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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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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Green Leaders Talk Green-Sports, Part 10: Solitaire Townsend, Co-founder of Futerra, Author of “The Happy Hero”

For the tenth installment of our occasional “Green Leaders Talk Green Sports”^ series — we talk with luminaries from outside the Green-Sports world about the potential of, and challenges facing the Green-Sports world —we bring you sustainable business pioneer Solitaire Townsend, the London-based co-founder of Futerra, a firm that is both a “logical sustainability consultancy” and “a magical creative agency.” She is also the author of “The Happy Hero,” in which she endeavors to show readers how they can answer the question “What if saving the world was good for you?” with a resounding YES! GSB talked with Townsend (she goes by “Soli”) about how she got into the world-saving (and climate-saving) business and the role she sees sports playing in those efforts.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Soli, thanks for chatting with us! Futerra helps show companies can they can really do well by doing good — and provides them with the tools and direction to do so. We will get into that in a bit. But first, how did you get into the world-saving business?

Solitaire Townsend: It’s my pleasure, Lew. To answer your question, I go to the first chapter of “The Happy Hero.” It was the 1980s and I was growing up in Bedfordshire, north of London. Picture this — I was a 13 year-old girl, living in “Social Housing…”

 

SolitaireTownsend_Headshot Futerra

Solitaire “Soli” Townsend, Co-founder of Futerra and author of “The Happy Hero” (Photo credit: Futerra)

 

GSB: Or, in American parlance, “the projects…”

ST: Exactly. There was trash all over the place and a company called Nirex planned to build a nuclear waste dump nearby. That was the last straw for me! So, at 13, I got involved in campaigning against Nirex, with my parents support. By the time I was 15, we had won — we beat back the Nirex proposal. It made me what I like to call a hardened optimist! This became my “modus operendi” from then on — I got a Masters Degree in sustainability in 1997.

GSB: Sounds like you were an early adapter…

ST: For sure. Getting a Masters in sustainability was unusual at that time. I worked for a time on the BBC show Newsnight and it was there that I gained a real appreciation for how important powerful communications is for the success of social movements, including sustainability. Eventually I founded Futerra along with a partner as an agency that would help our clients envision and deploy positive solutions to environmental and social issues as a fundamental business building strategy.

GSB: …Or, put another way, doing well by doing good, right?

ST: You got it.

GSB: So, where does sport fit in?

ST: Well, sport teaches us the power of belief. Talent takes you so far. It’s the belief in yourself and your team that makes the difference. Sport is the perfect platform for this line of thinking. And it is necessary for success in an advocacy campaign or, on the business side, in a corporate social responsibility campaign. Belief, against all odds!

GSB: Like, to use a great British sporting example, the incredible “Belief against all odds” story of Leicester City’s 5,000-to-1 Premier League champions in 2015-16.  In addition to belief, in “The Happy Hero,” you talk about how elite athletes’ laser focus on achieving one goal can be instructive for the climate movement…

ST: Focus is a key aspect of a top athlete becoming world class. Also blocking out the negative. Now, with climate change, we don’t seem to have that world class athlete attitude. We talk about losing — we don’t have what it takes to win — it’s too big of a problem.

GSB: I know! I fight this, both in my own mind and in my communications. But, in the main, I’m in the Yes We WILL — as in “yes we will win the climate change fight” camp.

ST: Really, we need great climate change communicator coaches with that “Yes We Will Win” attitude.

GSB: Like Al Gore — at the time of “An Inconvenient Truth” about 10 years ago, I’d say his emphasis was 90 percent about the problem. But in the past five years, he’s gone all in on solutions…

ST: That’s a great example; there are many more. The great thing about sport is that it is all about what’s possible. There’s no ceiling. We have enough doom stories…Doom stories are crap. I sound like a broken record, I know, but we need belief, consistent hard work and positive stories to win the climate fight.

GSB: Hey, if Leicester City could win the EPL, we can solve climate change, right? So tell me about Futerra and sport.

ST: We worked on London 2012

GSB: …the most sustainable Olympics to date…What was Futerra’s role?

ST: Futerra were just one small part of the larger sustainability team. And when I say “larger,” I really mean it: The London 2012 environmental and social teams were as large as some of the countries’ actual Olympic teams! We worked on the big policy picture as well as providing guidance on very detailed sustainability aspects of the Olympics’ operations. Futerra handled sustainability reporting, including reporting on emissions generated from fan travel to and from the games, sourcing of food, the availability of water fountains and refillables within the Olympic footprint. London 2012 really was a sustainability breakthrough, not only for the Olympics but for all mega-sports events going forward. It was the first Olympics to issue a sustainability report. The Global Reporting Initiative or GRI developed a special supplement for sustainability reporting for large events, based on what was material…Of course that includes buildings, food, water, and travel. But also gender issues and other, broader elements of a sustainability plan.

 

Velodrome London 2012

The Velodrome in the London 2012 Olympic Park. The bicycle-racing venue features a 100 percent naturally-ventilated system that eliminates the need for air conditioning, along with rainwater harvesting systems on its roof. (Photo credit: Ruckus Roots)

 

GSB: That sounds like more than a small role to me. How do you see Futerra getting involved in sport going forward?

