Ken Belson and The New York Times #CoverGreenSports

About a month ago, GreenSportsBlog launched a new hashtag, #CoverGreenSports. Its goal is to encourage the mainstream media, from sports to green to news, to cover the sports greening movement. Last week, the US “paper of record,” The New York Times and lead NFL writer Ken Belsonstepped up to the #CoverGreenSports plate in a big way, with “Sports Stadiums Help Lead the Way Toward Greener Architecture”

 

The fourth week in May should be a quiet time for the lead NFL reporter at The New York TimesThe draft, which took place in April, is already old news and training camps don’t open until late July. You would think this time of year is when NFL writers should be on vacation.

But last week was a busy one for Ken Belson, proving that there is no such thing as a quiet period for the NFL.

 

Ken Belson NYT

Ken Belson of The New York Times (Photo credit: The New York Times)

 

In fact Belson, working at breakneck pace, had three stories in The Times over a 48 hour period:

  1. “The NFL and Nike Make Room for Fanatics,” detailed how the League expects revenue from merchandise sales to increase by 50 percent by 2030 through a new deal with Fanatics.
  2. In “NFL Anthem Policy Bound to Please Only the NFL,” Belson opined about the NFL’s controversial, just-announced national anthem policy. It was instituted in response to protests by some NFL players in 2016 and 2017, most notably ex-49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the playing of the national anthem. They did so to draw attention to police brutality and other social injustice against African-Americans. But many NFL fans, including President Trump, feel that the kneeling players disrespect the flag. The new policy requires players to stand for the playing of the anthem or stay in the locker room during that time. There was no player input on this decision. Belson’s take: “It’s hard to envision the N.F.L. crafting a policy that satisfies everyone. But one that is likely to satisfy only the 32 owners hardly seems like an enlightened solution.”

But it was his third story that interested me most — and made me smile.

In Sports Stadiums Help Lead the Way Toward Greener Architecture,” Belson gave Times readers a terrific Green-Sports tutorial. 

He kicked off with Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the new home of the city’s NFL and MLS teams and the world’s first LEED Platinum certified stadium. Belson’s main insight is in sync with GreenSportsBlog’s overall ethos: “Green stadiums are shining a light on the complex and critical issue of climate change. Fans disinclined to care about the issue are exposed to things like highly efficient LED lighting or low-flush toilets, and can see that going green is not a hardship, but a choice.”

 

Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the first to win LEED Platinum certification. (Photo credit: Kevin D. Liles for The New York Times)

 

Belson then took readers on a brief trip across the pond — “many of the innovations [in green stadiums-arenas] are being developed in Europe, where laws and regulations governing greenhouse gas emissions are stricter,” — before pivoting back to North America and the National Hockey League.

He lauded the NHL as a green leader among sports leagues for understanding the existential threat the sport faces from climate change and for taking steps to combat it: “The number of ponds that freeze over in winter has fallen dramatically in recent years, making the sport less accessible in countries like Canada, where many children first start playing the game outdoors. Going green is a way to address a long-term threat, not just save money.”

 

Lake Louise hockey

According to a study by McLeman and Robertson, published in The Canadian Geographer, the future of outdoor ice hockey on Lake Louise in Alberta and elsewhere in Canada is at risk due to the effects of climate change (Photo credit: Edmonton Journal)

 

GreenSportsBlog readers are likely familiar with much of this. And the folks quoted in Belson’s piece likely ring a bell.

You probably recognize Scott Jenkins, Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s general manager and the Chairman of the Board of the Green Sports Alliance, as an “evangelist of all things green.” 

 

 

LEED Platinum Certification Event - from right - Rich McKay, Scott Jenkins, Arthur Blank

Scott Jenkins (c), General Manager of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, flanked by Rich McKay (l), President of the Atlanta Falcons and Arthur Blank, at the LEED Platinum announcement event (Photo credit: AMB Sports and Entertainment)

 

And you probably know of Allen Herskhowitz, ex-President of the Alliance and a founder of Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI), which promotes low-carbon strategies for sports teams, leagues and association. He told Belson, “Any single sporting event doesn’t really have a giant ecological footprint, whether it’s a football game or even a season for a team. But the cultural and social platform of sports is almost unparalleled in terms of its ability to reach people.”

Yes, you may recognize Scott and Allen and the many other Green-Sports luminaries who have been featured in our posts these past five years, but the thing is, most humans have no idea who they are and are unaware of the important work they are doing. 

So it is very important that The (NOT failing) New York Times, with its massive reach and prestige, has decided to #CoverGreenSports with Belson’s piece.

Does this foreshadow a trend? 

It should, especially since the millennial and GenZ readers that The Times — and for that matter, almost all media outlets — is desperate to engage, care more deeply about the environment, sustainability and climate change than do their predecessor generational cohorts. 

But it is, methinks, too early to tell. 

One potential brake on an increase in Green-Sports coverage from mainstream media outlets is that the topic crosses many areas — sports, green/environment, business, and politics, to name a few.  That means that no one department claims natural ownership of Green-Sports and so no editor will assign a beat writer to cover it. What is more likely is that the hodgepodge we see now — a rare story by a sports reporter here and another one-off story from a business reporter there — will continue.

Until, that is, a department editor — I don’t care which department — says strongly “Green-Sports is MINE!”

With that in mind, we invite any visionary Green-Sports-minded editors to go through GreenSportsBlog’s archives to find a few hundred compelling story ideas to bring to their readers.

You will be glad you did!


