What It's Like to Be a Sustainability Consultant for the Entertainment Industry

by Minji Ko |April 14, 2020

The Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development hosted Jason Joyce, an operations and environmental sustainability consultant for the entertainment industry, for its second Speaker Series talk of the 2020 Spring semester. Joyce started the discussion with his definition of an environmental sustainability consultant, which is “someone who can explain to people about how to be more mindful about the environment and sustainability.”

Joyce walked through his journey as to how he became involved with the entertainment industry. During his undergraduate career, Joyce became involved in campus event planning through student activities. He developed leadership skills and learned how to manage problems while executing events in real-time, such as having an unexpected fire drill in the middle of a concert with over 3,000 people in attendance. After graduating, Joyce continued to learn about the music industry while playing in a band and even saw it through an entrepreneurial lens by taking on the role of band manager. He had to understand the stakeholder landscape in the field and what types of things they look for in pursuing different opportunities, learning the importance communicating a band’s concept and values in order to persuade investors to support the next album.

Joyce later started a lifestyle clothing company, Weekend Society, which became his second entrepreneurial adventure. Not only did he use his past experiences in designing his band’s merchandise to run the company, but he also brought together creative minds to focus on their shared goal: sustainability. Weekend Society focused on recycling materials on a large-scale, promoting eco-fabrics, and using sweatshop- labor-free materials. This experience became the first of many endeavors in Joyce’s burgeoning career in sustainability.

After discovering his knack for business, Joyce finished his MBA, through which he discovered the opportunity to merge his expertise in both the music industry and sustainability. Joyce served as a consultant for a concert tour with the band U2, for which he helped design a reusable cup program aimed towards eliminating single-use cups in concert venues. He extended his efforts into a “zero-waste” concert campaign to demonstrate that large-scale events can limit the amount of material that winds up in landfills. By making sustainability the top priority, Joyce challenged the status quo and worked towards changing the standard concert framework. The result of the project was diverting 90 tons of plastic waste from entering landfills during U2’s world tour of 2017.

Joyce’s work on the U2 tour led him to help establish the company, r.Cup, which was recently recognized as one of the ten most innovative live events companies of 2020 by Fast Company. r.Cup works to find sustainable solutions that are of interest to the primary stakeholders in the entertainment field — artists, venues, and fans. The company conducts strategic planning that integrates “greening” initiatives, or those actions that help make events more sustainable. For example, r.Cup would advise venues to install a closed-loop reuse program, educate fans on how the concerts are pursuing sustainability by cutting down on plastic usage and empower them to participate. To date, Joyce has worked with numerous major artists and concert venues including, of course, U2, but also LiveNation, the Rolling Stones, Warped Tour and the Golden State Warriors.

Photo: r.Cup

Joyce believes the most important task for a sustainability consultant is to satisfy stakeholders’ needs through sustainable methods. To achieve this, Joyce emphasized the importance of effective communication: advocating sustainability as a common goal while addressing what each stakeholder hopes to achieve individually. Joyce also underscored that action-oriented inputs and results are useful tools to persuade stakeholders. At the end of his talk, Joyce offered advice to students who wish to become sustainability consultants: 1. Do what you say you would do; 2. Do not offer services, instead offer to serve; 3. In everything you do, be present.

Columbia’s Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development hosts speaker series every semester to provide opportunities for students to explore professional development related to sustainability and the environment. To learn more about the program, please visit our website or contact Program Manager Cari Shimkus at cshimkus@ei.columbia.edu.

Minji Ko is an intern for the Office of Academic and Research Programs at the Earth Institute, Columbia University. She is an MPA candidate at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University.

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