ST: We feel big, pro sports teams like Manchester United or Liverpool need to act like small ones and that Futerra can help them get there.

GSB: What do you mean by “getting big teams to act like small ones” and how can Futerra help?

ST: Well, Futerra is looking to get more involved with companies and nonprofits in emerging economies — China, Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America — with our sort of philosophical view of sport. What is the common denominator in those countries and elsewhere in the developing world? Sports. But for most people in those places, sports means a group of kids playing on a scrap of grass with a ball made of clumped together newspaper. When you think about it, this is, from a carbon footprint perspective, just about the lowest impact human activity there is, while also having a huge social impact. Now, when you look at the pro level, they too have a huge social impact but their carbon footprints are also massive. We aim to show sports organizations and the companies who sponsor them the benefits of lowering that footprint.

GSB: I can’t wait to follow up with you once you have some results from your efforts in those places. Do you have any other sports highlights you’d like to share?

ST: Well, recently we’ve done a lot of work with the great outdoor sports retailer REI. I love them and their #OptOutside program which has them close all their stores on Black Friday! They’ve really become a thought leader and are taking a lead role in the conversation about sustainable business, carbon footprint measurement, gender and more. We co-authored a report with them, The Path Ahead, about the future of the outdoor sports economy in the U.S., the threats…

 

OptOutside

 

GSB: …like climate change…

ST: …like climate change…and the opportunities.

GSB: I’m glad — and not at all surprised — to learn that REI is taking such a leading role. One thing that puzzles me is that the many sports teams and leagues in the U.S. that are doing great green things — zero-waste games, LEED certified stadia — do very little talking about it. Which to me defeats the purpose of greening in the first place. Why do you think that is the case?

ST: That’s an interesting question, Lew. I think sports teams and venues have two schools of thought. On the one hand, they want to be quiet about their green good works, loathe be seen as being boastful or, worse, greenwasher. But that attitude is really surprising to me and doesn’t pass the smell test. I mean, sports is, after all, about celebrating!!! Now, I fully acknowledge that the language of sustainability can be tricky — words like belief, caring, and stewardship. Sports is about winning and losing, overcoming obstacles, heroics. Perhaps the way to look at this is to make the language of sustainability more like sports. We need to do this — business already gets it, with all sorts of rankings. Sustainability needs to act more like sports.

GSB: And sports? Be not afraid about talking about your greenness. A little blowback from climate deniers? So what? The risk of inaction is too great and you’ll win with the millennial and GenZ fans you covet!

ST: I like it, Lew!

GSB: Sometimes I get fired up…

 

Happy Hero Cover

You can purchase “The Happy Hero” on Amazon.com

 

^ Here are links to the first eight installments of “Green Leaders Talk Green Sports”: 1. Joel Makower, executive editor of GreenBiz Group; 2. Jerry Taylor, leading libertarian DC lobbyist who was climate denier/skeptic, “switched teams” and is now a climate change fighter; 3. Dr. Michael Mann, one of the world’s foremost climate scientists and author of “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars”; 4. Caryl Stern, President and CEO of US Fund for UNICEF;  5. Paul Polizzotto, President and Founder of CBS EcoMedia; 6. David Crane, former CEO of NRG, who, in addition to moving one of the largest electricity generators in the US away from coal and towards renewables, also oversaw the “solar-ization” of six NFL stadia; 7. Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist and the best climate change communicator I’ve ever seen/heard; 8. Freya Williams, author of “Green Giants”; and 9. Mindy Lubber, CEO of Ceres.

 

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Green Leaders Talk Green Sports, Part 9: Mindy Lubber, CEO of Ceres

For the ninth installment of our “Green Leaders Talk Green Sports”^ series — where we talk with luminaries from outside the Green-Sports world about its potential to impact the climate change fight — we bring you our discussion with Mindy Lubber, CEO of Ceres.

Ceres, a Boston-based sustainability nonprofit, works with the world’s most influential companies and investors to build leadership on climate change and drive climate solutions throughout the economy. Among other things, we talked about how sports can influence the increasingly busy intersection of Green & Business & Finance.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Mindy, thank you for talking with us; I’ve wanted to get your perspective on the potential power of sports to influence sustainable business for a long time. To start, what does Ceres do?

Mindy Lubber: Ceres works with influential corporations and investors to drive sustainable change in the economy. We advocate for the integration of climate risk, water scarcity and pollution, and human rights abuses from company supply chains to the board room. And our ethos is to Think Big! Many of the large companies we work with are changing and are moving the sustainability discussion forward — not necessarily fast enough or bold enough, but we are working on that — and we need to be having the discussion with a wider audience of folks. And who are more compelling than athletes — admired by many — to lend their powerful voices in support of addressing the future of our planet? (Editor’s Note: Emphasis is mine)

 

MindyLubber_Headshot

Mindy Lubber, CEO of Ceres (Photo credit: Karen Rivera, Ceres)

 

GSB: I like it all, especially that last bit! So how did you get to lead big thinking, big acting Ceres?