 

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The GSB Interview: Justin Zeulner, Previewing the 2018 Green Sports Alliance Summer in Atlanta

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the new home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, will be the site for two mega-events over the next year. Next February, the first LEED Platinum NFL stadium will play host to Super Bowl LIII. But well before that — June 26-27 to be exact — Green Sports Alliance Summit VIII takes center stage. Its theme is PLAY GREENER™: Get In The Game. GSB talked with Alliance Executive Director Justin Zeulner to find out about the new initiatives the Alliance has planned for attendees. 

 

GreenSportsBlog: Justin, before we got on the phone to talk Green Sports Alliance Summit in Atlanta, I had two main thoughts going through my head: 1. How can you and the rest of the Alliance braintrust freshen the Summit going into its eighth iteration, and 2. Having it at LEED Platinum Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a great freshener, indeed!

Justin Zeulner: Keeping things fresh — that’s a great question and it’s something we’re very much focused on, especially coming into this Summit. In fact, a couple of years ago, the leadership took a collective deep breath to figure out, strategically, what would be best, not only for our Summits but for the sports greening movement as a whole. We undertook this strategic refresh at a time of strong growth for us. Two or three years ago, we had 300+ members; now we’re nearing 600. When an organization like ours starts to scale like we have, new challenges arise. What can you provide that’s new, innovative and meaningful? How can we best continue to serve and lead our members, helping them grow their sustainability initiatives when there are many more of them.

GSB: A good problem to have…

JZ: We agree…

GSB: So how is the Alliance going about upping its game service-, growth- and leadership-wise?

JZ: Serve — We keep in close touch with our membership, finding out where they want to go and what guidance they need when it comes to environmental issues. We help by convening the Summit, providing resources and programs, largely around energy, water, transportation, food, and waste. Adding the Corporate Members Network was wonderful because that helped add a great many greener products and services to help our teams and venues reach their goals. Grow — the more the Alliance grows, the more people we get involved in the movement and the greater the impact we have as it relates to our mission — “to build healthy, sustainable communities where we live and play.” Lead—means trying new things, taking some risks…

 

Zeulner GSA

Justin Zeulner, Executive Director of the Green Sports Alliance (Photo credit: Green Sports Alliance)

 

GSB: Justin, that’s a great segue to this year’s Summit in Atlanta. What new things will you try? What risks will you take?

JZ: The title of our Summit is “PLAY GREENER ™: Get In The Game.” The “Get in the Game” piece is illustrative of the changes we’ve made for this year and takes into account comments we received from attendees last year in Sacramento.

GSB: What does that mean exactly?

JZ: One big change is that our sessions will be much more interactive than in past years — more workshops, than panel discussions. We want there to be a robust dialogue that’s as attendee-driven as possible. And we want attendees to leave with a crystal clear road map as to how to implement the greening programs they learn about in Atlanta.

GSB: What kind of programs are you talking about?

JZ: We’re adhering to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), helping our teams and venues do their part in terms of carbon mitigation to put humanity on a path to a less than 2°C temperature rise, as compared to pre-industrial levels. Food is one key area — we are helping venues with menu design, from more veggie options, to locally sourced food, and more. And venues are responding. Of course they offer burgers —but sometimes those burgers are veggie. In fact, Impossible Burgers

GSB: …The veggie burgers that taste and feel beef-like? They’re GREAT!

JZ: Impossible Burger will be at the Summit! Vegetarian and vegan foods are something athletes are getting more into, so we’ll be talking about that. But we’re getting even deeper with our “Business of Food” workshop. Larry Kopald of Carbon Underground will lead a discussion about regenerative farming, how it can help tackle our carbon problems, and how the sports industry can help support it. A local farmer will share his inspirational story of transforming his family farm from the traditional approach to regenerative farming and what scaling that can mean for sports and the world more broadly. Chefs will also take part, discussing how stadia and arenas can gradually add “plant forward” proteins to their menus.

 

GSA Mercedes-Benz Stadium_dusk_8_30_17

Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, site of the upcoming 2018 Green Sports Alliance Summit (Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz Stadium)

 

GSB: This sounds like a fantastic workshop. And now I’m hungry!

JZ: Well save that appetite for the Tuesday night of the Summit. That’s when we will have our awards celebration at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Top chefs will be featured at our  “Taste of Atlanta”” event.

GSB: Sounds like it will be a must-attend event. Beyond food, what else will attendees see at Mercedes-Benz Stadium?

JZ: Engagement will be a watchword at this year’s Summit, from athletes, to fans, to youth. Youth will be a particular focus with Diana Dehm leading another Student Summit.

GSB: I imagine attendees from teams and leagues will be very interested in how to engage youth with green sports. My bet is that nothing makes sports executives lose sleep these days more than the issue of to how to ensure millennials, Gen Zers, and the generation after follow sports with something close to the passion of their forebears. I’m not saying a team’s, a sport’s greenness is the determining factor but it can be a factor. Who will be delivering the keynote address at this year’s Summit?

JZ: Arthur M. Blank, the owner of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, and the driving force behind the building of the LEED Platinum Mercedes-Benz Stadium, will be giving the keynote. His talk will center on how environmental leadership impacts community, social justice and health and wellness. Mr. Blank believes the environmental and the social are linked and it is his mission and that of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation to positively impact both. Speaking of the social aspects of sustainability, another speaker of note is Samantha “Sam” Gordon. Honored by the NFL with their inaugural Game Changer award, Sam is a young woman from Utah who plays football with the boys and became the one of the best players on the team. That wasn’t enough for Sam — she started a league in her area for female tackle football players. Now Sam is not doing all this just for women to play football. She is doing this work to activate interest among girls in physical activity, exercise, and wellness and ensure underserved populations have a voice.

