What is your first memory of sport? The heartbeat of running your first race? Or the enthusiasm of winning your first game of football? Sport, in whichever form, affects everyone in some way or another. This is the same for sustainability. Not many would link sustainability and sport together, but surprisingly they can have a huge impact on one another.
Are Sports Sustainable? A Black and White Portrait
Currently, many sporting events are seriously lagging behind when it comes to changing their ESG habits.
Stadiums are still awash with plastic cups, sportspeople and fans travel all over the world for games and tournaments, kits and equipment are still made from unsustainable materials.
And while reusable cups and recycled materials for kits go some way to helping, it’s easy to forget the full impact that large sporting events have on local communities, biodiversity in the area and not to mention how big their carbon footprint is.
However, some sports organisations are beginning to address sustainability.
In sailing, SailGP has been designed to leave a positive legacy and make sport more sustainable: they put on a lot of projects at each sailing race city to leave a positive impact everywhere they go. For instance, their latest impact report states that they achieved a 56% reduction in temporary power-related emissions and a 29% reduction across Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions per average event.
In football, ‘Forever Green’ is a sustainability platform for companies and institutions that want to use the most popular sport in the world to save the planet sponsored by Real Betis Sevilla.
It looks like sports have a long way to go. But leveraging the incredible platform that sports and its fans have could create a conscience about environmental problems and drive change. Guess how?
How Can Sports Can Make Sustainability Happen
Have you ever felt the sound of fans in a football stadium?
Imagine if during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, every person of the 2.45 million spectators who attended a football match was invited to do just one gesture to save the environment. Imagine that the gesture was then performed by the hundreds of millions of people who watched on TV. Multiply this by the number of sports events happening each day in the world and it’s clear to see how impactful sports can really be in sustainability.
Who hasn’t dreamt of meeting a hero?
Now imagine an appeal from a sports star that everyone loves. Each of us has at least one. Especially kids whose dreams are so big and who have such an emotional connection to their superstars. Who hasn’t dreamed of meeting a sports hero once in a lifetime? What if we told you that you can have dinner with a sports hero and they were engaging you in their sustainability journey, inviting you to follow them?
The opportunity is twofold: a large audience and strong emotional engagement.
First of all because sport has a huge resonance: it’s a form of media in itself.
But above all because great sportsmen and women are heroes to be emulated: leading by their example they can really create a new propel the change we need in the world.
How Can Sports Have A Direct Impact on Sustainability?
As large-scale events with huge fan bases, there are so many ways sports can have an impact on sustainability. And these can have incredible benefits too, such as energy cost savings and keeping fans safer.
Making sports venues more sustainable: Many sports venues have implemented safety measures to reduce their environmental impact. For example, some venues have installed solar panels or wind turbines to generate electricity, installed rainwater collection systems to reduce water usage, or implemented recycling programs to reduce waste. If a venue relies on fossil fuels for electricity, it can emit greenhouse gases that contribute to air pollution, so these solutions will help to reduce this, too.
Raising awareness of sustainability issues: Sports teams and organisations can use their platform to raise awareness of sustainability issues and encourage their fans to adopt sustainable practices. For example, a team might hold educational events or campaigns to promote sustainable living, or they might incorporate sustainability messages into their marketing materials.
Using sustainable materials: Some sports organisations have begun using sustainable materials in their operations and products. For example, a sports team might use recycled materials in their uniforms or the awards or use sustainable materials in the construction of their stadium.
Promoting sustainable transportation: Sports venues can generate significant air pollution from transportation emissions, as fans often travel long distances to attend events. This can be especially problematic in cities with high levels of traffic congestion. Sports teams and events can encourage sustainable transportation options, such as carpooling or public transportation, to reduce the environmental impact of travel.
Supporting environmental conservation efforts: Many sports organisations support environmental conservation efforts through partnerships or philanthropic efforts. For example, a team might donate a portion of their proceeds to environmental organisations or work with local groups to protect natural habitats.
Managing waste: From food to plastic, sports venues have a responsibility to cut down on the amount of waste they produce for every event, for themselves and for the venues that their fans around the world are watching from, too. Waste can contribute to air pollution through landfills and incinerators, which are often used to dispose of waste and can emit pollutants into the air.
How Sports Organisations Can Leverage Clean Air
Some sports venues are already compensating for their air pollution impact by offsetting their emissions, but this isn’t enough to solve the problem.
The bottom line is, clean air can positively impact sports in so many ways.
Providing clean air is good for athletes’ performance
Clean air can bolster an athletes health and therefore their sports career in the following ways:
Improved respiratory health: Breathing clean air can help to improve respiratory health, which can be beneficial for athletes who rely on their respiratory system to perform at their best. Exposure to air pollution can irritate the respiratory system and make it more difficult to breathe, which can affect an athlete's endurance and overall performance.
Increased oxygen availability: Clean air is also important because it contains higher levels of oxygen, which is essential for athletic performance. Athletes need oxygen to fuel their muscles and maintain their energy levels during physical activity.
Reduced risk of illness: Exposure to air pollution can increase the risk of respiratory illnesses, such as asthma and bronchitis, which can be detrimental to an athlete's health and performance. By breathing clean air, athletes can reduce their risk of these types of illnesses.
Enhanced mental clarity: Clean air can also improve mental clarity and focus, which can be important for athletes who need to make quick decisions and react to changing situations during a game or competition.
The team at Sky Tempesta Racing agree, saying “When breathing fresh air you feel like there’s a real difference in your performance. You feel much cleaner, more alive and more energetic, so it’s a huge part of not only my personal life enjoyment, but training as well.”
Focusing on air quality in training centres, clubs, pitches and courts could be a huge boon for not only an athlete’s career but for their team’s success, too.
This is what Sporting Milano 3 found when their luxury sporting club became a Pure Air Zone. “You can really notice and feel that when you train next to this technology you inhale clean air,” says General Director, Danial Degli Esposti. “It’s easier to perform, you live better and you do the sporting activity more willingly.”
Providing clean air is good for spectators
Sport would be nothing without its fans, so keeping them safe should be a big part of a sports venue's goal. And what better way than to allow them to breathe clean air while enjoying their favourite hobby?
Dinamo Sassari Basketball discovered the connection it can have with its visitors by becoming a Pure Air Zone. Giacomo Devecchi, the club’s captain, says, “Each step in air quality that can involve more people and more companies will quickly make up for lost time. Whether you are an athlete or a fan that comes to see a match.”
Providing Clean Air is Good For the Environment
Ultimately, the more places that offer clean air, the better it is for the planet. Becoming a Pure Air Zone can be a huge step in this mission, as the Global Sports Innovation Center (powered by Microsoft) – a non-profit association that aims to bring digital transformation to the sports entities all over the world by creating an ecosystem of companies in the sport field – knows only too well since becoming one themselves.
Iris, General Manager at GSIC, says “Our goal is to help sports organisations to prioritise sustainability by not only reducing their environmental impact but also contributing to the overall health and well-being of the planet.”
And that’s all the motivation we need!
Making Clean Air Your Goal
Do you work for a sports venue or organisation? Do you want to make a difference to the planet?
Becoming a Pure Air Zone is an easy, effective way to offer your visitors clean and safe air while contributing to the de-pollution of the planet and offsetting emissions. Not only can the addition of this standard to your services boost your ESG goals, but can be used to spread awareness among your stakeholders.