ML: Well, despite the admonition of my parents not to follow my MBA and Law degrees with a public interest/nonprofit career, I made that jump and, 35 years later; have not looked back. My question to myself always has been: How can I maximize my impact? So I started a long road in which I worked as a lawyer — a tortured litigator, in fact —  regulator, researcher, and in politics, always looking to see how I can affect change. I worked for 10 years with the Public Interest Research Groups. In 1988, I was a senior staffer on the Dukakis for President campaign. Then, after we didn’t quite end up in the White House…

GSB:…[SIGH]…

ML:…I founded and launched an environmental investment firm — this was very new at the time — focusing on investing in environmentally sustainable companies. The firm continues to this day — 17 years later — as does an entire industry around responsible investing. Years later, I found myself back in government, working for the Clinton Administration under Carol Browner as Regional Administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency. When I left the Administration, I took some time to think about what strategies and tactics I could employ that would have the most impact on climate change and environmental sustainability. My conclusion? Capital markets have to be involved in solving climate and environmental problems, especially companies in the Fortune 500. In fact, companies and investors are key to solving these problems – problems and challenges which are about the future of our families as well as our economy.

Much has changed in the world of corporate sustainability. When I got here in 2003, Ceres had a staff of eight. Now, we’re 107 people — because it is clear capital market leaders need to be and are becoming increasingly involved. Ceres works with hundreds of companies and investors to limit their carbon footprint, reduce water and other resource use, commit to clean energy and electric vehicles, support the Paris Climate Agreement and other environmental and social policies.

GSB: What drives Ceres’ success in helping move corporations to more sustainable behaviors?

ML: The best way to say it is we work as advocates to move the largest companies, as well as major investors, to integrate sustainability more quickly and more deeply, because it is a driver of shareholder value. Right now, 90 large companies and 140 large investors are Ceres members, along with the rating agencies and stock exchanges with whom we engage regularly. And, the truth is, leadership at these big organizations get climate change for the most part. They see the increased intensity of storms, wildfires, and other extreme weather and they know that it matters and has a direct impact on their businesses. The largest companies really get it. Apple, Citicorp, Dell and PepsiCo are all Ceres members. Now, not all of our members are doing everything well, sustainability-wise, but they’re moving in the right direction.

GSB: Are any companies in the sports industry Ceres members?

ML: Nike is an important partner of Ceres; they’ve been a leader on sustainable innovation in product design and materials, while also decreasing their environmental footprint. Disney, of which ESPN is a part, is a member, as is Time-Warner, with sports cable-casters TBS and TNT on their roster.

 

Nike Flyleather

Ceres member Nike’s recently launched Flyleather shoe — a sustainable material made with 50 percent recycled leather fibers (Photo credit: Nike)

 

GSB: What are some of the major initiatives Ceres is working on with its members?

ML: We just launched a new initiative with our global investor partners– the Climate Action 100+. It is designed to engage the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters to curb emissions, strengthen climate-related financial disclosures and improve governance on climate change. Betty Yee, California State Controller and board member of CalPERS, CalSTRS and Ceres, announced the initiative at the One Planet Summit hosted by the French Government in December. Launching on the second anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement, Climate Action 100+ aims to realize the goals of that agreement by bringing together the world’s most influential institutional investors with a clear and coordinated agenda to get the biggest emitters to act more ambitiously on climate. We are tremendously excited about this initiative and the unprecedented global collaboration among investors that it represents.

 

One Planet Summit

 

We are also doing exciting work on water through Feeding Ourselves Thirsty, an analysis and ranking of the largest food sector companies on how they are responding to water risks and, in our most recent report, how performance has shifted since the first round of benchmarking in 2015. Feeding Ourselves Thirsty also serves as a resource to companies by offering insights on the water and climate risks food sector companies are exposed to and how these risks impact current and future profitability.

GSB: This is very important work, Mindy, but I always wonder, how big, really, is the awareness of corporate sustainability initiatives among the general public? My sense is that a very small percentage of the public, of small investors, are aware of any of this. Is my sense nonsensical?

ML: We are seeing extraordinary changes regarding sustainability within companies and investment firms, within cities and states, and, yes, with consumers and small investors. The world is changing – the reality of climate change is becoming ever more clear. Millennials, a larger demographic cohort than the baby boomers, are starting to act in big numbers — as are other groups.

GSB: In this case, I’m glad my instincts were off! Ceres must have a very full plate…

ML: No doubt about it. Every company is on its own journey — some doing a little and some doing a lot. Our job is to increase the pace and the size of the impact if we are going to successfully address the sustainability issues of our time. A good number of corporations are moving in the right direction and are doing so forcefully. What we are seeing is over 100 corporations committing to 100 percent renewables. Mars not long ago pledged $1 billion to fight climate change; Morgan Stanley committed to get all its energy from renewables by 2022; Bank of America pledged $125 billion dollars for a clean energy future; and dozens of companies have showed their support for the US commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement by joining Ceres at November’s COP23 in Bonn, Germany.

 

Mars

Mars climate change-themed promotional piece (Image credit: Mars)

 

GSB: Sounds like Ceres had a great 2017; what’s ahead for 2018 and beyond?

ML: Two big areas we’ll be focusing on are 1) Scaling the adoption of electric vehicles, and 2) Expanding finance to a renewable energy future.