 

GSA Arthur Blank-headshot

Arthur M. Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United (Photo credit: Arthur M. Blank Sports and Entertainment)

 

GSA Sam Gordon-headshot

Samantha “Sam” Gordon (Photo credit: Samantha Gordon)

 

GSB: For a GenZ girl like Sam, this is how social movements start!

JZ: Exactly. Also ex-major league baseball player and manager Dusty Baker and former NFLer Will Allen, both advocates for renewable energy, will talk about their experiences in the solar field. And we are honored to have David Kenny, CEO of the Weather Channel, as a speaker.

GSB: Well, I have to say, before we spoke, I was a bit skeptical about this Summit differing enough from its predecessors, that its focus would be too Green-Sports 1.0 (i.e. LEED certified stadia, Zero-Waste games) and not enough Green-Sports 2.0 (fan, athlete engagement) for my taste. But, from the speakers, to the topics, to the workshop style, to audience engagement, I see the 2018 Green Sports Alliance Summit at Mercedes-Benz Stadium as an event that will, while still touching on worthwhile Green-Sports 1.0 issues, push the GreenSports clearly into its 2.0 phase. I am looking forward to it.

JZ: See you in Atlanta!

 

Click here for information on how to attend the 2018 Green Sports Alliance Summit at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta June 26-27.
GreenSportsBlog is a media sponsor of the 2018 Green Sports Alliance Summit.

 


 

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Let’s Start a Movement to Get the Sports Media to #CoverGreenSports

Longtime readers of GreenSportsBlog know I believe that Green-Sports 1.0 — the greening of stadia and arenas — has been a great success. They also know I believe that Green-Sports 2.0 — engaging the 65-70 percent of humans who are sports fans on environmental issues, including climate change — is the more important yet far heavier lift.

For Green-Sports 2.0 to have a chance of meaningful success, the media — sports and otherwise — needs to do a much better job of sharing the many inspirational Green-Sports stories with its sizable audiences. It says here that the media won’t do so on its own. So we, the GreenSportsBlog community, need to push them. And that starts today with the launch of the #CoverGreenSports hashtag. 

 

 

Since I launched GreenSportsBlog almost five years ago, I’ve found there are two opposing forces in the sports-greening movement:

#1: The sports world is greening rapidly: And that pace has picked up to the point where:

  • LEED certification for stadia and arenas is considered the cost of doing business. In fact, the biggest question is often not IF a venue will go for LEED, but will it go for Platinum or “settle” for Gold,
  • Zero-waste games — to qualify, stadia or arenas must divert 90 percent or more of food waste from the landfill — are increasingly commonplace, as are on-site solar panel installations, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, and much, much more.

#2: A precious few sports fans know about this: Despite an increased number of fan engagement efforts by a gaggle of teams and leagues recently, I would bet real money on the accuracy of this statement.

Absent any meaningful data on sports fan awareness of Green-Sports initiatives (note to the Green Sports Alliance — a quantitative, projectable study, updated over time, is much needed here) the best I can offer right now is this nugget of anecdotal data:

In early April, I moderated “The Intersection of Sustainability, Sports and Business,” a panel discussion held at the NYU Stern School of Business and hosted by their Center for Sustainable Business. Before turning to the panel, I asked the audience if they knew that Ohio State home football games are zero-waste, that the Super Bowl offsets all of the direct emissions associated game, and more.

 

Zero-Waste 1

Zero-Waste 2

Zero Waste Stations and signage, Lower Level Concourse at Ohio Stadium, home of Ohio State football. The stadium has been Zero-Waste — diverting more than 90% of food waste from landfill — since 2013 (Photo Credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

Maybe two or three hands moved skyward in response to each question — a tiny number considering there were 50-60 people in the room.

Not good, I thought.

We need to get awareness about Green-Sports waaaaay up among sports fans. How high? Given the existential nature of the climate crisis I would be satisfied with awareness levels similar to the number of people who know that you can save 15 percent or more on car insurance by switching to GEICO!

 

GEICO Ad Age

Awareness of Green-Sports approaching awareness levels of nearly ubiquitous GEICO ads? Now THAT would be surprising…and welcome (Photo credit: Ad Age)

 

The only way we get that close to that exalted neighborhood is through significant sports media coverage of the great, sports-greening advances happening virtually every day in many corners of the sports world.

Not so fast, you say! “TV networks and cable sports outlets like ESPN and Fox Sports want their announcers talking about the games. They don’t want them talking about the environment!”

Of course, the game is the thing during a broadcast, but it’s not the only thing.

Sportscasters often bring up the causes promoted by the league, teams and/or athletes they’re covering. Those mentions are sometimes prompted by a contractual relationship — i.e. when the NFL sponsored Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, the networks that broadcast the games in the U.S. (CBS, Fox, ESPN, and NBC) ran breast cancer-related public service announcements (PSAs). Or sometimes an announcer will organically bring up the cause-related work of a player he/she is covering (I’m making this up: “LeBron James scored 40 points tonight, which means $4,000 is donated to the LeBron James Family Foundation.”)

Environmental issues, especially climate change, need similar oxygen on sports broadcasts, no matter the medium.

But that won’t happen unless the broadcast and cable networks airing sports events, along with the websites, newspapers, and magazines that write about them believe there is an audience for environmentally themed content.

