About a year ago, GreenSportsBlog spoke with Keith Bruce, CEO of the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee and Neill Duffy, Co-Chair of the committee’s Sustainability Committee and its Sustainability Advisor. They laid out an audacious plan–Net Positive–to create significant and lasting environmental, social and economic benefits for the Bay Area after the Big Game is played on February 7. We caught up with Keith and Neill last week to see where those plans stand with the big game less than 3 months away.
When Keith Bruce, CEO of the Bay Area Super Bowl 50 (SB50) Host Committee and Neill Duffy, its Sustainability Advisor, first chatted with us back in September 2014 (Keith) and this January (Neill), they set the bar daringly high for sustainability (social and economic along with environmental) with its Net Positive plan, which rests on 4 pillars:
- Reducing its impact on climate change
- Using resources and materials responsibly
- Inspiring fans to embrace sustainability personally
- Leaving a positive legacy for the region
When I heard this, I said to myself, “This is fantastic–IF they can pull it all off. #1 seems doable, they will handle #2 without much problem…But #3, the pillar with the greatest potential positive impact? How do do that? How do you track it? And #4 will be a challenge.”
So, with about 10 weeks to go before the first Roman Numeral-less Super Bowl, I decided to check in with Keith and Neill to see how things were shaping up.
Neill was upbeat: “When we spoke in January, we were in the planning stages of a transformative Super Bowl from a sustainability point of view. Since then, we’ve largely turned those sustainable thoughts into action, as we’re about 95% to where we need to be.”
To be able to meet the challenging goals the Committee set for itself, buy-in from the entire team was a necessity. Not a problem, according to Duffy: “The sustainability mission has been enthusiastically embraced by the entire Host Committee, from Keith, who’s behind it 110%, to the Board, to the staff, to the volunteers. This is the first time I’ve worked on a sustainability project in which everyone has taken ownership to this extent.”
A group of the 7,000 Super Bowl 50 volunteers who will help turn the Host Committee’s sustainability vision into reality. (Photo Credit: San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee)
Let’s take a look at the actions the Committee has taken, pillar by pillar:
Reducing Climate Change Impact: Lowering transportation-related emissions is critical. And, said Keith Bruce, the Committee’s partnership with Bay Area Air Quality District has been a “key advisor in helping us develop and make good on our transportation plan.” That plan includes:
- Free use of public transportation for the approximately 7,000 volunteers who will staff Super Bowl City in San Francisco during the 9 days leading up to the game, the NFL Experience Driven by Hyundai in San Francisco, as well as Gameday itself at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara
- A Fan Express bus service that will run from San Francisco to Santa Clara on renewable diesel while removing some 10 000 cars from the roads.
- 511.org, the Bay Area’s source for traffic information, as well as all of the region’s public transportation agencies and the Host Committee, will encourage fans to use public transit and also bicycles.
- Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) will provide a temporary green power infrastructure for Super Bowl City that will consist of, per Duffy, “electricity generated from hydrogen fuel cells, renewable diesel, and grid-based green energy.”
Artist’s rendering of Super Bowl City in San Francisco. (Credit: San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee)
SB50 is certainly on the right track, clean power wise; let’s hope that Super Bowl LI (yes, the NFL goes back to the roman numeral thing starting in 2017) in Houston will be powered by 100% clean energy. (#Go100percent)
Responsibly Use Resources & Materials: Water is a resource that will garner significant attention due to the record-shattering 4+ year drought being endured in California and elsewhere in the west. Bottled water will not be sold in Super Bowl City–there will be water stations instead–and waterless cleaning products will be used. Fans will be encouraged to bring their own re-useable water bottles to the event.
Beyond H2O, Legends, the Host Committee’s concessionaire, will manage a food service that will source all products from sustainable vendors within a 50-mile radius of Levi’s Stadium, and use cutlery and flatware made from compostable materials. And a new Host Committee corporate waste partner is expected to be announced shortly–that partner is expected to bring diversion rates from the landfill to heights far surpassing prior Super Bowls.
Inspiring Fans to Embrace Sustainability Personally: Did you know that every Super Bowl since 2005 has been carbon neutral? My guess is your answer is no. Keith Bruce and Neill Duffy see building awareness of, and inspiring behavior change through the Super Bowl Net Positive as the biggest challenge the Host Committee faces (“Behavior change is, not in the end, fully in our control,” said Bruce.) Sorry for the football analogy but the Committee will need to be successful on the ground and in the air to win.
The SB50 Committee has a strong ground game ready to go: “We are recruiting 100 Net Positive Ambassadors as part of our Host Committee volunteer team that will provide Super Bowl City visitors with information on how to personally contribute towards our goal of delivering a Net Positive event and sign fans up for greening initiatives offered by our partners” said Bruce.
“We want to make delivering a Net Positive event a shared objective” offered Duffy who went on to say that they would be announced a major fan engagement campaign on January 9th that will “directly involve fans in the Net Positive effort and reward them for their contributions”
This is, of course, great. But the truth is that the number of people who visit Super Bowl City and/or attend Super Bowl 50 will be dwarfed by the hundreds of millions who will follow the game on TV, online and radio. And reaching THAT audience with the Net Positive story is something the Super Bowl 50 Committee must do a better job of than did prior Super Bowl committees.
That’s where the aerial–as in ON THE AIR–comes in. Per Keith Bruce, “We will aggressively pitch Net Positive stories, both locally and especially nationally and even internationally to the CNN’s, ESPN’s, NFL Networks, and CBS’s of the world. We expect to garner significant coverage.” Will CBS mention the greening of the Super Bowl 50 or Net Positive during its 452 hours of pregame coverage on Super Sunday? “There are no guarantees as the NFL and the networks control the media,” said Neill Duffy, “but we will certainly do what we can to make the answer a ‘yes’!”
Leaving a Positive Legacy for the Region: “The most giving and philanthropic Super Bowl ever.” That’s the mission of the 50 Fund, the legacy fund set up by the Host Committee. Talk about setting the bar high! Yet, with less than 3 months to go until game time, the 50 Fund is well on its way, making grants to a host of Bay Area non-profits focused on Youth Development, Community Investment and Sustainable Environments (one program I like a lot is 50 for 50, which will fund 50 field trips to nature-based destinations for 50 classrooms as a launch for the Host Committee’s Bay Bus partnership with Bay.org – think Uber for school teachers to make it easier for kids to be taken on field trips more often.)
Since we are talking about the Super Bowl, it makes sense that there are Game Changers (grants aimed at large nonprofits) and Playmakers (50 Weeks, 50 Grants–targeted to smaller, community-based organizations, 50 Playmakers). You can see their giving in real-time at impact.50fund.org
Keith Bruce, CEO of the SB50 Host Committee, speaking to kids who benefitted from a 50 Fund grant. (Photo credit: San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee)
No doubt about it, the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee’s Net Positive/sustainability pillars are strong and 95% complete. “The Bay Area corporate community is all in on Net Positive,” said Keith Bruce, “to the point where greenness has become a strategic advantage for us across all categories. We’ve been able to work with corporations to develop commercially viable partnerships for some of our key Net Positive initiatives. For example SAP is helping us with our sustainability reporting. In fact, they’ve become a Host Committee Sustainability Partner of SB50, on top of their current status as a Founding Legacy Partner.”
It says here that, with a Committee that is enthusiastic, smart and committed, with 7,000 volunteers, strong support from the Bay Area corporate community, the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee will get across the finish line with time to spare and, as Duffy suggests “ set a new standard for how future Super Bowl Host Committee’s should go about staging this showpiece event”.