The PGA of America announced what it called a “transformative” partnership with Constellation in which the energy services company became the PGA’s Official Energy Provider and Sustainability Partner. GreenSportsBlog attended the New York City press conference on September 1 at which top executives from the PGA, Constellation and the Green Sports Alliance discussed the multi-year partnership’s potential to take the already-greening golf industry to the next level.
Constellation, a subsidiary of Exelon (NYSE: EXC) and the largest competitive energy supplier in the US, is a leader among corporations at the intersection of Green + Sports. Its groundbreaking sustainability partnership with the NHL, launched in 2014, has helped the league move towards carbon neutrality, a first for any North American professional sports league.
Last Thursday, the company added to its roster of high profile Green-Sports initiatives by becoming the Official Energy Provider and Sustainability Partner of the PGA of America.
Founded in 1916, the PGA of America bills itself “as the largest working sports organization in the world, comprised of more than 28,000 dedicated men and women promoting the game of golf (i.e. teaching pros, club professionals, etc.) to everyone, everywhere.” It manages the PGA Championship, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, and the Ryder Cup when it is contested in the USA#. And there are 10,000 golf courses with which it is affiliated.
Constellation will help the PGA of America minimize the environmental impact of those signature events through a variety of measures, including the deployment of energy efficiency technologies and the use of Green-e® Energy Certified Renewable Energy Credits or RECs. The company will also help green the PGA of America headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens, FL and properties such as Valhalla Golf Club in the Louisville, KY area. The partnership will tee off soon: Constellation is working to minimize the carbon footprint at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, MN which takes place September 27-October 2.
Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, MN., site of the 2016 Ryder Cup, the first event to benefit from the PGA of America-Constellation sustainability partnership. (Photo credit: Golf Advisor)
Pete Bevacqua, CEO of the PGA of America, sees the partnership with Constellation, and the greening of golf more broadly, as essential to growing the game in the future. “Smart use of energy is a global trend. Golf is an energy intensive industry; we use a lot of power, water, acreage. This means we can do better and with Constellation we will,” said Bevacqua, “It’s no secret we have to attract younger players and young people come up to me often, asking what we are doing for the environment. We believe this greening effort will help us do this.”
Avid golfer Joe Nigro, CEO of Constellation, said greening the PGA of America is a challenge the company is anxious to take on, even though it will be a harder job than greening the NHL has turned out to be. This makes sense as there are thousands of courses staffed by PGA professionals as compared to only 30 NHL arenas: “While we won’t be able to walk in right away and conduct energy audits at all of the facilities with PGA professionals, we will start off with high-profile facilities like the headquarters and marquee courses and events; and then broaden our efforts from there. Water usage at golf courses is a tremendous expense and, in many areas of the country, in scarce supply; we can help make courses much more water efficient. Same thing with buildings in terms of heating, cooling and electricity usage. No matter the PGA of America venue, we will go in, benchmark all current energy usage and then track the improvements over time.”
The Green Sports Alliance’s Justin Zeulner brought the fans into the sustainability action, adding the “PGA of America now has a platform to ask its millions of fans to take green actions.” Amen!
PGA, CONSTELLATION TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE
It is great to see the PGA of America taking big, greening steps with its Constellation partnership. Yet, my skeptical eyebrows were raised when, during the remarks from Messrs. Bevacqua, Nigro and Zeulner, the words “climate” and “change” were not uttered once. This is hardly unique to the PGA of America. Many sports leagues and organizations talk green and take great green actions without mentioning climate change—which is the main reason, it seems to me, to go green in the first place.
Why the reticence? Here is just one GreenSportsBlogger’s opinion: More than anything, I think it’s fear of a backlash by deniers and skeptics who are, in the main, Republican voters. If my hunch is correct, this fear, while perhaps rational back in 2004 or even 2012, is now misplaced: Recent polling shows solid majorities of Americans believe climate change to be real and human caused (click here for results of a March, 2016 Gallup poll that bears this out.) Polls also show Republicans in 2016 are significantly 1) more concerned about climate change and, 2) more likely to believe its effects have already begun than they were in 2015. And what about the young people Pete Bevacqua mentioned as being key to golf’s future? According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken last November, “76 percent of 18‐29 year olds say climate change is a serious problem facing America, with 63 percent calling it a very serious problem.”
So, there’s no reason for the PGA of America, or any sports organization involved with greening efforts (which is to say just about all of them) to be afraid of saying “climate change.” The same holds true for Constellation.
The good news is, when asked about the absence of “climate change” from their talks, neither Nigro nor Bevacqua waffled. Here’s Nigro: “We believe climate change is real. Our efforts with PGA of America will on reducing carbon emissions. In so doing, we aim to bring the golf industry together to share best, sustainable practices.” Bevacqua sees greening and the climate change fight as doing right and doing good—for business: “While the PGA of America obviously can’t solve climate change by ourselves, we will, with Constellation’s help, do better, do what we can. It’s the right, moral thing to do and it will be good for business as well.” On the latter point, golf courses in the United States spend, on average, more than $54,000 annually on electricity. There is a wide range of contributing factors that make up that number, but on average, courses could see savings of 20 – 30 percent through energy efficiency improvements from the Constellation partnership.
And here’s some more good, green golf news: The PGA of America plans to tell its/Constellation’s greening story to its various stakeholders at the 2016 Ryder Cup. Per Bevacqua, “we will share our sustainability programs at the Ryder Cup on-site, at our corporate hospitality village, to the golf professionals and the industry and on NBC.”
The Ryder Cup just became a lot more interesting to GreenSportsBlog.
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