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Can music tours really go green?

07 January 2022

Touring musicians inevitably have a large carbon footprint. From their travel to power consumption, energy for lights and sound, and not to mention the waste generation from one single concert, the environmental impact is immense. In a bid to being greener, musicians such as Coldplay are changing their ways.

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Jenna Miller, Sustainable Investing Team

A green decision

You would be hard pushed to find someone who hasn’t heard of the band Coldplay. Formed in 1996, the British pop/rock band has moved from strength to strength, with over 100 million albums being sold worldwide and an estimated net worth of £359 million.  After seven album tours, including the fifth highest grossing concert in history (‘A Head full of Dreams’ tour in 2015-2017), Coldplay announced its decision to put any plans of touring on hold. This came as a surprise, not only to the millions of fans worldwide who love to watch them perform live, but also to the industry that had not yet experienced a band of this calibre making a decision on this scale, based on sustainability.

What is unsurprising, is the intensely large carbon footprint that accompanies these tours. During the previously mentioned tour, Coldplay played 122 live shows, travelled with 109 supporting workers, 32 trucks and nine buses, amongst numerous flights across five continents. The impact of travel alone is huge, but when coupled with the live productions, there is a significant cost to the environment.

Viva la verde

So, why has Coldplay announced a new world tour for 2022? It’s important to note that touring is extremely beneficial for musicians, and Coldplay is no exception. Whilst increasing exposure in different locations, alongside streaming, touring generates a large portion of musicians’ overall income. For example, Coldplay’s 2015-2017 tour grossed around £391 million!

That said, Coldplay decided to resume touring based on its ambition and ability to do so in a more sustainable way. The British band has since created a 12-step sustainability initiative for its “Music of the Spheres 2022” tour, to which the results will be published by Climate Change experts from Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute. The twelve initiatives cover areas such as carbon emissions (pledging to halve them in comparison to their previous tours), the use of renewable energies through the introduction of solar tiles and kinetic flooring, and even the introduction of a free tour app, to encourage fans to use low-carbon intensive modes of transport to and from shows. The band has also factored in its own travel, vowing to use commercial flights as opposed to private where possible, in addition to paying a surcharge to use Sustainable Aviation Fuel.

Partnering with Climeworks

To offset the remaining emissions, Coldplay has partnered with “Climeworks”, a Swiss engineering company that has manufactured direct air capture machines to remove CO2 from the air and reuse it within commercial products. Apart from this, the approach to carbon removal remains entirely nature based. Coldplay has partnered with various nature projects, such as “One Tree Planted”, to aid reforestation by planting a tree for each ticket sold (so far, that’s over 1 million) in addition to “The Food Forest Project” to encourage rewilding.

Similarly to Coldplay, we are proud to partner with Climeworks to remove 9000 metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere over the next decade. LGT is the first bank to conclude an agreement of this size, helping to advance carbon removal and get us one step closing to achieving net zero by 2030.  

All in all, it could be argued that Coldplay has set a goal that pushes for sustainability, to which many companies have not. Many firms release sustainability reports that scarcely make any commitment to improving their carbon footprint. Often these documents speak of understanding the urgency to act now yet fail to do so in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement.  

Coldplay has not just made carbon reduction targets; the band has thoughtfully looked to make sustainable changes across its tour operations going forward. Of course, the large-scale concerts will still have some impact on the environment, however Coldplay’s attempt as well as its transparency with results, is applaudable. The question is, will it raise the bar for other musicians, and businesses, to follow suit?

Find out more information about Coldplay's sustainable efforts in the upcoming tour here.

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