When thinking about corporate sustainability, you may tend to think about physical products and manufacturing, or labor-intense supply chains in developing countries. Spotify is neither, so why does sustainability matter to us? Well, to begin with we have an impact on the world around us, both environmentally and socially. This impact is not insignificant today and it will continue to grow as we grow.
We know that our employees, current and future, care about these issues and they want to work for a company with exciting opportunities, and one that also has a positive impact in the world. That’s the undeniable definition of being a purpose-driven company – which Spotify most certainly is. So, when taking our sustainability approach to the next level, it comes back to the kind of company we are and what kind of company we want to be.
Spotify’s Approach to Sustainability
So how exactly do we approach sustainability? To begin with, we need to operate in a sustainable way. This means ensuring that all parts of our company work to minimize the negative environmental and social impact on the world around us. This includes everything from how we operate our offices and the waste created there, to how we choose suppliers and even how we interact with each other. This in itself is not an easy task, but we aim to set the bar even higher by finding the best way to maximize the positive impact of our business. Whilst we may not have a manufacturing line to consider, as a media company, we instead need to think about the power of our platform, and how we can leverage it for the biggest impact.
Essentially, we want to focus on doing good, not only on causing less harm. We prefer the mindset of “how can we be a part of the solution”, over “how can we avoid being part of the problem”. To achieve that, sustainability can not be something you do on the side but needs to be an integrated part of everyday business.
Prioritizing Sustainability Initiatives
Yes, there’s so much to be done, and it can be an overwhelming area to work with because of this. The key is to choose wisely when it comes to what areas to prioritize. At Spotify we consider what is relevant to the world, our business and to our stakeholders. We explore how we can leverage our business to drive positive change in a particular field, and we identify where we have a unique position to drive change. We also make sure that we take a holistic approach and look at the issue from different angles. Our employees, users and creators are all important factors in the equation.
Let’s take the very real, relevant and topical issue of climate change as an example. The climate crisis is undoubtedly one of the major challenges of our time and one that will need to be addressed at all levels in society. Companies have an important role to play in finding and implementing solutions to mitigate the crisis, but what does that look like for a company like Spotify?
To begin with we, like all other companies, need to address our own impact. That might seem straightforward but when considering our entire value chain it becomes extremely complex. During 2020, we mapped emissions connected to our business, from the obvious ones of electricity use in our offices and emissions from business travel, to emissions from our suppliers data centers, right down to the electricity used to power our listeners’ devices (and everything in between).
Although many of these areas are quite far from our control, we have a responsibility to address these emissions as they are a direct consequence of our business. We’re aiming to have an approach based in science and will set reduction targets, in line with the Paris Agreement, to make our way to net zero emissions. We know that net zero emissions is where we need to go but we also know that time is running out and that climate action needs to happen right now. That is why we, at the same time as we look at long term reductions, also look at short term ways to compensate for our impact.
Collaboration is really key for us to make progress in the area of climate change. A very small part of our emissions are within our direct control so we need to work together with suppliers, peers and partners to drive change and to learn from each other.
We also believe that transparency is important, sharing what we learn about our impact not only allows our employees to take pride in what we’re doing and be part of driving change, but also it will enable us to improve, and to help others in the industry.
Leveraging Our Platform
What I’ve described so far, with the focus being on minimizing the harm we do, is an approach that any company, regardless of industry, could adopt.
So it’s time to turn our attention to how we can influence positive change beyond that. Where can we drive change and how can we be part of the solution?
Being a global media platform with more than 320 million listeners, presents us with the unique opportunity to use our reach to raise awareness on the climate crisis and inspire climate action. We already have numerous podcast episodes on the climate topic on the platform, and plenty of room for more. We’ve created some Spotify original podcasts such as How to Save a Planet and 1,5 GRAD, where the climate topic is covered from different perspectives by well known hosts.
In addition to growing our catalogue on this specific subject, increasing the volume, there’s also a lot more to be done in synchronising the beat. By this I mean coming up with ways we can help users navigate through the content by curating and highlighting it. It’s a complex subject, with many viewpoints, and with a huge sense of responsibility attached.
One thing is for sure: we don’t have all the answers, but a 2021 focus will be to switch mindset and think about how we can be a part of the solution. We hope for us, it’ll be a catalyst to take our sustainability work to the next level. What will yours be?