The Conversation, with Spotify’s Global Head of Equity and Impact, Elizabeth Nieto
In our blog series, “The Conversation”, we discuss how we can co-create agile and impactful interventions for a healthier world. Meet Elizabeth Nieto. She joined Spotify in March 2021 as their Global Head of Equity and Impact, and brought over 30 years of experience as a Human Resources senior executive in various organizations like Citigroup or Amazon.
Spotify is proud to partner with the WHO Foundation in a variety of different areas to promote global health. In this conversation, we explored what it means to be impactful, emergency responses, mental health, and equity.
How did COVID-19 affect Spotify in 2021 and what were key measures taken to respond to this pandemic?
The health and well-being of our Spotifiers remained our top priority. All of our people were able to work from home and we supplied each and every employee with whatever office equipment they needed. We worked to foster community and maintain our playfulness through virtual events and activities.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been identifying ways that Spotify can help make an impact on this issue globally. As the world’s largest audio streaming service, we understand the power of our platform in driving change and raising awareness on critical issues. We created a dedicated COVID-19 hub, providing our listeners with a trusted resource for accurate news and information. As the COVID-19 vaccines became available, we dedicated the hub to providing accurate vaccine information and proactively worked with over 50 Spotify Studios podcasts in ten markets to include vaccine education within their ads, PSAs, or episode content.
We also felt a need to support creators and artists through our COVID-19 Music Relief project. Via the project’s website and the Spotify app, Spotify recommended verified organizations that offer financial relief to those in the music community most in need. Artists could choose to highlight music relief organizations that were important to them on their profiles as well. We also worked with artists and charities to raise money via livestream benefits, as well as with corporate donors. We matched dollar-for-dollar public donations, up to a total contribution of $10 million.
Why was it important for you to invest in COVID-19 emergency response?
Spotify has always been a place for inspiration, entertainment, and education. During COVID-19, we believe it is our responsibility to ensure our users are not only getting the most up-to-date public health information but that we’re also using our platform for good. As a global company that has employees and users around the world, it was important for us to contribute to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
What have you put in place to address new challenges related to the mental health of your employees?
Since we started our Heart & Soul mental health initiative in 2018, our goal has always been to normalize the conversation and reduce the stigma around mental health. Our aim is to create a stigma-free environment where we look after ourselves and each other and where it’s ok to not be ok. When COVID-19 hit, Spotify had robust mental health support in place already and the conversation about mental health at work had been present since 2018 which made employees feel supported, we did not have to start from nothing. Our Heart & Soul Ambassadors across the globe could quickly mobilise around efforts to specifically address the anxiety people felt about covid and having to adjust to work from home from one day to the other.
To address new challenges related to mental health, we’ve implemented several initiatives over the last two years. We instituted a Wellness Week in early November to help Spotifiers recharge, focus on themselves, spend time with loved ones and do something that brings them joy. We’re also very proud of our Heart & Soul ambassadors, who alongside their day jobs, have helped us to plan and drive initiatives around mental health. Our ambassadors have recently become Mental health First Aiders through a training program that teaches participants how to notice and support an individual who may be struggling with their mental health. They are able to have supportive conversations, listen non-judgmentally, and guide Spotifiers towards the right support.
Every year around World Mental Health Day, we amplify our message around the importance of looking after yourself, where we host virtual talks, workshops, and panels related to Spotifiers’ mental well-being. They’ve been able to learn new skills, deepen existing self-care practices and open up in important conversations.
What do you think will be long-lasting global changes because of the pandemic?
The future of work has forever changed. Our Distributed First approach has been a vision we’ve been exploring for a while, but the pandemic accelerated that transition. Companies will continually be challenged to find the right balance of maintaining a dynamic culture, developing efficient ways of working, and giving every employee equal footing in the workplace no matter where they are located.
Can you tell us more about the key challenges and successes of setting up your COVID Relief Music fund?
A major challenge for us was finding and establishing relationships with music relief organizations in as many countries that Spotify operates in as possible in such a short period of time. Being a global company, it’s essential for us to think about our campaigns on a global scale, and not just in our major markets.
Our key successes included raising and granting $20M USD to music relief organizations. Working with artists who supported organizations including MusiCares and Music Health Alliance through their own fundraising efforts was also incredibly successful for raising money for our relief partners and for raising awareness for their work with music fans around the world.
How do you see your role in creating impact in equity in vulnerable communities, when it comes to health equity and currently vaccination equity.
As a global company, we are committed to creating equity in vulnerable communities when it comes to health, especially around COVID-19 vaccinations. We know not every country has vaccines accessible to their citizens, so that is why we’ve partnered with the WHO Foundation’s Go Give One campaign. Spotifiers can donate $5 (or more) and play their part in helping to close the inequity gap and assist in vaccinating the world. Spotify matches all employee donations 2:1 and all money raised will go to the Gavi COVAX AMC, which funds COVID-19 vaccines for lower-income countries and those who need vaccines the most. We’ve also deepened our commitment to this work by selecting the Go Give One Campaign as one of the four organizations that our employees can make donations to as part of their end-of-the-year gift.
How do you see the current global trends and discussions with regards to global climate challenges in relation to health, how can the private sector contribute to dealing with these challenges?
The climate crisis and the health situation are two closely intertwined global challenges. Spotify dedicated Equity & Impact team collaborates with other parts of the organization to find innovative and impactful ways to increase awareness and action around these topics. Not only do we want to act sustainably in the locations where we are present with offices, but take responsibility for our major impact – our platform’s reach and opportunity to engage. For example, we have the Play Your Part hub, that in addition to the mental health COVID-19 hubs, has a dedicated Climate Action hub. During the climate conference COP26 in November this year, we used the hub and our Greenroom app for live conversations as a platform to make the climate discussion more accessible and inclusive. For example, we partnered with scientists, activists, and policymakers to share their knowledge on topics such as addressing eco-anxiety among especially younger generations and the increasing risks of other pandemics as the weather is altering due to climate change. Lastly, we are through donations and other support to organizations directly fighting the negative consequences of climate change and increased extreme weather, addressing the areas where we are not directly operating.