Leading lights of the growing Green Sports Movement spoke to 600 attendees (600!) at Day 2 of the 3rd annual Green Sports Alliance Summit in Brooklyn.
Lisa MacCallum, Nike’s VP, Access To Sport, delivered a passionate Keynote address focused on the “Inactivity Crisis” plaguing the world’s youth. “Today’s kids are the least active generation in history”, said MacCallum, “and physical inactivity has become the new normal.” Physical inactivity costs in the US are estimated at $147 billion annually, more than twice the US education budget. While MacCallum positioned the Inactivity Crisis as a sustainability issue in the broader, “healthy lifestyle, healthy planet” sense of the word, I’m not sure I would’ve made her talk the Keynote because it was slightly off topic for a Green Sports Summit. Still, I’m glad I got to hear her speak and applaud Nike for their efforts to get kids under 10 MOVING!
Christina Weiss Lurie, Co-Owner, Philadelphia Eagles
Three C-Level sports team executives highlighted the best panel of the day, “Investing In The Future: Supporting Sustainability From Top To Bottom”. Rita Benson LeBlanc, Owner & Vice Chairman of the Board of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans (formerly Hornets) spoke movingly about the Saints commitment to sustainability in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Christina Weiss Lurie, Co-Owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, demonstrated why the Eagles and their “Go Green” campaign are are showing the NFL the way, sustainability-wise: All of the Eagles energy is off-grid (100% solar/wind!) and 99% of their waste is diverted from landfill. I told Weiss Lurie that the Eagles have officially become my 2nd favorite team, after the Jets. Weiss Lurie: “Hey, they both wear green!”. Bob Nutting, Chairman of the Board of the Pittsburgh Pirates, said many fans expressed concern that the Pirates were focusing on being green at the expense of the product on the field. Despite the Pirates finishing below .500 every year for two decades, Nutting and the rest of the management team decided they would walk (continue greening) and chew gum (build a winner) at the same time. Looks like they’re on the right track–as of this writing, the Pirates are 76-54, 1/2 game out of first in the National League’s Central Division and the “Let’s Go Bucs, Let’s Go Green” campaign has taken strong root in the community.
While the Summit is, understandably, centered mainly on sustainability from a facilities management (i.e. stadiums/arenas) point of view, I was particularly interested to see the “Sustainability + Sports Sponsorship” panel as I believe fan engagement and corporate sponsorship to be the next and most impactful frontiers in the Green Sports Movement. Why? Scale. Billions follow sports worldwide. Sponsorship is a $50 billion annual business worldwide, with $20 billion of that coming from the US and 70% of that coming from sports!
The panelists included a representative of a club (Portland Trailblazers), a national sponsor (GM), regional sponsor (National Grid), and a sponsorship agency (GMR). The general consensus is that green-themed sponsorships are growing but more slowly than perhaps hoped. I asked how much of that slowness is due to fear of offending climate deniers/Red State America. The rather tepid response–no apparent willingness to take on the deniers–showed that the fear is, sadly, still there. But, the panel gets that fans under 35 grew up with recycling and understand green. Thus, green-themed sponsorships targeted to younger audiences should flourish.
Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, Co-Founder of the Green Sports Alliance and Senior Scientist at NRDC, moderated “4 Ways Sports Teams + Venues Can Tackle Environmental Issues”. Jim Puckett, Founder of the Basel Action Network, an NGO working to combat the export of toxic waste from industrialized societies to developing countries, detailed their e-Stewards program. Recyclers can become e-Steward certified after proving that they follow all national and international laws concerning electronic waste and its proper disposal, which includes bans on exporting, land dumping, incineration, and use of prison labor. Puckett encouraged teams to be vocal e-Stewards adopters as “education about e-waste is the key.” Todd Reeve, CEO of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, reported on their innovative Gallons For Goals partnership with the NHL in which the league restores 1,000 gallons of water to de-watered ecosystems for every goal scored in a season.
Who knew the only Formula 1 racetrack in the US would be a sustainability leader? Edgar Farrera, Director of Sustainability at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), the Austin, TX based track that opened in November, 2012, shared that story during the “4 Ways To Green Sporting Events” panel. Before Austin would agree to allow COTA to build the track, it had to comply with a comprehensive, 55-point sustainability protocol. Once built, COTA not only hosted the Formula 1 US Grand Prix last fall, it also was the site for the Formula Sun Grand Prix, a solar car race among 12 colleges. How cool is that?
Formula Sun competitors at Circuit of America Racetrack, Austin, TX
I expect to see and hear about more innovative, amazing developments in the Green Sports world at tomorrow’s final session. Stay tuned to GSB for the highlights.