GSB: Speaking of finance, how does Ceres work with investors?

ML: Investor engagement has been at the core of Ceres’ work since our founding. We work with investors on environmental, social, and governance issues to drive sustainable investment leadership and action through every level of the capital markets and government. In 2003, we launched the Investor Network on Climate Risk and Sustainability (originally referred to as INCR), which now numbers over 130 institutional investors, collectively managing about $15 trillion in assets. Facilitated by Ceres staff, network members participate in working groups, webinars, and more to advance leading investment practices, corporate engagement strategies and policy solutions. And by pressuring exchanges and capital market regulators to improve climate and sustainability risk disclosure, our Investor Network members are able to serve as advocates for stronger climate, clean energy and water policies.

Sustainability-related shareholder resolutions are also a big aspect of our work with large investors. Five years ago, we reached the 50 percent voting threshold on about 10 percent of our resolutions; now we’re at 66 percent. This past May, our investors had an historic win at ExxonMobil’s annual meeting with a 62 percent majority vote in favor of a shareholder proposal calling on the oil and gas giant to assess and disclose how it is preparing its business for the transition to a low-carbon future. We are expecting to see a lot more of that.

GSB: That’s a big deal! But, to me, this highlights a gap between what companies and large investors are doing sustainability-wise and the relative absence of consumers. What can be done? And can sports be part of the solution?

ML: Consumers certainly need information on what companies are doing on sustainability and what sustainable investment opportunities are available to them, in a clear, digestible fashion. There is no time to waste on this if the world is going to make the Paris Agreement’s 2°C target — buy in from consumers is a must. Sustainability messaging and messengers for consumers in many cases need to be different than for those involved with the capital markets. This is where popular culture and sports needs to play their roles as parts of the solution. Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si, was an extraordinary message of change.

Sports stars and leaders can play an important role in our work as so much of humanity follows and is passionate about sports…

GSB: Well, as Allen Hershkowitz, former President of the Green Sports Alliance often says, “13 percent of people care about science; 70 percent care about sports.”

ML: Allen is probably right. Thing is, even though athletes are often not seen as left leaning — a challenge the climate movement faces — I was heartened to see some sports stars get involved with the Flint (MI) water crisis. They were largely apolitical — they were there to get things done, to win. And, even when sports gets political, as in the Colin Kaepernick case, the conversation gets outsized attention because it is sports. For the world to make the 2°C target, climate change needs much more attention from consumers, from business and from government. Sports can provide a big platform.

GSB: My contention is the Green-Sports movement’s impact on climate will scale as it moves from Version 1.0 — the greening of stadia and arenas — to a more expansive 2.0 — engaging fans at the games and as well as the much bigger audience watching on TV and/or other devices. In the meantime, the world needs Ceres to continue to engage the sports industry where possible to help corporations and investors win their 2°C battles…

 

^ Here are links to the first eight installments of “Green Leaders Talk Green Sports”: 1. Joel Makower, executive editor of GreenBiz Group; 2. Jerry Taylor, leading libertarian DC lobbyist who was climate denier/skeptic, “switched teams” and is now a climate change fighter; 3. Dr. Michael Mann, one of the world’s foremost climate scientists and author of “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars”; 4. Caryl Stern, President and CEO of US Fund for UNICEF;  5. Paul Polizzotto, President and Founder of CBS EcoMedia; 6. David Crane, former CEO of NRG, who, in addition to moving one of the largest electricity generators in the US away from coal and towards renewables, also oversaw the “solar-ization” of six NFL stadia; 7. Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist and the best climate change communicator I’ve ever seen/heard; 8. Freya Williams, author of “Green Giants” and CEO of sustainability consulting firm Futerra USA.

 


 

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Clif Bar: Pushing Green-Sports Boundaries for 25 Years By “Thinking Like a Tree”

If there were a Green-Sports Corporate Hall of Fame, Clif Bar would be a charter member. The Emeryville (near Berkeley), CA-based company has produced tasty, nutritious, organic energy bars for cyclists, climbers, skiers, snowboarders, mountain bikers, surfers triathletes, runners and other outdoor/adventure athletes since 1992. And to say that sustainability is core to its DNA is a massive understatement.

GreenSportsBlog took a deep dive into Clif Bar, its history as a sustainable business and green-sports leader, along with its plans to take both to the next level.

 

“We aspire to be a company that thinks like a tree,” enthused Elysa Hammond, Clif Bar’s vice president of environmental stewardship, at an engaging talk in New York City this fall.

Huh?

What does “think like a tree” mean?

“Trees run on renewable energy, recycle all waste, and sustain and improve the places where they grow,” explained Hammond, “‘Thinking like a tree’ is how we go about making good on the most critical part of our environmental mission, which is to help build the climate movement.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of a food company with an environmental mission of “building the climate [change fighting] movement.” But am I ever glad there is one, and that it’s Clif Bar.

 

Elysa Hammond

Elysa Hammond, Clif Bar’s vice president of environmental stewardship (Photo credit: Clif Bar)

 

And once I learned about Clif’s history, its “do well by doing good” ethos, its “Five Aspirations” (we’ll get to that a bit later) — and its deep connection to sports —the company’s environmental mission made perfect sense.

