Ninja Tune is an independent record label based in London, founded in 1990 by pioneering electronic music duo Coldcut (Matt Black and Jonathan More). Ninja Tune was created to foster a supportive and free space for more underground, experimental artists. With this commitment at its core, it has built an eclectic roster and catalogue unified by a shared forward-looking ethos. Artists with the label include Amon Tobin, Mr Scruff, Bonobo, Helena Hauff, and Actress; artists on hip-hop imprint Big Dada include Young Fathers, Roots Manuva, Run the Jewels, and Kate Tempest.
The label has carried through this progressive vision to its operations, working to develop a sustainability strategy and broader advocacy work. Co-founder Matt Black has long been an active voice on climate change, participating in the EU-funded Energy Union project (a musical climate change tour of Europe with the aim of empowering young people to engage with energy policy), making regular appearances for Greenpeace at Glastonbury, and speaking on art and climate change at industry events including ADE Green at Amsterdam Dance Event and the Julie’s Bicycle How To Be A COPtimist conference.
When it comes to the nuts-and-bolts of how the label operates, Ninja Tune has also been looking at how its operations are powered, hiring a permanent consultant to green the label’s operations and help develop other aspects of their activism.
The label has long issued all new releases in card packaging rather than plastic jewel cases (unless requested otherwise by the artist, which almost never happens), which drastically reduces the carbon impacts associated with their CD packaging.
The company has also switched to 100% renewable energy provider Good Energy for their London office operations. Good Energy has provided 100% renewable energy since its inception, and their focus on working with small-scale and community renewable energy generators to build an intelligent energy future tallies well with Ninja Tune’s own values.
But the label also wanted to make sure its digital footprint was as cleanly powered as possible, so began looking at options for its server provider in the United States. The current provider could not offer a renewably powered service, and it was quickly established that moving cloud operations to another service would be too complicated, disruptive, and expensive. Instead, the company began looking at different ways for accounting for the carbon emitted including different offset projects and planting trees. The most credible option they ultimately settled on was the purchase of US Renewable Energy Credits / Renewable Energy Certificates / RECs.
In the United States, a renewable power generator receives one REC for every 1,000 kWh of energy generated from clean sources and fed into the electricity grid. These RECs, each with a unique identification number, can then be sold to consumers. RECs are the legal framework through which renewable energy generation and use is substantiated in the U.S. energy market – buying RECs together with non-renewable electricity is legally recognised as buying renewable electricity. Ninja Tune therefore worked out how much energy its cloud services use, and is purchasing enough RECs to account for this. Going forward, the label will continue to look at how it can help create a clean, intelligent energy future.
Thanks to Ninja Tune for the information contained in this case study.
Ninja Tune were awarded the Innovator Award at the AIM Independent Music Awards 2015 and were nominated at this year’s AIM awards for Independent Label of the Year.
Photo: Coldcut © Colin Hawkins