Green Thinker

Comcast Makes Big Environmental Strides

By Cathy Applefeld Olson

Talk about a progress report. Two years after Comcast announced its goal to become carbon neutral by 2035 for Scope 1 and 2 emissions across its entire enterprise, the company has reached key milestones and put in place measures to ensure the momentum continues.

Among headlines, since 2019—which it tagged as its baseline year—Comcast has reduced overall emissions by 38%. Or, as SVP, Corporate Strategy and Environmental Sustainability Sara Cronenwett puts it, “That’s equivalent to 960,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and it’s equivalent to removing about 200,000 cars from the road every year.”

Much of the emissions reduction strategy is focused on electricity, with contracts including a 2021 agreement to purchase 250 megawatts of solar electricity from Constellation that will power approximately 12% of its U.S. operations, and additional agreements that will come online in states including Illinois, Michigan and Connecticut during the next few years. In other regulated markets like Georgia, Comcast is contracting through the local utilities.

By the end of 2022, the company had contracted more than 1 million megawatt hours per year. “This will be roughly 25% of our projected energy load, when they come online,” Cronenwett notes. “They support new wind and solar development, they help create new jobs and they help provide ongoing tax revenues that support local clean energy economies. Electricity being our largest source of emissions, we’re really focused on reducing electricity needs through energy efficiency and then for the electricity we do need, switching to clean sources of power.”

Additionally, in 2022, Comcast recycled more than 6 million pounds of coax and other cable through programs such as its partnership with Echo Environmental, which will enable approximately 70% of its coax waste to be recycled each year.

“We’ve had re-use and recycling programs in place for many years through a number of different programs, not only for coaxial cable but for our electronic equipment like set-top boxes and things like that,” she says. “What was novel about this [Echo Environmental] solution was the way they are able to reuse so many parts and break down the coaxial cable into all these different layers and create different high-caliber components out of it. This has been a nice addition.”

How does a corporation that employs more than 130,000 full-time workers steer such a colossal project over the course of more than a decade? Clarity—and synergy—of goal.

“Most of this is really integrated within the business. It’s looking at that triple opportunity that’s good for the business, good for the sustainability goals and good for the customer experience,” Cronenwett says. “We want to find the opportunities that are going to save money and save emissions, or have an upfront investment but it pays back over time. Energy and electricity use is our largest source of emissions and therefore is our largest opportunity. Energy efficiency allows us to grow our 10G network with a lower energy need than would otherwise be the case. It allows us to deliver more data, faster, and with more reliability and at lower cost and lower emissions. So again, good for business, good for the environment and good for the customer experience.”

Beyond the work at its cable business, as the parent of NBCUniversal, Comcast is also optimizing opportunities. NBC’s Al Roker-led series “TODAY Climate” is focused on climate change and sustainable solutions. The Universal Filmed Entertainment Group recently launched a program call GreenerLight that embeds sustainability across the filmmaking process from script development and location selection to on-screen behaviors.

“We also realize that as a media and technology company we have the opportunity to be a good role model and to educate and inspire others,” she says.

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