Now, you may ask, “What does its deep connection to sports have to do with Clif’s ‘build the climate movement’ mission?”

It goes back to Clif’s beginnings about 25 years ago.

You see, according to Hammond, Clif was “born on a bike.”

OK, now I get “think like a tree” but “born on bike”?

Turns out, Gary Erickson, the company’s founder, was on a 170 mile bike ride — referred to in Clif Bar lore as “The Epiphany Ride” — eating primitive, unappealing energy bars. He said to himself, “I can make a better tasting, more nutritious bar.”

 

Gary Erikson

Clif Bar founder Gary Erickson (Photo credit: Clif Bar)

Erickson and his team have certainly raised the bar on tasty (as well as nutritious and organic) energy bars and other foods — while also leading the sustainable business and climate movements, with winter, adventure and outdoor athletes playing integral roles.

 

Clif Bar: Sustainable Business Leader

We will get to the Clif—athletes connections in a moment. But first, please indulge me while I give you a CliffsNotes version of the company’s unusual history. [Ed. Note: OK, you knew that pun was coming sooner or later. I thought “let’s get it out of the way early.” It won’t happen again.]

  • The company’s name, Clif, also happens to be the first name of Erickson’s dad
  • Clif Bar took off soon after its founding and, by 2000, “Big Food” suitors looked to buy it. In fact, Quaker was prepared to snap Clif up for $120 million. Erickson was poised to sign the papers — his business partner wanted to sell; a less sure Erickson was going to go along with it…Until…Minutes before he was going to sign, Erickson said to the lawyers in attendance “I need to take a walk.” Upon returning, he said “no deal.” He wanted to remain independent, to run the company sustainably. A bank was found to loan Erickson money to buy out the partner and he was able to retain control of the company.
  • Staying independent spurred Erickson to incorporate a “Five Bottom Line” approach to sustainably managing the business, which ultimately became the “Five Aspirations,” which Clif incorporated into its bylaws in 2010:
    1. Sustaining the Business: Building a resilient company, investing for the long-term.
    2. Sustaining the Brands: Creating brands with integrity, quality and authenticity.
    3. Sustaining its People: Working side-by-side, encouraging each other, Clif is its people
    4. Sustaining Communities: Promoting healthy, sustainable communities, locally and globally
    5. Sustaining the Planet: Conserving and restoring natural resources while growing a business that operates in harmony with the laws of nature. To make good on this aspiration, Clif works diligently on four sustainability “progress areas”
      • Sustainable Food and Agriculture
      • Climate Action
      • Zero-waste
      • Conserve and restore natural resources

Beginning in 2002, major, long-term, sustainability-infused business decisions became hallmarks: Clif Bars would be made with organic and sustainable ingredients, baked in facilities that run on renewable energy, recycle all waste, come wrapped in eco-friendly packaging, and shipped in ways that don’t pollute.

 

Clif Bar

 

No sweat, right?

Those decisions have led to stunning results, as the company:

  • Earned organic certification for the Clif energy bar in 2003, the first of many of its foods to be so designated
  • Now generates 80 percent of the electricity used at its headquarters from an on-site solar array
  • Achieved an 88 percent diversion rate of waste from landfill
  • Is aggressively greening its supply chain. “We have a ’50/50 by 2020′ goal with our supply chain,” explained Hammond. “That means we are working with 50 supply chain facilities to source 50 percent or more the electricity used for Clif products from clean power by 2020.”
  • Is transitioning away from trucks and towards rail, which will result in a 70 percent reduction in transportation-related carbon emissions.
  • Reimburses employees up to $6,500 when they purchase a car that meets Clif standards including being electric or a hybrid that gets 45 miles per gallon or more

 

Adventure Sports Exemplify Clif Bar’s Ethos and Key to Early Growth

For Hammond, the Clif Bar-Sports story goes all the way back to that famous Epiphany Ride. “Climbing and cycling were foundational sports from the very beginning. Athletes were our first customers and have been evangelizing for Clif and a sustainable planet since the beginning. In fact, many of the athletes we sponsor are passionate environmentalists. Now, to get the full Clif Bar-Sports story, you should talk to Bryan Cole.”

Who is Bryan Cole? The 15-year Clif Bar veteran’s very long job title — senior manager of adventure sports marketing and environmental partnerships — is matched by the long list of adventure sports in which he takes part — Backcountry skier, mountain biker, surfer, and climber.

When Cole described his perfect work world being one “in which I can merge as many of Clif Bar’s Five Aspirations as possible into actual projects, with athletes who care about the planet,” I naturally asked for examples.

“On the micro-level, we took three pro athletes we sponsor — a snowboarder, a surfer, and a prone paddler — to Nicaragua ” shared Cole. “During the days, we worked on the ‘Sustaining our Communities’ aspiration with Surf For Life by helping to build a music room at a school. This allowed a marching band to form and have a place to practice.”

Looking through a wider lens, Cole also cited the company’s sponsorship of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team as being rooted in shared values and quality: “The relationship came to be because the team liked our products’ nutritional profile and taste and we are proud to support these athletes and a team whose values align with ours.”

