Universal's current green initiative is mostly hot air, which isn't so good for global warming.
Talking about the issue is certainly important, since there are still a few holdouts who prefer the pretense of debate over the reality of a crisis. I guess that's not surprising, as there are also people who can keep a straight face while saying humans used to ride dinosaurs, or that the CIA blew up the World Trade Center.
It's a great idea that Universal would focus its not-so-small resources on 1) nailing the science and education on the issue, almost as a public interest education Manhattan Project, and telling the world about it, and 2) developing real tools for schools and businesses to embrace it, and act on it.
Only that's not what’s happening.
Instead, "Green is Universal" offers some lukewarm programming that mostly feels like we've already seen it (same experts, same preaching-to-the-choir tone). Web site features and links repurpose blather from other sites hoping to cash in on the issue. Feel-good tips on saving the planet abound, as do lots of pretty graphics and breathlessly enthusiastic copy. The new thing we're getting lots of glimpses of is a colorful Green Universal logo, not to mention a ton of outbound marketing touting its green-ness.
So it's just a dumb branding campaign, dreamt up by some enterprising young turk in the marketing department (or an inspired agency type) who looked at the audience polling numbers and realized that young people care about global warming. Some slick brand later and, voila! Universal is green.
Imagine if the family of companies really got committed, and announced that Universal media outlets would be the go-to destinations on the issue... taking risks, prompting whatever real debates needed to get resolved, and holding elected officials (and candidates) and other corporations accountable?
That would be remarkable.
I can't say it would be such a great idea, as it would require its news-related outlets to take a side in a debate that unavoidably has become political. But then again, wherefore art thou, objectivity anyway? Maybe taking a side on an issue that shouldn't be political might help de-politicize it. It sure would get it noticed in ways far more meaningful (and profitably?) than a watered-down branding exercise.
Ok, I want to riff on this a bit. What behaviors would make this Green campaign something real? Universal could:
Announce that all its operations are carbon neutral. Skip the helpful hints garbage (pun intended, FYI) and actually do something. Think of all resources that get used up to broadcast TV signals, run the lights in animation studios, and keep movie sets supplied with fresh croissants and mineral water. Universal could buy offsets from companies that are carbon negative from the get-go; better yet, it could initiate an internal program to actually become carbon neutral through its own actions. Replace incandescent bulbs with florescent. Install passive solar arrays. Do whatever it takes, for however long it takes, to get it done. Each Universal media outlet could narrate the process -- each from its own area of focus, whether scientific, historical, political -- and viewers could get involved in helping each outlet analyze problems, find new solutions, etc. Talk about a great trigger for developing social communities.
How about going a step further, and turning the carbon credits into a true position that's supportable with a consumer promotion? For instance, watch MSNBC for an hour, and Universal will offset the energy used to transmit that signal to you. So consumers could literally help save the planet by watching TV! Maybe Universal could promise to offset its production/transmission energy use in increments tied to Nielsen ratings for its programs. Watch more, do more good...
Why not make every media artifact recyclable? Every DVD, CD, printed material, or anything else it sends out into the consumer world could be made recyclable. It could look inside, and decide to promote recycling programs, which need not be a part of a larger program of becoming carbon neutral. For instance, what happens to all those old scripts? When Keith Olbermann throws that crumpled ball of paper at the camera each night, where does it go afterwards?
Reduce car and limo usage. I know, this is cutting close to the bone, but come on now, we're talking LA traffic and an obvious contributor of greenhouse gases. Where's the Universal private jitney service? Make riding a bus cool and Universal will have done more to combat global warming than every other idea put together
I'm sure there’s lots more Universal could do if it really wanted to make green-ness important and a lasting identifier for its businesses. It should have changed itself before it started lecturing its viewers on doing so.