This summer, global entertainment company Live Nation asserted its commitment to sustainability with the creation of a new employee education program and new employee roles focused on sustainability. Live Nation aims to achieve zero waste in 20 of the company’s owned and operated amphitheater venues by 2020.
In addition to a new zero waste e-learning course that has been made available to all employees, Live Nation has also instituted the seasonal position of venue sustainability coordinator at 14 venues.
The company started focusing on making more targeted efforts toward sustainability about two years ago, when it did a waste sort and waste characterization study at Jiffy Lube Live (Bristow, Va.) in collaboration with GreenBlue, which is part of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.
“That taught us a ton about where we were [with] our overall waste footprint. As you can imagine, it was enormous, especially at scale,” says Lucy August-Perna, manager of venue sustainability at Live Nation. “That was one venue, but when you multiply that by our 50 amphitheater venues across the country, it quickly becomes quite a large impact from a waste perspective. I think that was the biggest catalyst that really kind of moved us into action.”
Live Nation launched pilot programs at six venues to test practices in waste reduction and waste management. A key takeaway from the process, says August-Perna, was having a dedicated staff person at the venue who would be accountable for coordinating sustainability efforts that would improve outcomes.
The new venue sustainability coordinators’ responsibilities include working with concessions partners and sub-vendors to ensure all foodservice ware is either reusable, compostable or recyclable and assisting with training venue staff in enhanced post-show waste sorting protocols.
“First and foremost, they are the sustainability champions at the venue level. They assist with employee engagement and make sure that employees at the venue understand what we are doing and why,” says August-Perna.
“The second aspect of their role is the physical, hands-on work to get integrated into the operations of the venue because when we are talking about waste reduction, it is a big undertaking and needs to be integrated into everything that we do,” she adds.
The coordinator also organizes the post-show sort with the team of zero waste captains, who are existing venue employees who opt to stay after their shift to ensure materials are sorted into the proper waste streams.
“We weren’t sure if we would get returning people, but I think at almost all of the venues we have a core group of people who assist the sustainability coordinator after every show. We have some people who rotate in and out and have done it a couple of times. Anyone is able to stay behind who wants to,” says August-Perna.
August-Perna oversees the sustainability efforts at the amphitheaters, which banned plastic straws in April. House of Blues, also part of the Live Nation family, made the move to ban plastic straws in its venues in June.
“It was the right thing to do,” says Felix Musseden, executive vice president at House of Blues Entertainment. “We have a responsibility to protect the environment. We work hard to be good corporate citizens.”
The policy was communicated to staff and reinforced with marketing materials that were shared with guests. “Our employees are knowledgeable regarding the initiative and engaging with guests. Additionally, we produced a collateral piece that was placed on every table,” he says.
There has been relatively little pushback to the policy, says Musseden. “Some guests still request straws, and we give them a paper straw. Most understand and are pleased with our program,” he says. House of Blues is working on additional sustainability initiatives that include increasing recycling and implementing waterless urinals.
Live Nation hopes that fans and staff will understand its commitment to sustainability and that it will inspire change even after the lights go down.
“We feel like we are the largest live entertainment company in the world and with that comes both a huge responsibility and a huge opportunity to use that platform to not only try to move the needle from an environmental standpoint, and put on concerts that have zero impact on the environment, but also leverage the fact that we have got this incredible fan base. [Hopefully, we can] inspire them to not only participate when they are at the show but then also when they go home,” says August-Perna. “That would be a dream, if our fans saw what we were doing and decided to adopt that behavior in their personal lives.”