“On the very day President Elect Donald Trump nominated the head of Exxon-Mobil to be Secretary of State, we announced the formation of Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI), an international coalition of the most powerful sports organizations in the world to advance the Paris Accord and to educate and mobilize the public to take global action on climate change.”
With that one sentence, Allen Hershkowitz, one of five Founding Directors of SandSI, and co-founder and former president of the Green Sports Alliance, laid out both the primary challenge and the stunning possibilities facing the new global organization at the intersection of Green + Sports.
In a press release announcing SandSI’s formation on Tuesday at its home base in Lausanne, Switzerland, the organization went BIG. It laid out a bold set of goals that go beyond anything I’ve seen in the Green-Sports world, promising to leverage the cultural and market influence of sports to:
- Reduce reliance on fossil fuels and promote the use of renewable energy, healthy food, green spaces, water efficiency, wildlife conservation, smart mobility, carbon mitigation, safer chemicals, waste management that advances a circular economy, and other environmentally preferable practices and initiatives.
- Promote fair trade principles in the sports industry’s supply chain, as well as environmentally intelligent procurement, investments, practices and initiatives.
- Foster healthy communities by encouraging diversity and inclusion, cultural exchange, equal opportunities, physical activity and other socially beneficial practices and initiatives.
How will SandSI make this happen? By focusing, they say, on three pillars of work that align with the three dimensions of sustainability—environmental, economic and social:
- Enhancing sports events, venue design, and operations,
- Influencing the sports industry’s supply chain,
- Mobilizing fans and athletes in support of sustainable, healthy and just communities.
To me, making good on #3 is the most the difficult and perhaps most important of all. If SandSI can make a real run at getting fans and athletes to take positive environmental (and social justice) action(s), that will go a long way towards getting Green-Sports movement where it needs to go. That SandSI has already gathered a Green-Sports All Star team to join the cause shows they’re off to a good start.
SandSI ALL STAR TEAM
Collaborations with sports federations, leagues, teams, events, venues, governments, fans, and athletes are necessary to ensure SandSI’s success. That the group has gathered a “Who’s Who” of international sports leagues, governing bodies, as well as a variety of NGOs to be part of the team from the get-go is a great sign. A partial list of the SandSI All Stars includes:
- International Olympic Committee (IOC)
- Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)
- European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR)
- Roland Garros (French Open)
- Tour de France/ASO
- French Ministry of Sport
- FIA Formula E Championship
- National Basketball Association (NBA)
- National Hockey League (NHL)
- YMCA International
- Sustainable Sailing: Volvo Ocean Race, 11th Hour Racing, Sailors for the Sea
- World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
- BASIS UK
- Sustainable Surf
- International WELL Building Institute (IWBI)
The IOC and UEFA are two of the many leading sports organizations and governing bodies participating in Sport and Sustainability International.
The growth of SandSI will be shepherded by an Organizing Committee made up of Hershkowitz and its four other Founding Directors:
- Neil Beecroft, Sustainability Manager at UEFA
- Vincent Gaillard, CEO of European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR)
- Geert Hendriks, Head of Projects at the International Academy of Sports Science and Technology (AISTS)
- Fabian Putzing, Co-Founder and Principal of sustainable//sports
Neil Beecroft, one of the five Founding Directors of Sport and Sustainability International. (Photo credit: COP21 Paris)
SandSI has hit the ground running: Next steps include the expansion of its Organizing Committee, the development of work groups including technical and scientific policies and institutional development, and the hiring of a Secretary General. Its next institutional meeting will take place in Munich at the end of February.
The All Star line up of organizations and individuals, the commitment and quick pace of action are absolutely necessary, given the All Star “opposition”—A Murderer’s Row# of climate change, human rights challenges, apathy, doubt—I could go on but you get the gist.
One thing is for certain: The stakes are higher than the Super Bowl, World Cup and Olympics combined:
“We have no more time to wait, no political rustiness to tolerate, no side egos to push forward. This movement answers to the reality of a needed international transition towards sustainability where unity and action are crucial.” exhorted Neil Beecroft of UEFA, “Sport is the perfect platform to promote its positive values to the world on the fight against climate change. Let’s run faster than sprinters, last longer than marathoners and work more methodically than decathlon athletes. It’s not (just) about saving polar bears or being able to ski in a hundred years, it’s about sustaining human existence on this planet. Sport has always enabled humankind to transcend himself – now by putting it to the service of sustainability will enable the transition to take a new dimension alongside other sectors which all gather around a sports field!”