The EMI music group may be one of the world’s leading producers of recorded music and music publishing, but it is also leading the way in developing environmentally sound corporate policies. While there has been a great deal of lip service paid by large corporations to the environment, EMI has achieved some impressive results.

EMI adopted an environmental policy in the early 90s and maintains that environmental management is among its highest priorities. It was one of the first major UK companies to introduce public reporting of environmental performance. “This brought us a lot of benefits,” says Kate Dunning, vice president, social responsibility. “It focused us on the issues and what we could do about them. We identified very early on that our energy use, specifically our contribution to global warming and climate change, was one of our key impacts.”

Reporting standards

Through the development of reporting standards the EMI group are now able to monitor emissions from buildings by ‘per unit’ turnover. This provides a level of accuracy and detail that allows analysts to respond effectively. Awareness campaigns, the procurement of energy-efficient appliances, retro-fits of office lighting and changes in manufacturing processes have led to a 26% reduction in CO2 emissions per unit turnover since 1993. This year the manufacturing division has reduced energy use by 5.4% per CD.

EMI decided to address indirect carbon emissions at source by moving away from electricity supplies that relied on fossil fuels. “We’ve tried to shrink our environmental footprint through the negotiation and procurement of utility bids with green options.

“In November 2000 we were able to switch to a green electricity provider for our manufacturing and distribution facility in the UK. This accounted for 55% of our electricity use,” says Dunning. “By including some of our offices we went up to 70% in the second year and almost 100% the next. Every year we review these policies and the brokers we use know that green is our preferred solution. They have managed to identify providers that maintain that 100% level.”

This commitment to sustainable energy was reinforced by the switch to 100% renewable resources by the main European manufacturing and distribution plant at Uden in the Netherlands in January 2003. Most of the benefit from this will be seen in next year’s data and EMI hopes it will make a big impact on their international performance.

Responsible transport use

The company has also encouraged employees to take a more responsible approach to transport. There has been a push to take public transport and travel less. This has had an economic benefit as transport costs have dropped. “We make use of telephone and video conferencing which has a real resource benefit. But more significantly, over the last four or five years we have offset the emissions associated with our UK company car fleet by working with Future Forests.”

Future Forests’ schemes allow participants to neutralise carbon emissions by having trees planted to absorb the equivalent and to fund cleaner energy programmes. EMI has supported a rural small-scale power plant in Karnataka, southern India, run by the charity Women for Sustainable Development, which converts biomass such as coconut shells and rice husks to methane gas. “We have found that acquiring green solutions might not be the cheapest option, but it is not the most expensive either. If you work hard at it you can provide good value,” says Dunning.

“Sound environmental management will remain a cornerstone for EMI,” says Dunning. “We hope that more of our operations will invest in renewable energy, but this depends on the local infrastructure and market prices. We operate in fifty countries around the world, so we won’t be dictating policy, but we will certainly be persuading and encouraging the rest of the group to adopt environmentally responsible policies where possible.”

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie