By Kristen Fulmer and Shanda Demorest
“Because it’s the right thing to do” shouldn’t be the only reason to take climate action. Here are ten practical reasons why leveraging climate-smart strategies across all departments in your front office is good for business:
1. Momentum is on our side
Glasgow hosted international leaders, scholars and yes, athletes, for the largest gathering on climate change since the Paris Climate Accords: Cop26. Leaders from the sports industry were present, participating in closed panels for athletes in Sport@COP, fan engagement through Cup26, and signing the Cop 26 Sports Community Manifesto. The industry convened in-person or virtually to share the collective call to action.
2. There’s a revenue play
By now, most corporate sponsors have a corporate social responsibility (CSR) plan with sustainability commitments. By aligning values between front office leadership and a CSR programme, teams can identify win-win partnerships that showcase the brand’s commitment to impact while driving revenue and integrating positive impact into their team ethos. Amazon paid for naming rights to Climate Pledge Arena, which embodies Amazon’s climate commitment by exemplifying sustainable design and operational strategies.
3. Climate action is good for your bottom line
Venues have large-scale demands for lighting, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC). Implementing energy conservation measures like LED lighting and HVAC optimisation will reduce your overall energy consumption, which will directly reduce operational spend and unhealthy emissions. Around the world, stadiums and teams are adopting these cost-saving measures and committing to goals as bold as carbon neutrality, in line with international emissions reductions standards.
4. A healthier climate enhances athletic performance
In addition to travel and schedule complications, athletes’ health – and their performance – is hugely impacted by climate change. Air quality, extreme heat, and effects from water damage hugely impact athletes that practice indoors and outdoors. Consider integrating air quality standards that are verified by data points like temperature, humidity, PM2.5 (outdoors), and carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (indoors). Leverage simple technologies to capture this data to inform the operations, as showcased by World Athletics’ Air Quality Project.
5. The community’s health is at stake, too
Respiratory and cardiac diseases – some of the most common killers – are amplified by poor air quality. Transportation is one of the most critical contributors to this problem, and the sports industry can take the lead in reducing associated emissions. Consider incentivising staff and spectators to carpool, rideshare, take public transportation, or even bike or walk to games. Decrease parking availability and reward the use of alternative transportation by looking to examples set by the Golden State Warriors’ Chase Center, the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Seattle Kraken, and even Seattle Children’s Hospital.
6. You’ll be prepared for the unknowns
Entertainment venues have been burdened by the increase in severity and regularity of climate disasters like wildfires and hurricanes. We have the ability to design our buildings in anticipation of extreme weather events – like the 2021 flooding and power outage that forced the New Orleans Saints to play in Texas, the 2010 snow that collapsed the roof of the Metrodome, or the extreme wind that collapsed part of the stands at Dutch soccer club AZ Alkmaar’s AFAS Stadium. Developing emergency management and climate resilience plans will equip sports teams to anticipate and avoid the costly risks.
7. Ticket holders will be happy
To promote consumer confidence and bring fans back after Covid-19, we implemented disinfecting protocols, installed robust air filtration, and enforced policies for distancing and face coverings. While the threat of the illness is subsiding thanks to the vaccines and precautionary measures, the dedication to health and wellbeing is here to stay. These operational challenges also present new opportunities to engage with fans. Show them that you care about their wellbeing by introducing diverse, local, and sustainable options – which are also new streams of revenue. Fenway Park, home to Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Boston Red Sox, has a one-of-a-kind partnership with a local garden to grow and serve fresh vegetables from an in-stadium farm. They also have a partnership with Quorn to serve plant-based options throughout the concourse.
8. You’re equipped as your community’s safe haven
Ask any local where the closest hospital or shelter is. Then ask them where the stadium is. Chances are, they’re more familiar with the local sports facility. Residents use stadiums as a landmark, as an entertainment destination, and often as an element of their identity as a loyal sports fan. By overcoming this public awareness element of crisis management, you’ve already overcome a hurdle to becoming your community’s safe haven in times of crisis. Prepare yourself to become the respite by ensuring access to a resilient energy grid, stable internet connection, and stocking your storage with fresh water, food, and medical equipment. Then share the plan with your community.
9. Athletes want to help
We have all been impacted by the effects of climate change – whether by physical damage or health issues or by impacting our hobbies. Athletes have a unique platform to bring attention to those impacts by sharing their voice on social media, in politics, and even through corporate sponsorship negotiations. Networks like EcoAthletes and Protect our Winters exist to support engaged professional, Olympic, and student-athletes to combine the power of each individual’s platform for public engagement, for political influence, and for catalysing change.
10. You can become a leader in the industry
Sports are about competing for the win. There are also opportunities to be recognised for leadership in other categories like impact, influence, and sustainability. Leaderboards have started to shake out – Forest Green Rovers were named the most sustainable soccer club by Fifa, and Sport Positive has established benchmarks to rank teams on their commitment to sustainability.
Leaders of sustainable sport would agree that winning the honour takes commitment and practice, just like any other trophy. There’s no offseason for climate action, so we invite all sports clubs to compete in leading sustainability in the sports industry. Getting started is the hardest part, but with the right team on your side, you’ll make it work.