Anschutz Entertainment Group
Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) is in the business of putting on spectacular events—and business has been booming.
Each year, roughly 100 million people around the globe attend live events at facilities operated through AEG and its subsidiaries that together own, manage or are affiliated with more than 120 venues in 17 countries. The venues include StubHub Center, a U.S. Olympic training facility, the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and the Los Angeles Convention Center that is hosting the 2016 Greenbuild Conference.
On the surface, all of these facilities are about providing space for audiences. But according to John Marler, senior director of energy and environment at AEG, they have another purpose: showcasing sustainable building practices.
“We’re very conscious that we maintain our leadership such that we can inspire other people to do the same thing,” he says. Because AEG amplifies its sustainability message through tens of millions of concert goers and sports fans, Marler says it has a “huge synergistic impact that creates a demand for sustainable practices in other venues.”
A model for going green
Marler leads the corporation’s sustainability program known as AEG 1EARTH, which has vastly curbed AEG’s environmental impact by reducing solid waste and water usage, as well as incorporating better building practices. For example, AEG instituted waste management practices at the Los Angeles Convention Center that have helped divert millions of pounds of materials away from landfills.
Like other AEG projects, the convention center is a certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Level facility. LEED is the most popular and respected certification for green buildings and the Los Angeles Convention Center is among the largest facilities in the U.S. to receive such certification.
Marler acknowledges that sustainability is a never-ending process. For instance, AEG’s efforts to save money also generate positive media attention and as a result generate business growth. Referring to the Los Angeles Convention Center, Marler says, “Looking at their energy and utility usage doesn’t really tell the whole story. They’re using water more efficiently, but they’re using more water at the same time because they’re busier. Our challenge is to continue to find ways to do more with less.”
Once a lawyer, always an environmentalist
Marler says environmental sustainability is a lifelong ambition, not just a corporate initiative. In college he majored in geology before getting his masters in the same subject. After grad school, he became an attorney and litigated disputes related to environmental contamination from petroleum pipelines and chemical spills. In 2009 he threw himself fully into sustainability, moving from New York to California to work in the Renewable and Alternative Power group at Southern California Edison, a major electric power utility in Southern California.
In 2013, Marler joined AEG as the senior director of energy and environment where he took over the AEG 1EARTH program alongside the AEG Energy Services program that concentrates on procuring energy from ethical and sustainable sources.
Partnerships allow AEG to support smaller, environmentally conscious businesses by lending them greater visibility. AEG takes a similar tack toward initiatives such as Earth Day and America Recycles Day, hosting sustainability-awareness events that draw attention to the cause.
While these initiatives are good for the planet and for people, there are also financial incentives to undertaking them. “It distinguishes our company from our competitors and brings in corporate sponsors and partners,” says Marler.
Sustainability is good business
Marler calls the AEG 1EARTH program a “business optimization group.” It saves the company money on its energy and utilities, which are AEG’s second-highest operational costs. Globally, markets and utility providers vary greatly. Fortunately, forecasting fluctuating utility costs for its facilities has become a science at AEG. Over the last six years, it has made sound infrastructure investments, such as installing roof-mounted solar panels and energy-efficient lighting systems to counter the impact that changing rates will have on its bottom line.
Marler says that AEG’s effort to cut costs is aided by the “culture of efficiency” that has permeated the building and entertainment industry. He points out that venues already call days without scheduled events “dark days” because they must shut off the lights. “People in our industry already understand the relationship between saving money and saving the environment,” he says. AEG is the first company of its type and size to release an annual Sustainability Report, detailing its environmental goals. According to the report, the company reduced its water usage by 23 percent between 2007 and 2015, putting it well ahead of its goal to reduce water usage 20 percent by the year 2020.
Similarly, AEG plans to divert 25 percent of its waste away from landfills by 2020 and as of 2014 is already diverting 63 percent away from landfills by recycling and composting.
Despite the incredible progress AEG has made, Marler maintains a philosophy of “constant and continual improvement,” meaning that he is less concerned with hitting benchmarks than he is about consistently reducing the company’s environmental footprint. “We don’t have a moonshot or else approach,” he says. “It’s more about moving in the general direction and making consistent improvements that will compound over time.”
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