Throughout her career, Beth Colleton, VP of NBC Universal’s Green Is Universal initiative, has made it a personal goal to try to change the world for the better. “I feel like so much is going on in the world, you can’t sit on the sidelines,” says Colleton, who has spent time volunteering for the United Nations in Ethiopia. “If you have some of the skills to make a difference, you have got to use them while you can.”
A background in sports has helped Colleton apply a team approach to motivating others to get in the do-good game. A Notre Dame graduate, she has always been a big sports fan, even working the clock and taking photos at Notre Dame games. After graduation, she landed a job at the National Football League.
Initially working in public relations, Colleton endeavored to expand the league’s outreach in the 30 communities in which it has teams, and beyond. “There was so much opportunity to really build from the ground up a corporate social responsibility platform,” she says. “I was the head do-gooder.”
At the local level, individual teams and players stepped up, and Colleton took a few cues from them. “I found most of the inspiration from the players themselves because they were committed,” she recalls.
As she moved up at the NFL, she kept adding responsibilities, including government and community affairs and the NFL Charities. Colleton’s ability to drive awareness across a wide swath of people and entities was apparent during her run at the NFL, according to Jim Steeg, who organized every Super Bowl for the NFL from 1980 to 2004.
Steeg recalls that during the 2002 Super Bowl in New Orleans, Colleton would travel the city by bicycle, bypassing the cars—and the traffic that came with them. “A lot of it has to do with the energy and enthusiasm that she has,” Steeg says. “She had innovative ideas, and tried to create and do things that hadn’t been done before.”
Colleton brings that enthusiasm and passion every day to NBCU’s green initiative, making the company’s facilities more environmentally friendly while also spreading awareness of environmental issues to staff and the public. “The portfolio is so massive,” says Colleton, who works with NBCU’s more than two dozen business units. “It is like being a kid in a candy shop in a way, to activate all those entities to do some good things.
She joined NBCU in 2008 after a short-lived hiatus from corporate work. She decided to take a break after 15 years with the NFL. But soon after, one of her former NFL interns, who was working at NBCU, recommended her for the Green Is Universal position. Colleton jumped at the opportunity.
“I always say I am a builder and a fixer,” she says. “I never walked into something that already existed, and the fact that this was in a nascent form, and needed someone to build and grow it, seemed right up my alley.”
Since Colleton took her current gig, Green Is Universal has grown to include on-air promotions touting green lifestyle tips; facilities, set design and studios doing their best to “green their routines”; and shows like 30 Rock incorporating the theme into plot lines.
The initiative is planning a number of events tied to Earth Day on April 22. NBC News programs have green-themed documentaries on tap, including the latest installment of the Future Earth series; Bravo will present the 2010 edition of Live Earth; and NBCU is sponsoring an auction at Christie’s, “A Bid to Save the Earth,” with funds going to charity.
Colleton says the staff at NBCU has proved game for going green from the top down. “We meet with our CFO every other month to talk about how to get this into the DNA of the company in a strategic way,” she says. “Most people said, ‘I want to be involved.’”
It is a true group effort, Colleton explains, with every department doing what it can to make the company just a little bit more ecofriendly, and informing viewers at the same time. “There is a role on the team for everybody,” she says. “Everyone just focuses on what they can do best.”
VP, Green Is Universal, NBC Universal
Education B.A., Notre Dame, 1991
National Football League: PR assistant, 1992-1993, public service coordinator, 1994-1996, assistant public service manager, 1997-1999, community affairs manager, 2000- 2002, director of community affairs, 2003-2005, director of community ventures and growth markets, 2005- 2007; Peter G. Peterson Foundation, senior advisor, 2008; current position since 2008
Volunteered with the U.N. in Ethiopia; whitewater-rafted the Zambezi River; one of eight siblings
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