 

Clif Bar Sponsored Athletes Go the Extra Green Mile

The environmental actions taken by many Clif athletes, from helping advocate in the fight against climate change to conservation advocacy, and more, are nothing short of incredible.

Snowboarder Jeremy Jones is the founder of Protect Our Winters (POW), originally a group of winter sports athletes who are at the forefront of rallying the outdoor sports community to build a movement against climate change. POW is in the early stages of expanding its athlete ambassador roster to include non-winter adventure sports.

 

Jeremy Jones - Jeff Curley - Clif

Jeremy Jones, founder of Protect Our Winters (Photo credit: Jeff Curley)

 

 

Greg Long, is a big wave surfer and an ambassador for the Surfrider Foundation and Parley for the Oceans, two innovative nonprofits dedicated to finding comprehensive solutions that will result in the protection of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches.

 

Greg Long, 2015

Greg Long (Photo credit: Clif Bar)

 

 

I saw big mountain skier Caroline Gleich speak powerfully about the urgency and importance of protecting America’s public lands from development at the 2015 Green Sports Alliance Summit in Chicago. Clif and Caroline are perfect partners.

 

DCIM100GOPROG0030053.JPG

Caroline Gleich (Photo credit: Caroline Gleich)

 

 

Forrest Shearer is a true Green-Sports renaissance man: Big mountain snowboarder. Surfer. POW member. Advocate for wilderness protection.

 

Forrest Shearer via Barbara Weber

Forrest Shearer (Photo credit: Protect Our Winters)

 

 

Mountain biker Casey Brown, from the woods of western Canada, needed funding to pursue her sport. “Casey turned down opportunities from energy drink companies as they and their products did not align with her values,” related Cole. “As part of our contract with Casey, we decided to create and have her wear a Clif branded helmet. This was one of our first moves into full helmet branding and we believed that her authenticity would connect with younger fans. So we made Casey a Clif Bar branded helmet and are glad we did.”

 

Casey Brown in Pemberton, British Columbia, August 2016.

Casey Brown (Photo credit: Sterling Lorence)

 

If Clif Bar Really Wants to Build the Climate Movement, Shouldn’t It Connect with MLB, NBA, etc.?

Clif Bar’s partnerships with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team, the athletes listed above, as well as with organizations like the Surfrider Foundation and more, make perfect sense from the brand’s outdoor, adventure, somewhat outsider image.

And that approach has certainly worked — while Clif is privately held and thus isn’t required to release sales figures, the company has been on a steady growth path, recently opening a state-of-the-art “green” bakery in Idaho and acquiring a bakery in Indiana. And its brand image is pristine and authentic.

But, if the company’s mission is to build a climate movement that touches and inspires as many people as possible, shouldn’t Clif become involved with the sports with the biggest followings? In North America, that, of course, means baseball, basketball, football, and more. Especially since athletes in those sports are increasingly embracing healthy eating as well as lifestyles. Or, would doing so put the company at risk of being seen as too mainstream, a sellout of sorts, by its fans as well as by the athletes they sponsor?

“Adventure sports is our heritage and we are therefore cautious regarding the bigger sports. We want to ‘keep it real’ for our athletes and consumers,” acknowledged Cole. “On the other hand, we do recognize that our products and our mission would appeal to athletes of all stripes and to their fans. So we will carefully explore working with more mainstream team and individual sports as time goes on.”

My 2¢? The big sports need the cache, authenticity, outsider-ness and energy that Clif Bar would bring them as much if not more so than Clif needs them. Thus, to my mind, Clif can thread the needle — keeping it real and going big league at the same time. I bet fitness and nutrition devotees like LeBron James, Serena Williams and/or Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, to name a very few, would be good fits for Clif — and vice versa.

 


 

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Coors Light Makes Sustainability a Part of its “Climb On” Marketing Campaign

Coors Light is the second biggest selling beer brand^ in the United States. The fact that Coors Light, MillerCoors, and global parent Molson Coors have made substantive commitments to environmental sustainability and carbon emissions reductions is significant if not surprising — competitors like AB-InBev and Carlsberg are on a similar path. What is news is that Coors Light is telling its sustainability stories to consumers through its “Climb On” campaign and its “EveryOneCan” initiative. GreenSportsBlog talked to Lane Goggin, Associate Marketing Manager at Coors Light, to learn more.

 

Sports sponsors have, for the most part, chosen not to tell their greening stories to fans. Sure, some über-green brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Vestas (wind power) and BASF have used sports to promote their sustainability bona fides and/or urge positive environmental action by fans. But the mainstream sports advertisers (car companies, athletic apparel, beer, etc.) have largely been silent.

Until now, that is.

Coors Light, the second biggest selling beer brand in the US, is, according to Associate Marketing Manager Lane Goggin, “capturing super-engaged sports fans, while they’re at games, watching on TV or scrolling through Instagram.”

