News Corp. goal: carbon neutral


NEW YORK -- As a media mogul, News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch is usually in the headlines for the green of the almighty dollar that his entertainment conglomerate generates. But News Corp. has in recent months set its eye on a different kind of green.

As the first global entertainment giant, the company plans to become carbon neutral across its worldwide operations by 2010, Murdoch announced Wednesday. He cited as his motivation evidence of dangerous climate changes, employee input and the positive experience at News Corp.-controlled U.K. satellite TV provider BSkyB, which already is carbon neutral.

"When all of News Corp. becomes carbon neutral, it will have the same impact as turning off the electricity in the city of London for five full days," the CEO said.

By reducing energy usage, using such renewable energy sources as wind and solar power and putting in place other measures, News Corp. plans to nearly eliminate its emissions from a 2006 footprint of 641,150 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents across its operations in 52 countries. But it also wants to engage its 47,000 employees and its global audiences.

"If we are to connect with our audiences on this issue, we must first get our own house in order," Murdoch said in what he said was his first-ever address to News Corp. employees around the world, many of whom attended in person or watched via webcast. "The climate problem will not be solved without mass participation by the general public everywhere."

The CEO said that though the global energy effort will involve costs, it also makes business sense as News Corp. will end up cutting energy expenses and being able to attract talent.

As part of its climate effort, Murdoch said, News Corp. has joined the Climate Group, a nonprofit dedicated to accelerating the practice of emissions-reducing policies by corporations and governments. In a brochure, the group says that many businesses have seen positive financial effects despite the costs involved with moving toward carbon neutrality.

"There is considerable scope to cut emissions and reap significant financial benefits," it said. Another brochure details tens of millions of dollars in savings for companies like IBM.

"Climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats," Murdoch said. "We may not agree on the extent, but we certainly can't afford the risk of inaction."

He also earned surprised whispers and applause from employees in attendance at the Hudson Theater in New York when he shared the news that he bought a hybrid car a few months ago.

While "Family Guy," "Ice Age: The Meltdown" and other creative output has referenced the issue of climate change, the CEO said that News Corp. film and TV content will address it more consistently in the future.

"We must avoid preaching," Murdoch emphasized, saying his company will instead try to make the issue "exciting (and) tell the story in a new way."

He moved on to highlight that News Corp.'s worldwide audiences have a carbon footprint that is about 10,000 times bigger than the company's. If that was reduced by just 1%, "that would be like turning the state of California off for almost two months," Murdoch said.

To raise awareness, News Corp.'s TV stations are planning a campaign to give viewers ideas about what they can do to fight climate change; Fox plans to use Major League Baseball's All-Star Game in the summer to educate viewers; and the National Geographic Channel is launching Preserve Our Planet, an initiative to offer programming related to the issue, he said.

Among other company initiatives, the Fox lot in Los Angeles has started experimenting with solar-powered golf carts and found that by changing the bulbs in exit signs, the firm can cut emissions by 200 tons of carbon -- equivalent to 200 flights from New York to Los Angeles, he said.

The new Fox studios building, on which the company has broken ground, will be News Corp.'s first U.S. building certified as achieving excellence in environmental design, Murdoch added.

Also, the Fox hit "24" is committing to using biodiesel generators and employing renewable energy sources, according to the CEO. Plus, the Fox network is providing financial incentives to employees who buy hybrid cars and will allow advertisers to partner with it on efforts to engage audiences on climate change, Murdoch added.

In another big effort, 20th Century Fox is in the final stages of fully measuring the carbon footprint of a single DVD and looking at ways to reduce emissions by its own operations and those of its business partners.

Of News Corp.'s total emissions, 72% come from electricity and 23% from transportation, with the rest from other sources, according to Murdoch.

Where the media giant can't avoid emissions, it plans "as a last resort" to offset them, Murdoch said. Carbon offsets are controversial financial tools that allow an organization working to become carbon neutral to support projects that prevent carbon from being released into the atmosphere. Murdoch said News Corp. will start buying offsets this year by supporting wind-power projects in India.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was on hand to express his support for the News Corp. initiative, calling it "an incredible commitment" and suggesting its impact on consumer behavior could be "epic." British Prime Minister Tony Blair also lauded the initiative in a video message.