either closed-loop to the biosphere or technosphere. What better partners than the electronic entertainment industry to take a bite out of waste. Kathleen Strouse, Universal Music Group’s Director of Digital Business Support revealed that since 2006, her division has managed to reduce reduced physical promo product by 89% and increased digital promo product deliveries by 400%. Specifically to vinyl, in the last 3 years they have reduced physical vinyl promo product by 96%. This includes shipping and manufacturing. In addition, UMG’s physical promo product returns rate is less than half a % of shipped – compared to over 25% back in 2002 when Kathleen took over the group.

The reality is that Strouse and her team’s leadership in sustainability coincides with the innovation of digital music. But what a great way to capture and promote the benefits of the evolution away physical music recordings (either vinyl, cassette or CD) to an electronic file. Digital distribution has helped them lower emissions, save money, & secure their music arrives in the hands (or ears) of the right audience.

Strouse elequently points out that most of us carry a soundtrack to our lives. Whether it be Bob Marley or Beethoven, there are songs we most likely have purchased on all forms of recording. Each time a new technology is introduced, we rush out to purchase that song or album on the latest format. Today, with the rapid development of digital music files and the ability to share instantly, companies such as Sony and Universal have are able to reduce one of the largest aspects of their footprint on our planet. And just imagine the reduction in overall promotional materials. And knowing exactly when and where the file was downloaded and listened too.

Mike Kahn, Director of Sony Electronics’ Mobile Music Business Unit, shared that electronic production of MP3 players and other music devices has also improved upon; materials are made from recycled content and a process is clearly defined for how we collect and recycled those devices at end of life.

Enter Waste Management with a division dedicated to partnering with companies such as Sony and Universal to create to customer alliances where innovation and partnerships solve these programs of where and how to get the materials back into the materials stream for recycling and re-production. Wanda Williams, Director of Customer Engagement at Waste Management, clearly points out the systemic nature of partnership and how her company has set out to be a solution provider to industries, such as music and entertainment.

Stay tuned as I continue this discussion next week with more from Mike Kahn of Sony, Wanda Williams of Waste Management, Kevin Lyman -Warped Tour creator, Drew McGowan – Brita’s Filter For Good campaign, and Rohan Marley – the House of Marley.