That means green-minded sports fans are going to have let the ESPNs, the CBS Sports’ of the world know that the sports-greening movement is important to them. That also holds true for sports websites like TheRinger.com and SI.com, news websites like npr.com and Slate.com as well as sustainability-focused sites like GreenBiz.com.

Fans should reach out to sportscasters who are active on social media and who are known for speaking about issues beyond the playing field. Bob Ley (@BobLeyESPN), the long-time host of ESPN’s “Outside The Lines,” is Exhibit A. Peter King (@SI_PeterKing), the long time Sports Illustrated NFL writer, and author of the must read MMQB (Monday Morning Quarterback) column on SI.com, is Exhibit B.

Newscasters with an expressed interest in sports (there are a lot of them!) should also be contacted. Mike Pesca (@pescami), host of The Gist podcast — which tackles sports along with other topics — on Slate.com, needs to be in the know about Green-Sports. And Alabama Crimson Tide, Red Sox and Liverpool F.C. fanatic Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) should be added to the list. I’m sure you can come up with more.

And that’s where #CoverGreenSports comes in.

When we (and that means YOU!) hear about a Green-Sports story, through this blog or anywhere else, we need to reach out to the folks listed above via social media with the #CoverGreenSports hashtag. Here’s what I mean:

Ex-UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen is expected to be selected in the top 10 in Thursday’s NFL draft. For argument’s sake, let’s say he’s selected by the Buffalo Bills (per my column a couple of weeks back, I hope he ends up with the New York Jets. But I think they’re going to pass on him in favor of Baker Mayfield so Rosen will shuffle off to Buffalo.) Any green-minded Bills fans should reach out to the team and to the local broadcast stations with a tweet that could go something like this: @Josh3Rosen is a member of the @BuffaloBills! How gr8 is THAT!? We have a QB that will lead us to the #SuperBowl and who cares about #climatechange! Please tell Rosen’s green story. #CoverGreenSports

If you’re not a Bills fan, you could still craft a tweet tailored for the national media (ESPN, Fox Sports, etc.): @Josh3Rosen, new @BuffaloBills QB, is also an #ecoathlete. Tell his green story during Bills games — millennials and GenZ viewers will thank you. Don’t be afraid of those opposed; Green-Sports a winner. #CoverGreenSports

And — now this is really important — we also need to give BIG shout outs to those who ARE ALREADY COVERING Green-Sports and who may start to use the #CoverGreenSports hashtag. That is a small club for now but membership is growing slowly but surely. We can be the catalyst that accelerates the growth trend.

I will tweet the #CoverGreenSports hashtag (and use it on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn) whenever appropriate – to “nudge” those who need to cover it or to “fame” those who already, wisely, are. Will you retweet? Are you with me?

Let’s DO THIS!

Of course we can’t just do this willy-nilly; a strategic approach is what’s needed. Since hashtags and connecting with influencers are not my bailiwick, I reached out to someone who lives and breathes strategic influencer outreach.

Andrea Learned (@AndreaLearned) is a Seattle-based, self-described “communications strategist, with deep expertise in influencer relations.” Sustainability is one of her primary beats on Twitter. Andrea has made it a cause to generate interest in urban cycling-for-transportation by promoting the #Bikes4Climate hashtag as part of the broader #Cities4Climate movement.

 

Andrea.Profile.HardiePic

Andrea Learned (Photo credit: Hardie Cobbs)

 

In a free-flowing conversation a few weeks back, Andrea enthusiastically offered these suggestions:

  • “Map out an influencer strategy that goes beyond the tried and true, established ‘influencers’ — in the environmental space, that might mean Leo DiCaprio — to find new up and comers.”
  • “Find social media influencers who are interested in sports and climate. Athletes and non-athletes. Use the community you already know and expand from there. For example, I am always attuned to climate journalists who also happen to be big city bikers. Those writers have the potential to be climate action INFLUENCERS in capital letters “
  • Reach out to them with Green-Sports messaging and #CoverGreenSports and retweet their responses. Love them UP for even mentioning green-sport elements in any of the reporting they do already. “

Suffice to say, while I will be on the lookout for new influencers to move the #CoverGreenSports hashtag, I realize I already am connected to a great group influencers — y’all!

So please help spread the #CoverGreenSports hashtag. I promise you three things:

  1. Doing so will take a minimal amount of time, and
  2. It will be fun, and
  3. Your impact per minute spent has the potential to be massive!

 


 

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A-B InBev Adds Incentives to Sports Sponsorship Contracts; Environmental Performance Should Be In Mix

A-B InBev, the parent company of Anheuser-Busch and America’s biggest sports sponsor, is making a big change to the way it deals with its sports property partners. Incentives for positive on- and/or off-field performance are now being included in their contracts with leagues, teams, events and venues. Will environmental incentives be in the mix?

 

Terry Lefton, arguably the dean of sports-business journalists, broke an important story in the April 2 issue of Sports Business Journal (SBJ)

In “A-B’s Sponsor Shocker,” Lefton wrote that A-B InBev (ABI), America’s biggest sports sponsor, is “instituting incentive clauses within its [sponsorship] deals…offering properties as much as a 30 percent bonus if specific on-field performance and marketing criteria are met or surpassed…ABI is believed to be the first major sponsor to make it a standard part of its sponsorship contracts.”

A challenging and changing landscape for sports, both at stadia and arenas as well as on TV, is providing new leverage for sponsors and is helping to drive this new way of dealing with properties.