 

Goggin Head Shot

Lane Goggin, Coors Light Associate Marketing Manager (Photo credit: Coors Light)

 

Coors Light Artfully Brings Its Green Messaging to Six Major League Baseball Ballparks

Baseball fans were engaged this season when the brand diverted thousands of cans left or collected in the stadium in a very, well, diverting way — they were turned into sculptures at six Major League Baseball stadiums where the brand has existing partnerships: AT&T Park (San Francisco Giants), Angels Stadium (Los Angeles Angels), Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks), Coors Field (Colorado Rockies) (no surprise there!), Safeco Field (Seattle Mariners), and SunTrust Park (Atlanta Braves). Once stadiums take down the artworks, all cans will go back into the production cycle, although most of the teams plan to keep the sculptures in place. Says Goggin, “We’ve gotten a great response from the teams, fans and the artists. They love it!”

 

Coors Light Rockies

Coors Light sculpture created with cans collected from the Rockies Green Team throughout the 2017 season is now in the Denver Rockie’s Coors Stadium. Pictured here with local artist and creator, Price Davis (Photo credit: Brandon Tormanen)

 

 

Coors Light Mariners

Seattle Mariners fans can enjoy the sculpture created by local artist Elizabeth Gahan at Edgar’s Home Run Porch (Photo credit (Photo credit: Victoria Wright)

 

 

Coors Light Braves

Kaylin Broussard created the Coors Light sculpture for the new Atlanta Braves Stadium, SunTrust Park (Photo credit: Coors Light)

 

 

Environmental Messaging Will Find Receptive Audience in Millennials 

And, while not sports-specific, these environmentally-themed initiatives are reaching sports fans via Coors Light media buys and other sports-focused marketing efforts:

  • EveryoneCan is a nationwide program built on the principle that everyone, from brewers to bartenders to consumers, can and should strive to practice environmental stewardship. The program includes a partnership with TerraCycle, the Trenton, NJ-based green business All-Star that upcycles recycled stuff into different stuff. Working with TerraCycle and other partners, Coors Light will reduce environmental impact in a variety of ways, including rewarding consumers with cooler bags made from recycled vinyl advertisements and grills made from recycled kegs.
  • Select Coors Light TV and digital ads contain the tagline “sustainably brewing the World’s Most Refreshing Beer.”
  • The Coors Light XP (experience) consumer rewards app includes grills made from recycled kegs.

 

Why is Coors Light featuring the environment in its messaging to sports fans (and to the broader public) while most other mainstream brands are not doing so — at least not yet?

Goggin cited several research studies which show that consumers, especially young adults, care about environmental sustainability: “According to one; the 2015 Nielsen Global Sustainability Report, 66 percent of consumers and 75 percent of millennials say they are willing to pay more for sustainable goods and that number is growing.”

And promoting a clean, healthy environment is something that fits Coors Light’s decades-long outdoorsy, rugged, pristine Rocky Mountain heritage like a glove. “At Coors, recycling is nothing new,” shared Goggin. “It started in the 1950s, when Bill Coors determined that there had to be a more sustainable way to package our beer. He went on to pioneer the recyclable aluminum can, and it wasn’t long before others followed his lead. Today, aluminum is still the sustainable standard in the industry.”

 

MillerCoors a Green Leader

Much more recently, MillerCoors built the most powerful solar array at any brewery in the United States in 2015 with its 3.2 megawatt facility in Irwindale, CA. The eight major MillerCoors breweries in the US are landfill free — meaning no glass, paperboard, plastics or metal waste are sent to landfills — as of February 2016, as verified by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Any remaining non-reusable or recyclable brewery waste is sent to a waste-to-energy facility, which has now become a standard practice across MillerCoors. Globally, Molson Coors is working towards reaching aggressive carbon footprint reduction targets by 2025: Reduce direct carbon emissions by 50 percent from a 2016 baseline, while achieving a 20 percent reduction from the entire supply/value chain.

 

MillerCoors Solar City

A portion of MillerCoors’ 3.2 megawatt solar array in Irwindale, CA (Photo credit: Solar City)

 

 

In addition to its broad, green-themed consumer marketing campaigns, Coors Light also connected with a much narrower target audience — green-sports practitioners — when it became the official beer sponsor of the 2017 Green Sports Alliance summit in Sacramento.

“Coors Light was the presenting sponsor and provided an indoor and outdoor bar,” related Goggin. “2017 was the right year to do it since we brought our sustainability messaging to sports venues and sports fans in a direct way. The Alliance Summit was a great opportunity for us to talk with and learn from so many green-sports experts. We learned a lot and hope to apply what we learned in the green-sports space going forward.”

 

Hope Coors Light Adds Climate Change to its Green Messaging

GreenSportsBlog hopes one of the most important things Coors Light learns from its forays into green-sports is that it is OK — and actually a plus — to mention “climate change” in its environmental sustainability-themed ads (and other messaging), including those that target sports fans.

The brand chose not to do so, despite millennials ranking climate change as the world’s most serious issue, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Shaper Survey#. Add to that the clear statement from Molson Coors saying it understands “the need to address the challenges that face our industry, from the impacts of climate change to the growing need to protect our natural resources.”

It says here that, if future green-themed Coors Light communications campaigns “go there” on climate change, millennials will react positively. But that is a discussion for another day. Today, Coors Light deserves major kudos for its big-brand, green-sports leadership.

