CAREER CHAT WITH LUCY AUGUST-PERNA, SUSTAINABILITY MANAGER - US CONCERTS
CAREER CHAT WITH LUCY AUGUST-PERNA, SUSTAINABILITY MANAGER - US CONCERTS
July 27, 2017
Live Nation employees are continuously hard at work on compelling initiatives – from the latest tours, tech innovations, to exciting sponsorship activations and more. Career Chat continu es with a deep dive on what it means to work in sustainability with Lucy August-Perna, Sustainability Manager – US Concerts. Take a look below to get her take on the key to the future success of sustainable businesses, how to achieve sustainability in a different field, and upcoming ini tiatives at the company.
Tell us about your career so far.
It started with ice cream. In 2005, Ben and Jerry's launched their newest ice cream flavor, Dave Matthews Band Magic Brownies. I landed a gig leading the campaign to support the launch of the flavor on Dave Matthews Band's summer tour while engaging fans in climate change action, a cause near and dear to both Ben and Jerry's and Dave Matthews Band. I scooped ice cream for 3 months in venues across America and encouraged fans to write their senators about climate change policy. I've been hooked on music and environmental action ever since.
That turned into several years touring as the "green roadie" with artists that wanted to bring their personal passion for the environment out on the road with them, working to try to influence an industry that inherently has a big impact on the environment. This work translated into the first EnviroRider that we helped develop in partnership with Kim and Jack Johnson. Scooping ice cream and writing senators turned into recycling at shows, fan carpooling, water refill stations, and carbon offsets. The EnviroRider continues to be in use today – it's constantly evolving and has been adopted by several other touring artists and events.
As the field of sustainability evolved, and more and more companies were approaching it as a core part of their business strategy, I left the music industry and took a job wit h Specialized Bicycles, leading their global advocacy and social responsibility initiatives. But when this position came up at Live Nation, I couldn't turn down the opportunity to work with an industry leader to influence environmental and social sustainability in the music industry and beyond.
What landed you at Live Nation?
Brian Yost, a true champion for this work internally, brought in a company to do a sustainability audit for Live Nation venues last year. I had worked with the company previously, so when this position opened they recommended I meet with Brian. Brian's enthusiasm and thoughtfulness for this work is what ultimately helped seal the deal. I haven't looked back since.
How would you describe your job to those of us who are unfamiliar with the field?
I look at ways we can reduce the environmental impact of our live events through waste reduction, energy use, water use, and carbon emissions associated with fan and artist travel. We have a lot of work to do, but ultimately the goal is to produce once in a life time experiences that have zero negative environmental impact.
What's one aspect of your job that people would be most surprised by?
I sort through a lot of trash.
If you had to play favorites, what would you say has been your favorite project at the company?
I've been working with our concession partner, Legends, to pilot composting and food donation programs at our venues. We combined forces with Rock and Wrap It Up, an organization that connects our venues with local food rescue agencies to take all leftover food coming out of concessions—hot dogs, chicken tenders, pretzels, you name it. 40% of waste generated in the US comes from food, and food waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gases (if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions behind China and the United States!). No one likes to see good food get thrown in the trash, so not only do we reduce our own waste at the venue but we give back to the local community as well.
Any exciting projects you're currently working on that you can share?
We're about to launch a pilot at 6 venues to test several strategies that we hope will get us closer to our goal of producing zero waste concerts. In other words, all the waste generated at our shows would be recovered and diverted to efforts like recycling, composting, donation and more, instead of ending up in the landfill. A lofty goal, yes, but one we undoubtedly can achieve with the right tools.
You were recently recognized in Michael Rapino's monthly shoutouts. Can you give us some background on the accomplishment and what it took to make the list?
Because of the nature of our business, we have a limited amount of time to make an impact during our concert season. I tried to hit the ground running to identify areas of opportunity that we could tackle quickly but effectively (including sorting through trash for nearly 15 hours at Jiffy Lube Live!). The support, encouragement, and feedback I received along the way was critical to be ing able to get some traction and will continue to be important as we broaden our efforts.
It was an honor to be on the list and quite humbling. The best result of the shoutout has been the Live Nation employees who have reached out from all over the globe to share ideas and reinforce their excitement for this work.
What skillset has been most vital to the success you've experienced?
One of the most important things I've learned is that not everyone is driven by the same reason, so it is incredibly important to understand what motivates others. "Saving the environment" is not necessarily the thing that will compel everyone to act. Reframing the challenges and coming up with solutions that cater to different stakeholders is the best, and perhaps only, way to success. We may all be driven by different reasons, but as long as we share in the vision, we can make progress.
Also, the best ideas always come from those who live and breathe the work on the ground every day, so really my goal is to help provide tools and resources, and then get out of the way!
Any shifts you're expecting to see in the industry, specifically regarding venue sustainability?
The most innovative programs in sustainability are happening at the local level with mayors across the country leading the charge. Cities can move more quickly than at the state or federal level, so there are more and more grants and resources available to help businesses like ours at a local level achieve mutual sustainability goals.
The venue of the future will be deeply connected to its local community, enhancing the well-being of the community by producing its own energy, sending zero waste to landfill, and giving back in innovative ways all while continuing to put on world class events.
What advice do you have for people who want to break into your field?
Don't only search for jobs with sustainability in the job title—sustainability can be integrated into any job.In fact, the future success of sustainable businesses will rely on sustainability becoming an integral part of every job. In other words, it just becomes the way you do business.
If your background is in marketing but you are interested in sustainability, look at ways you can integrate sustainability into what you already do. For example, can you come up with a marketing campaign that drives awareness and revenue while tackling an important environmental initiative? Can you source vendors who choose to operate more sustainably by using 100% recycled materials in their products? It's all about applying the lense of sustainability to yo ur key projects and initiatives.
Describe your most memorable live event.
In 2010, I helped produce the Kokua Village at Jack Johnson's Kokua Festival in Oahu. 100% of the festival proceeds went back to local environmental initiatives, and the festival was produced with the environment as the top priority. It felt so important to be a part of an experience like that, to prove that it could be done, and to be able to do it in such a beautiful and resilient place.
What tour are you most excited for this year?
I'm pretty excited about Guns N' Roses. I could sing the lyrics to Paradise City before I could talk.