Lefton quoted Joao Chueiri, ABI’s vice president for consumer connections and a prime mover behind this new approach, as saying, “The traditional sponsorship model, based on fees and media commitments, does not deliver the best value for us at a time when most leagues and teams are facing challenges with live attendance and TV ratings. We want to evolve the model and encourage fan engagement … with an awareness that each deal is unique.”

 

Joao SBJ

Joao Chueiri, ABI’s vice president for consumer connections (Photo credit: Terry Lefton/Sports Business Journal)

 

Lefton reported that the early partners in new, incentive-laden ABI deals are the Minnesota Timberwolves of the NBA, MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers, the New Orleans Saints  of the NFL and NASCAR: “The stock car circuit opted for earned media, fan engagement/social media measures, while the Dodgers, after a season in which they won the National League pennant, chose on-field performance indicators, including wins and losses.”

 

Budweiser TWolves

Budweiser signage adorns the scoreboard at Target Center in Minneapolis, home of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves (Photo credit: NBA.com)

 

Will properties suffer a penalty if they don’t meet the minimum thresholds for incentives?

In a word, no.

Per Lefton, “they won’t get paid less if they fail to meet those targets.” Not surprisingly, every property that has been asked to accept an incentive-laden model has done so.

Chueiri told SBJ that key performance indicators for incentives available under ABI’s new sponsorship model include “attendance, wins/losses and other on-field performance measures, social media and other fan engagement metrics, and brand awareness and consideration among those aware of the sponsorship. The idea is to motivate the property to ensure every fan knows that Budweiser is the official beer.” ABI hopes the incentive program might be the differentiator to make a team, league or event choose it over a competitor.

Environmental performance was not a part of the list of metrics mentioned by Chueiri.

This is not surprising at this early stage. Metrics like wins and losses and social media traffic should be at the top of a list of incentives for a potential ABI sports property partner to hit. These are all “mothers’ milk” for teams and sponsors alike.

But, it says here that, sooner rather than later, environmental performance metrics need to be added to ABI’s list:

  • ABI has made clear that environmental performance, especially on water-related issues, is a core part of its DNA
  • Flagship ABI brands like Budweiser and Stella Artois advertise their commitment to access to clean water on mega sports broadcasts like Super Bowl LII
  • Lefton reported that all of ABI’s 90 or so U.S. team and league sports sponsorships are up by the end of 2021 and that “the brewer hopes to have completely overhauled its sponsorship model by then.”

 

Matt Damon stars in Stella Artois’ 30 second, water conservation-themed, Super Bowl ad

 

With that being the case, metrics like water use efficiency and waste diversion rates need to become part of ABI’s sports partnership incentive program soon.

THAT will be a very big deal.

Watch this space.

 


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NHL Issues Its 2nd Sustainability Report: Environmental Performance Improvements vs. 2014; NHL Green Goals — “Innovate, Transform, Inspire”

Four years ago, the NHL became the first pro sports league to issue a sustainability report, one of many examples of its environmental leadership. Why has the NHL made such a strong commitment? The report said it best: “Perhaps more than any other sport, hockey is impacted by environmental issues, particularly climate change and freshwater scarcity. The ability to skate and play hockey outdoors is a critical component of the [NHL’s] history and culture.” At that time, the league reported on its water and energy usage, carbon emissions and its conservation efforts.

On Wednesday, with the publication of its substantive, engaging and accessible 2018 sustainability report, the NHL provided a detailed look at how it performed on a variety of environmental metrics since 2014 and sets out how it plans to improve going forward. The goal is to ensure that all levels of hockey – from frozen ponds to community rinks to the NHL – thrive for future generations. To make good on that objective, the league promises to innovate, transform and inspire.

 

“What is the greenest sports league?”

I get that question a lot from folks outside of the Green-Sports ecosystem.

My response has always been the same and without hesitation: “The NHL.”

Why? The league:

  • Launched NHL Green in 2010, a comprehensive environmental sustainability program addressing the effects of climate change and freshwater scarcity on the sport.
  • Became the first in North America to have carbon neutral seasons by offsetting all of its direct carbon emissions starting in 2014
  • Started the Greener Rinks Initiative, providing managers of many indoor ice rinks in North America with the tools to operate in more environmentally friendly ways
  • Issued, in 2014, its first sustainability report, the first ever produced by a North American professional sports league.

I could list many more but you get the gist.

The NHL, which celebrated its centennial in 2017, takes a very long view when it comes to environmental sustainability. According to Omar Mitchell, the league’s vice president of corporate social responsibility, “We are working to make sure we ensure that we have hockey for the next 100 years. That’s why ‘Green’ is integral to our DNA.”

 

omar

Omar Mitchell, NHL’s Vice President of Corporate Responsibility (Photo credit: Claire Greenway/Getty Images Europe)

 

That big picture approach to sustainability becomes crystal clear as one navigates through the NHL’s second installation of its sustainability report.

The 2018 version is imbued with the ethos expressed in a pledge the NHL made last September’s in its Declaration of Principles, stating that: Hockey should be an enjoyable family experience; all stakeholders – organizations, players, parents, siblings, coaches, referees, volunteers and rink operations – play a role in this effort. To Mitchell, this is much more than a statement: “It is our way of stating our values. We believe hockey improves lives and communities.”

