Climate Action

How Sustainability in Sport Can Reach A Tipping Point in 2016

Sport is a crucial part of our social dynamic; providing a way for people to come together that transcends class and background, and engage in a collective experience.

  • 16 March 2016
  • William Brittlebank
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In short, sport whether partaking or watching is a crucial part of our social infrastructure, and one which will not (and should not) go away any time soon.  However, this €450 billion a year industry (AT Kearney ‘The Sports Market’) has an impact on the environment, and plays its role in contributing to climate change. 

How can we even start to calculate this impact?  In short, it’s difficult. Emissions are produced as teams and fans travel to sporting events, as stadiums are built, run and maintained, as sportswear and equipment is produced.  Sport contributes to sectors where emissions are already high; transport, energy, cities, industry, consumer goods and waste. 

Putting a global figure on this is impossible, but it’s certainly an area where positive changes can be made – both on the industry itself, but also by engendering behavioural change in the general population, which could have a ripple effect of epic proportions.  As Niall Dunne of BT said last year during the launch of 100 per cent Sport, "When Chelsea played their London rivals Tottenham Hotspur on New Year’s Day this year, 1.7m BT Sport customers tuned in. Imagine if just 10 per cent of those, a mere fraction of the UK’s football fans, switched to renewable energy."

In the US we have seen the change happening already; with the most sustainable Superbowl ever happening this year and the NHL kicking off its own Green Weekjust this week.  We are getting there, but we need to build traction. Euro 2016 is one of the largest sporting events in the world with stadium spectator numbers estimated at over 2 million people and another 6 million people expected to head to official Fan Zones around Europe to watch the tournament, they will leave a sustainability legacy in the form of their eco-calculator.

Key sports stakeholders globally are stepping out to make a change, to put environmental sustainability to the fore and are driving this change from the ground up.  However we need more leaders and influencers to get involved.

To see the ripples of this change reach its maximum output – we need engagement from everyone in the sports arena; federations, tournaments, clubs, athletes, brands, broadcasters, government, stadiums and sponsors.  Commitment from these entities will ensure the ultimate goal – consumer and fan engagement.  This is the holy grail of these efforts, to lead by example and encourage sustainable lifestyles across the whole of society.

The greatest thing about environmental sustainability is that everybody matters, everyone can make a difference. The individual is important. But think of how many individuals we can influence through their favourite team or athlete leading by example. It’s a huge opportunity and we need you to be a part of it.

Climate Action is playing its part, already working with key organisations to highlight and expand these efforts as rapidly as possible.  If you are interested and want to know more about those organisations, or be a part of the change yourself get in touch with me at cpoole@climateactionprogramme.org