IMPALA and A2IM Roll Out Carbon Calculator Project to U.S. Indie Music Companies

IMPALA and A2IM Roll Out Carbon Calculator Project to U.S. Indie Music Companies

LONDON — European independent labels trade body IMPALA is rolling out its carbon footprint calculator project to the U.S. as part of a free one-year pilot to help American music companies measure and reduce their emissions.

IMPALA first launched a carbon calculator in Europe in 2022 in partnership with U.K. sustainability charity Julie’s Bicycle. The resource is designed to help record labels track their environmental impact by measuring energy and water use, staff commuting and business travel, as well as the manufacture and distribution of physical products such as vinyl records or merchandise.

The American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), which represents more than 600 independently owned U.S. labels, is partnering with IMPALA on the pilot. The carbon calculator project is supported by global digital licensing agency Merlin, which has provided funding.

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Indie powerhouse Beggars Group, whose labels include 4AD, Matador, Rough Trade and XL Recordings, and London-headquartered Ninja Tune are among the imprints with U.S. offices taking part in the project. A2IM and IMPALA say they are currently talking to other interested labels to complete the core group with a full list of participants due to be published later this year.

In a joint press release, the two indie trade groups called the launch “the first step towards rolling out the tool in the world’s biggest music market” and its expansion into other non-European countries.

“We are very excited that the U.S. is the first territory in the internationalization of IMPALA’s Carbon Calculator,” said Richard Burgess, A2IM president and CEO, in a statement. “Thanks to Merlin‘s support, our members will be able to shape the tool for the U.S. market and play a key role in the expansion of its use.”

In a statement, Karla Rogozar, IMPALA’s sustainability lead said it was important to give U.S. indie labels access to the carbon calculator “to help standardise the [indie] sector’s approach across regions.”

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IMPALA’s carbon calculator is part of the Brussels-based organization’s sustainability program, which aims to halve greenhouse gas emissions before 2030 and achieve net zero emissions before 2050.

Since its launch in April 2022, nearly 150 labels have signed up to the carbon calculator initiative from 24 countries. The first report based upon data they submitted was published by IMPALA last year and found that labels using the tool produce the average equivalent of 3.21 kgCO2e for each physical CD or vinyl record they release (based upon the total carbon emissions produced across a label’s whole business, not per physical release).

The biggest source of carbon emissions for the indie sector is manufacturing, which accounts for 76% of emissions on average. Over three quarters of this figure is attributed to vinyl production, which has a higher manufacturing carbon footprint than CDs.

The second highest source of emissions is the distribution of physical products, accounting for 15% of the carbon footprint for labels on average. That’s followed by day-to-day operations, including procurement, business travel and office energy, water and waste (around 9%).

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A second edition of the carbon calculator report will be published later this year, said IMPALA, which represents more than 6,000 independent music companies spread across 31 countries.

The U.S. rollout of IMPALA’s carbon calculator is part of a growing industry-wide push to improve environmental and sustainability practices across the music business.

Last year, Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group joined forces to establish the Music Industry Climate Collective (MICC) – a new alliance to address and lessen the sector’s environmental impact, which is being assisted and advised by A2IM.

In 2021, all three major record companies, plus independent labels BMG, Beggars, Partisan, Warp, Ninja Tune and the Secretly Group, signed up to the Music Climate Pact, a wide-ranging commitment to “decarbonize” the global record business.

“Our path towards a more sustainable future involves all of us working together,” said Jeremy Sirota, Merlin’s CEO, in a statement on Thursday (June 20). He said the roll-out of IMPALA’s carbon calculator in the U.S. would “help more independents build that future together.”

Chiara Badiali, Julie’s Bicycle’s music lead, called the pilot project “an invaluable opportunity” to share understanding between European and U.S. independent music companies. “Because meeting the climate crisis head-on means coming together, learning from and with each other, and taking action collectively,” said Badiali.