 

NHL Sustainability Scorecard: Improvements in waste diversion, energy usage and more

The report provides the reader with a detailed scorecard illustrating the league’s — and its 30 teams’ — performance over the last few years on a variety of environmental metrics, including water restoration, landfill reduction, efficient electricity use, and more. Highlights include:

  • Waste diversion rate of 32 percent thanks to composting, improved concessions forecasting, and enhanced waste tracking, with half of NHL arenas currently composting their own waste. The NHL has set a goal to increase waste diversion to 50 percent within five years.
  • A one percent reduction of energy consumption from Fiscal Year (FY)14 to FY16 by using more efficient lighting, enhanced building management systems, waste heat recapture technologies, and onsite renewable energy generation.
  • An approximate seven percent decrease in water consumption from FY15 to FY16, through fixture upgrades in arenas, minimizing consumption in water towers, and installation of smart sensors on water irrigation systems.
  • Throughout the NHL Centennial year, fans donated 4,245 pounds of equipment (more than 2,000 items), including helmets, skates, and pads. This equipment avoids landfills and gets repurposed back into the community.
  • A two percent year-over-year reduction in CO2 emissions from FY14 to FY16 – from 189,503 to 182,355 metric tons – through innovations and efficiencies.
  • 963,200 megawatt hours of energy counterbalanced since 2014 through the investment of renewable energy credits, generated from U.S. wind and Canadian biomass.

 

Bringing sustainability to community rinks and pond hockey lovers

The NHL’s Greener Rinks Initiative, a program launched in 2016, is prominently featured. With approximately 4,800 indoor ice rinks across North America, the initiative measures and evaluates their environmental impact. Modern-day NHL arenas use more environmentally-friendly energy sources, including solar power, fuel cell technology, waste water recapture and reuse, and geothermal technologies. NHL Greener Rinks aims to help rink operators make similar, sustainable business decisions in their aging community rinks (average age: 30 years) while also reducing energy and operating costs.

The sustainability report also shines a welcome spotlight on RinkWatch, a research initiative launched in 2013 by two professors from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. The program brings together citizens from across North America who share a love for outdoor hockey. Participants track and monitor backyard rinks, ponds, and winter weather conditions to assist with the study of long-term impacts of climate change. To date, more than 1,400 outdoor rinks and ponds have been tracked and monitored. Fans are encouraged to participate; those interested can visit RinkWatch.org to join the movement.

 

Creating a Sustainability Report that is accessible for fans, substantive for sustainability “deep divers”

Have you read a corporate sustainability report? I have. And let me tell you, some of them make corporate annual reports seem like light reading. And I’m a sustainability metrics nerd!

Thus, I was a bit nervous before clicking on the new NHL sustainability report. The one major criticism I had of its 2014 predecessor was that it was hard to follow as it was laid out in the “continuous scroll” format  in vogue at the time. I felt like I had to scroll forever to get to a desired topic area.

So I was immediately heartened upon seeing that the 2018 sustainability report had done away with continuous scroll and replaced it with what I call an accessible site map structure in its “Report at-a-Glance” page.

 

Report at a Glance

Screen shot of the 2018 NHL Sustainability Report’s “Report At-A-Glance” navigation page

 

Eureka! I wanted to see where climate change fit into the league’s efforts and plans. There it was, “Frozen Ponds & Climate Change,” third from the top in the Home section. Interested in how the NHL is doing in its carbon emissions reduction efforts? Check out the “Innovating the League” section, second item from the top. And so on.

“Moving away from ‘continuous scrolling’ was intentional on our part,” shared Mitchell. “Taking feedback about the readability of our 2014 report to heart, we spent a lot of time with Scrum50, our marketing agency, to develop a ‘Choose Your Adventure’ approach. This resulted in a report that is at once broad enough to engage casual fans in understanding what the NHL is doing on the environment and detailed enough for sustainability practitioners and the like to take deep, analytic dives.”

 

NHL’s First Green Month

The 2018 sustainability report comes out at the same time as the NHL is launching its first Green Month. “The last two years we had ‘Green Week’ but found out that was not enough time to do it right,” offered Mitchell. “Our clubs now have the time to activate meaningful fan engagement programs.”

 

A 30 second NHL Green Month video from the Anaheim Ducks about the environmental performance at their Honda Center arena

 

League needs to measure fan awareness of NHL Green

It says here that the one major area the NHL can improve upon in its sustainability reporting is to get a baseline measure of fan awareness of, and interest in, NHL Green and then track it over time. To my mind, this should be done ASAP — don’t wait three or four years until the next sustainability report is issued. Keeping score as to how NHL fans react to NHL Green will help the league tweak and improve upon its environmental efforts on the fly.

And when I say fans, I mean all NHL fans: those who attend games, and the far bigger number who don’t set foot in an NHL arena but who follow the sport on TV, online, via mobile devices, etc.

 

Innovate, Transform and Inspire

What will a 2022 NHL Sustainability Report look like?

It’s (way) too early to get into that conversation but, says Mitchell, the league’s direction for NHL Green is clear.

“Our sustainability missions now and going forward are to innovate, transform and inspire. Innovate means we will continue, at club and arena levels, to improve on water and electricity use, waste reductions, and more. For example, we have a goal to have installed energy efficient LED lighting at all NHL arenas within five years. Transform…an initiative like Greener Rinks is transformative. It takes what we’ve learned to help community rinks operate more effectively from a variety of environmental and efficiency perspectives. It also helps them connect on the environment with their customers. Inspire means doing more to educate and engage our fans and players to take positive environmental action. One player from each club will be designated as a Green Ambassador. ”

 

Rogers Place

Rogers Place, home of the Edmonton Oilers, features LED lighting (Photo credit: NHL)

 

The NHL also sees environmental sustainability as economic and social imperatives. Final words go to Omar Mitchell:

“Our focus on community rinks is crucial because it’s how kids come to the sport. We think Green Rinks can potentially help those rinks lower the high cost of ice time — it typically ranges between $200-$700 per hour — by reducing energy costs. Reductions in natural ice — as documented by RinkWatch — can limit kids to playing in rinks and many can’t afford it. So, you see, environmental sustainability is existential for the NHL and hockey more broadly.”

