The Clay Is Red, But How Green Is Roland Garros?

The French Open, tennis’ 2nd major championship of the 2014 season, begins at Roland Garros Stadium in Paris this Sunday. GreenSportsBlog’s 2nd post in as many weeks on the greening of French sports (Elyssa Emrich’s report on the “energy-positive” Alliance Riviera Stadium in Nice was the first) takes a look at the French Open’s sustainability efforts.


The French Tennis Federation, or Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT), proclaimed sustainability a core value in 2008. Working with Keneo Sport Solutions, a Paris-based consultancy dedicated to the greening of major sports events, the FFT started the following year to implement a series of greening measures for its signature event, the French Open. By the 2013 tournament:

  • 70% of fans who traveled from the Greater Paris Area took “low-impact” transport, including Metro (2 lines stop there), Bus (8 routes) and Bike. Other Grand Slams are following FFT’s lead: Approximately 60% of fans took mass transit to the 2013 US Open in Queens; more than 50% of fans do the same at the Australian Open in Melbourne this January. Similar data for Wimbledon is not readily available.
  • 62% of the 124-vehicle “official fleet” are low-emission (hybrid and electric cars).
  • A carpooling system had been established


Roland Garros

Roland Garros, the epicenter of the French Open. The 2nd major of the tennis season, which starts on Sunday, has made a significant commitment to sustainability. (Photo Credit: Tennis Ticket News)


This greening helped the FFT sign GDF Suez as the “Energy and Sustainable Development” partner of the 2014 French Open. As a green-sports sponsorship sales guy, I am largely excited about this deal:


  • Selling a green sponsorship (the “Sustainable Development” part) to a major sports event is a big deal–it validates the growing “greening is good for business” notion.
  • By signing a high-profile green sponsor, the FFT is talking the green talk. This means it will have to walk the green walk or face a massive PR disaster.
  • 64% of GDF Suez‘ production is from renewables (mainly hydro and wind)
  • CO2 intensity of its production has dropped 17% since 2002.



  • GDF Suez is, despite its commitment to renewables, also a big player in the fossil fuels business (coal included). That the FTT and GDF Suez designated the sponsorship category as “Energy and Sustainable Development” (my emphasis) rather than, say, “Clean Energy” indicates both parties don’t want to over-promise. Which is a good thing. But it does beg the question: Should the FTT have a company with a big stake in fossil fuels as its Sustainable Development partner? Or, put another way, wouldn’t it be better to have a partner that could legitimately own the “Clean Energy” designation? Some greenwashing charges have been lobbed (in French here; use Google Translate to get a sense of it in English).


Despite my skepticism about GDF Suez it does appear that they will be, in the main, a worthy partner (especially if their production from renewables increases) and that the FFT is squarely on the green track at Roland Garros .



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