The future of sports and sustainability


Recently, hundreds of climate change advocates swarmed the field during half-time at a Harvard versus Yale football game, drawing attention to the need for urgent climate action. It’s clear to see that business as usual not going to serve our industry any longer.

At the Green Sports Alliance, it leverages the cultural and market influence of sports to promote healthy and sustainable communities where we live and play. It has been successful in creating valuable resources for our industry in the core areas of energy, food, procurement, transportation, venues, waste, and water. It just completed a refreshed playbook on greener cleaning in sports facilities, educating users on how to reduce adverse impacts on the health of athletes, fans, and the environment. 2020 will feature resources on e-waste, zero-waste initiatives, and more, as we continue to positively impact the current actions of our industry.

In 2019, the United Nations launched the Sports for Climate Action Framework with two key objectives: to promote a set of principles for the global sports community to adopt in order to combat climate change; and to use sports as a unifying tool to drive climate awareness and the action among global citizens.

Dozens of stadia, professional sports teams, and universities have signed on, committing to support the pledge by implementing five UN Climate Action Principles pertaining to promoting environmental responsibility, reducing overall climate impact, educating for climate action, promoting sustainable and responsible consumption, and advocating for climate action through communication. The time for the sports industry to act is now. Increased consumer awareness of the global climate issue at hand translates into business risk if it doesn’t act immediately. In the meantime, there is continued business risk if the sports industry is not seen as doing enough to actively participate in driving meaningful change to its operations.

The Alliance encourages stadia to support the UN Sport for Climate Action Plan using a forward-thinking lens and that we all move towards an action-oriented approach. One way to work towards implementing the five Climate Action Principles is via the implementation of formal measurement and tracking systems at each stadium. Sustainability measurement tracking allows benchmarking, assists with optimizing efficiency, ROI and cost-savings, and gives an opportunity to share, educate, and advocate for climate action by providing insight on how a venue may reduce its overall climate impact.

Utilizing measurement programs provides vital insight into maintenance needs, weatherization information, and tracks over-usage trends of water or energy per building zone. This information, coupled with fan and staff reviews, contributes to overall wellness and occupancy satisfaction, improving the guest and employee experience. All of these aspects are crucial for undertaking systematic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility within the sports industry.

We need to unite together to signal to the sports industry market that the time to create real climate action is now. We have the opportunity to leverage the cultural influence of sports – we need to do it today, and we need to do it boldly. We are all playing for the next generation and we must be held accountable by our industry peers to do the right thing.

The Green Sports Alliance is the environmentally-focused trade organization with members from around the sporting world (teams, leagues, conferences, venues, corporate partners, governmental agencies, athletes, and fans) committed to creating awareness and dedicated to creating meaningful change towards a more sustainable future.

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About Author


James has been Editor of Stadia since 2018 having worked at print and digital magazines and websites around the world covering everything from lifestyle to sport, technology, motoring, and more. He also edits Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International.

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