 

 

 


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GreenSportsBlogger to Moderate Panel April 3 at NYU Stern School of Business

Will you be in New York City next Tuesday evening? Interested in Green-Sports? Then come on down to NYU’s Stern School of Business at 6:30 PM ET for an engaging panel discussion on the “Intersection of Sustainability, Sports & Business,” sponsored by the Center for Sustainable Business. As a Stern alum, it will be my pleasure to moderate the event.

 

Next Tuesday evening’s panel discussion at the NYU Stern School of Business on the “Intersection of Sustainability, Sports & Business” comes at an inflection point of sorts for the Green-Sports movement.

It has been quite successful at what I call “Green-Sports 1.0,” the greening of stadia and arenas. LEED certified venues and zero-waste games are more the rule than the exception these days, and that is a very good thing.

Now, we are slowly pivoting to the early days of “Green-Sports 2.0,” in which the sports world engages fans to take positive environmental actions. For this effort to have maximum impact, teams, leagues and the media that cover them must bring environmental messaging beyond the venues. That’s because the vast majority of fans who follow sports do so not by schlepping to the ballpark or arena, but rather via TV, online, mobile, radio, and newspaper sports pages.

And, it seems to me that for version 2.0 to get where it needs to go, the sponsors and advertisers who provide much of the mother’s milk for the sports industry, will have to take a leading role.

With that in mind, I could not imagine a better panel with whom to talk about the passing of the proverbial Green-Sports baton and more:

  • Doug Behar: Senior Vice President of Operations at Yankee Stadium
  • Alicia Chin: Senior Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility, National Hockey League
  • David McKenzie: Director, Corporate Social Responsibility, Anheuser-Busch
  • Will Yandell: Northeast Regional Marketing Manager, Clif Bar & Company

The event, which takes place at Stern’s Tisch Hall (40 West 4th Street, Room 411-413), is FREE (such a deal!) but you do need to register as seating is limited. Click here to do so. Start time is 6:30. I recommend that you arrive early as it is first come, first serve and seats are not guaranteed.

 

Tisch Hall NYU

Lobby of Tisch Hall at NYU’s Stern School of Business, site of next Tuesday evening’s panel discussion on the “Intersection of Sustainability, Sports & Business” (Photo credit: Yelp)

 

Thank you to the panelists and to Stern’s Center for Sustainable Business for hosting the event. I hope to see you there! If you know someone who would be interested in attending, by all means, please forward this post.

 

 


 

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South Pole Measures Carbon Footprint for FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euro Championships; Helps Members of Auto Racing’s FIA Offset Emissions

 

Mega-sports events like the Olympics, FIFA World Cup and Super Bowl have been greening in some way, shape or form for more than a decade. Waste reduction, LEED (or BREEAM or CASBEE) certification, measuring carbon footprint, and more. I got to thinking it would be interesting to talk to one of the companies that does the carbon footprint accounting — to understand how it works, what gets measured, what decisions, if any, are made to reduce emissions. So we were very happy to chat with Natalia Gorina and Franka Bosman of South Pole, a very interesting company that is one part sustainability consulting firm and one part emissions reduction project developer. There may be even more parts but this is good enough for now.

 

Natalia Gorina and Franka Bosman have very cool job titles and even cooler missions at South Pole.

Geneva, Switzerland-based Natalia’s is Sales Director, Carbon and Renewables. Sounds like a good fit for someone who describes her career as being “devoted to using economic incentives to solve the climate crisis.” With South Pole since 2014, Natalia helps corporations understand that it is good business to measure and reduce carbon emissions. She helps corporations talk the sustainability talk and walk the sustainability walk.

 

Natalia Gorina 1

Natalia Gorina, South Pole (Photo credit: South Pole)

 

Franka wants to “devote my life to improving the world by helping companies and people to take action against climate change.” Prior to coming to South Pole, Franka worked in finance, trying to disrupt it from the inside out.

 

Franka Bosman

Franka Bosman, South Pole (Photo credit: South Pole)

 

Natalia and Franka sure seem like they are in the right place.

 

SOUTH POLE: MATCHMAKING CARBON REDUCTION PROJECTS WITH CORPORATE FUNDERS

South Pole was founded in 2006 as a climate change fighting/sustainable business spinoff from ETH, a technical university in Switzerland. The company has since grown to over 200 employees with 16 offices around the world, with several located in Latin America, China and the Indian sub-continent where many emissions reductions projects are located.

Those employees 1) help corporate clients source and develop emissions reductions and renewable energy development projects, 2) consult on sustainability strategy for corporations and, 3) manage their own carbon emissions projects that generate carbon credits that they then try sell to corporations.

“We are more than emissions reduction credit providers,” explained Natalia. “We come in at an earlier stage than most sustainability consulting firms by investing our own funds to cover carbon certification costs and leading projects through the entire certification cycle. We serve as the project developer for renewable energy companies and local organizations that produce and distribute water filtration systems and cook stoves, for example.”

“South Pole is a matchmaker of sorts,” added Franka. “We currently have over 500 emissions projects underway that we match with corporate funders. Then we measure results in a way that is linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals: biodiversity gains, jobs created, and more.”

