Dr. Allen Hershkowitz is, without doubt, one of the Founding Fathers of the sports greening movement. From his initial efforts in the mid-2000s leading the Philadelphia Eagles’ early greening initiatives while working for the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), to being one of the founders of the Green Sports Alliance in 2010, to his current role as Alliance President, Allen has seen it all. And he says he that Super Bowl 50 is as ambitious as any mega-event he has ever seen when it comes to sustainability.
Allen Hershkowitz has closely followed the work of the Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee (SB50 HC) and its Sustainability Director, Neill Duffy, and is not surprised at the breadth of the sustainability program of America’s biggest sporting event. “I know Neill well,” offered Hershkowitz, “and he was deeply involved with the sustainability effort of the 2012 London Olympics, which, up ’til now, was the gold standard of sustainable mega-sports events. I knew Super Bowl 50 was in good hands, sustainability-wise, when I heard Neill was on board.”
To date, the traditional (and very important) sustainability approach taken by most mega-sports events (i.e. Olympics, World Cup, Super Bowl) has been to measure carbon emissions and waste and do what was possible, technologically and cost-wise, to limit both. But that wasn’t enough–at least not the way Duffy and Hershkowitz view sustainability.
The SB50 HC is taking a much broader view of the term sustainability. Hershkowitz: “It’s not just carbon, it’s not just waste, it’s not just the environment–those are, of course, critical–but it’s also about using Super Bowl 50 to do good socially and economically for the Bay Area. That is what Net Positive (Super Bowl 50 as a platform to do good – socially, environmentally and economically – for the benefit of the entire Bay Area) is about. And it’s brilliant.”
Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, President of the Green Sports Alliance. (Photo credit: Green Sports Alliance)
The Green Sports Alliance President compares the sustainability effort of the organizers of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia to the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee’s Net Positive program to drive home his comprehensiveness point: “The Sochi Olympics, thanks in large part to the work of Dow, did a great job of carbon profiling. The organizers also tackled some of the waste. But, beyond that, there were lots of big problems, including Olympics-related development in areas that had been deemed protected and off limits. And then there were the human rights issues that were well documented. With Super Bowl 50, in the first place it’s being held at Levi’s Stadium, which is among the most environmentally intelligent sports venues in the world. Moreover, it’s refreshing that Neill and his team built a sustainability structure that does the carbon and waste ‘blocking and tackling’ as well as any event–and then goes beyond it by funding Bay Area environmental, nutrition, and education non-profits. And by involving the fans in the sustainability effort [through #PlayYourPart.] It is just brilliant.”
Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara and site of Sunday’s Super Bowl 50 is, per Allen Hershkowitz, one of the “most environmentally intelligent sports venues in the world.”
Going beyond the bounds of traditional sustainability programs was not an easy undertaking nor was success guaranteed. To Hershkowitz, Duffy’s and the Host Committee’s decision to “go big” was critical: “They were able to successfully marshal government, academia, non-profits and the private sector to make the program work. Bringing in Citizen Group, a creative agency in San Francisco, for sustainability branding and messaging was also a master stroke–Robin Raj, [who runs Citizen Group] is a genius.”
Not only has the SB50 HC had a major impact on the way mega-events define sustainability, it’s also changed the way the NFL itself views the topic. “Neill and the Host Committee have reformed sustainability for the NFL, for Super Bowls.” Hershkowitz maintained, “They had to bring the NFL along–it took a consistent, 18-month long effort. Because they were working side-by-side with Jack Groh, the NFL’s longtime environmental advisor, they were able to move sustainability and concern for the environment to a new place for the NFL–something they will be expected to build upon going forward. And remember, a lot of work remains to be done in terms of reporting results. The NFL will need to be involved with that as well.”
Hershkowitz sees Duffy’s and the Host Committee’s Net Positive Super Bowl 50 as being in lockstep with the mission and ethos of the Green Sports Alliance. “The Alliance leads and celebrates the good works of the sports-greening movement. Neill and the Host Committee raised the bar within the movement about how a mega-event should be run from a sustainability point of view.”
So, Super Bowl LI Host Committee (Houston), you’re on the sustainability clock.