 

HANDLING FAN ENGAGEMENT FOR UEFA 2016 CHAMPIONSHIP

South Pole has partnered with UEFA, the governing body of European soccer/football, since 2012. They started by calculating the greenhouse gas emissions generated from flights taken by UEFA referees and staff and offering Gold Standard certified carbon credits to offset those emissions. “We make it easy for them,” offered Natalia. “We give them a choice of projects and they choose one per year.”

Given that UEFA governs European soccer and manages Euro Championships, it makes sense that they would want to invest in European projects. Thing is, there aren’t that many to choose from because the Kyoto Protocol mandated that the lions’ share of emissions reductions projects be in the developing world. “So we have to work outside the box a bit,” advised Natalia. “Turkey, a UEFA member, has some projects. For example, last year UEFA supported the Gold Standard Cakirlar Hydro Project. And then we offer projects from countries that have a connection to a UEFA country.  For example, UEFA chose to support the Prony Windfarm project because it is located in New Caledonia, a French territory overseas. The wind turbines installed there are very innovative because they tilt downward during hurricanes which leads to significant reductions in damage.”

 

Prony Windfarm Vergnet

Prony wind farm in New Caledonia (Photo credit: Vergnet)

 

South Pole and UEFA ramped up their sustainability efforts at Euro 2016, the quadrennial continent-wide tournament by engaging fans. Fans traveling to the month-long soccer-fest held throughout France had the opportunity to offset their travel via an easy-to-use carbon calculator. “We aimed to make it fun for fans to take environmental action,” said Natalia. “Committing to measure and offset their travel entered fans into a sweepstakes; the grand prize offered a ticket to the final game.”

Fan participation levels were not as high as envisioned. Natalia attributes this to the complexity of the entry process: “Fans had to go through several steps to compensate for their emissions. It needs to be a super easy, one click process. Or, even better, have the offsetting option as the default position in the ticket purchasing process, from which fans can opt-out if they don’t want to participate.” South Pole will have the opportunity to collaborate with UEFA further on environmental issues, including hopefully improving upon fan engagement participation, with a four-year extension of its contract. That will take it through Euro 2020, the first tournament to be played across the continent rather than in one or two countries.

 

MEASURING GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS FOR 2018 FIFA WORLD CUPTM IN RUSSIA

FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, hired South Pole to measure greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for the 2018 men’s World Cup in Russia.

The company issued a report that offered a broad estimate of GHG emissions for 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, from the preparation phase — per Natalia: “The organizers committed to ‘green certification’ for all 12 venues; as of now, at least 3 have achieved BREEAM^ certification” — through the World Cup itself. They projected Scope 1 (direct emissions from owned or controlled sources), Scope 2 (indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy), and Scope 3 (value/supply chain emissions). Fan travel to and from Russia, the by far the largest GHG emissions component, falls within Scope 3. According to Natalia, “More than two thirds of all GHG emissions associated with 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia are linked to international air travel of attendees.”

 

Volvograd Arena Guardian

The BREEAM-certified Volgograd Arena (Photo credit: The Guardian)

 

Not surprisingly, it says here, the organizers of the 2018 FIFA World Cup feel fan travel to get to and from Russia is not under its control and are focusing on Scopes 1 and 2. But wouldn’t emissions from travel within a country as vast as Russia be massive? Not so, said Natalia: “Emissions from travel within Russia will be much lower, in large part because the venues are concentrated in the European, west-of-the-Ural-Mountains section of the country.”

Will South Pole do an accounting of actual 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia emissions to see how they compare to the estimate? “Our assignment was just to do the estimate,” reported Natalia.

If South Pole is engaged by FIFA and the organizers of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, here’s hoping they get to report on the actual GHG emissions, and not just estimate them. Lord knows, a World Cup in Qatarian summer will be a massive environmental challenge (and that’s putting it mildly).

 

HELPING FIA MEMBERS OFFSET EMISSIONS FROM MOTOR SPORTS

Turning to motor sports, South Pole is helping members of FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile), the governing body for Formula 1, auto rallies, Formula E and more, to achieve carbon neutrality.

Similar to UEFA, South Pole is finding offset projects for FIA members to support in the areas where races take place. “Rally Australia, a long-distance auto race in Coff’s Harbour off the country’s east coast, wanted projects that benefitted wildlife and the environment in Australia,” asserted Franka. “We helped them offset unavoidable emissions by connecting them with a project that protects the habitats of the Tasmanian Devil.”

Franka also notes that, “While European projects would be desirable for sports events taking place in Europe because of their proximity, most are happy to support programs in the developing world. One, because that’s where the need is the greatest and, two, there’s a sexiness to them given the huge positive impact these projects have for local people and the environment.”

 

WHAT’S NEXT? TELLING THE STORY TO FANS MORE CONSISTENTLY

GreenSportsBlog readers certainly know that my biggest pet peeve about the sports-greening world is that the fantastic stories about its greatest advances are not being told to fans and other stakeholders with a loud enough voice. Natalia and Franka agree.

What will change this dynamic? Franka believes the impetus will come from sponsors: “Organizers of greener sports events fear that if they tout how sustainable they are, they will be criticized for what they don’t do. But their sponsors are urging them to talk about what they are doing — commitments to renewables, recycling and to offset programs that preserve at-risk species, or help people in the developing world to source clean water.”

Since sponsor dollars are almost as vital as clean water to sports teams and leagues, Franka may be on to something.

Watch this space. And keep your eyes on South Pole.

 

^ BREEAM is a British version of LEED

 


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