Here’s one more GreenSportsBlog hope: That other big sports advertisers, especially those targeting the rising generations, follow the Coors Light example by serving up environmentally-themed messaging.

 

^ Bud Light is the biggest selling beer brand in the US
# World Economic Forum’s Global Shaper Survey talked to 31,000 18-35 year olds in 186 countries and territories

 


 

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Lonely Whale Foundation and Adrian Grenier Partner with Mariners, Sounders and Seahawks on “Strawless in Seattle” September

The Lonely Whale Foundation, co-founded by Adrian Grenier of HBO’s Entourage fame, is working with Seattle’s pro sports teams (Major League Baseball’s Mariners, the NFL’s Seahawks and the Sounders of Major League Soccer) to get fans to keep plastic out of the oceans by dramatically reducing their plastic straw usage. 

 

ADRIAN GRENIER PITCHES STRAWLESS IN SEATTLE PROGRAM

When Adrian Grenier took the mound at Seattle’s Safeco Field on September 1st, he wasn’t an out-of-left-field starting pitching choice for the American League wild card contending Mariners. No, the star of HBO’s Entourage threw out the first pitch for a different team — The Lonely Whale Foundation, the nonprofit he co-founded in 2015 with film producer Lucy Sumner — to help kickoff (sorry for the mixed sports metaphor there) Strawless in Seattle September, a new phase of their “#StopSucking” campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

StrawlessInSeattle-FullLogo_ (002)

 

“We are living during a critical turning point for our ocean, and that’s why I’m excited to celebrate the city of Seattle as a true ocean health leader,” said Grenier. “Alongside Lonely Whale Foundation, Seattle’s citywide commitment demonstrates our collective strength to create measurable impact and address the global ocean plastic pollution crisis. We are starting in Seattle with the plastic straw and see no limits if we combine forces to solve this global issue.”

CenturyLink Field is taking the Strawless in Seattle September baton from Safeco Field and the Mariners. The home of Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders and the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL has already switched to 100 percent paper straws — and they are only given out by request. During all September home games, those straws, made by Aardvark Straws, display the Strawless Ocean brand. The Sounders gave out those straws at their game vs. the LA Galaxy this past Sunday and will do so again when the Vancouver Whitecaps come to town on the 27th. The NFL’s Seahawks will go with the Strawless Ocean branding at their lone September home game — this Sunday’s home opener vs. the San Francisco 49ers. From the beginning of October through the end of the 2017 season and beyond, all straws at Seahawks home games, also made by Aardvark, will display the team’s logo.

 

Ocean + Strawless Straws

“Strawless Ocean”-branded paper straws are being given out all September long at Seattle Seahawks and Sounders home games at CenturyLink Field as well as at all Mariners September home contests at Safeco Field (Photo credit: Aardvark Straws)

 

Strawless in Seattle represents Phase III of Lonely Whale’s #StopSucking campaign. The idea, according to Dune Ives, the nonprofit’s executive director, “is to focus on one city, Seattle, where there already is a strong ‘healthy living’ ethos, to drive a comprehensive, monthlong campaign.” Sports is a key venue for the campaign; entertainment,  bars, and restaurants are three others.

 

Dune Ives_Executive director of Lonely Whale Foundation

Dune Ives, executive director of Lonely Whale Foundation (Photo credit: Lonely Whale Foundation)

 

Adrian Grenier challenged Russell Wilson, the Seahawks Pro Bowl quarterback, to get involved with Strawless in Seattle and #StopSucking. Wilson accepted and then challenged Seahawks fans (aka “the 12s” — for “12th man”) to do the same.

 

 

This builds upon a fun, #StopSucking-themed, celebrity-laden public service announcement (PSA) campaign, also from Lonely Whale Foundation. And ‘Hawks fans will also get into the “talk the strawless talk” act when they visit the #StopSucking photo booth at CenturyLink. I am sure there will be some, shall we say, colorful fan entries, depending on how the games are going.

 

#StopSucking PSA from the Lonely Whale Foundation is running as part of Strawless in Seattle campaign.

 

Phase I of the campaign focused on spreading the #StopSucking videos virally. “Sucker Punch,” an earlier humorous video under the #StopSucking umbrella, premiered at February’s South By Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, TX. “The ‘super slow motion’ visuals of celebrities from Neil DeGrasse Tyson to Sports Illustrated swimsuit models having their straws slapped out of their mouths by the tail of an ocean creature got a great response at South By Southwest and beyond,” said Ms. Ives.

 

The 1-minute long “Sucker Punch” video from The Lonely Whale Foundation, which premiered at SXSW this February.

 

The #StopSucking social media campaign, which constitutes Phase II, is, per Ms. Ives, “going gangbusters.”

It will take much more than the powerful, multi-phase #StopSucking campaign to make a significant dent in the massive, global plastic ocean waste problem. How significant? Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day.

You read that right: we use 500 million plastic straws every day. Right now there are “only” 327 million American humans.

Many of these plastic straws end up in the oceans, polluting the water and harming sea life. If we continue on our current path, plastics in the oceans, of which straws are a small but significant part, will outweigh all fish by 2050.

This is why there are many straw reduction, strawless, and switch-from-plastic-straw efforts. GreenSportsBlog featured one earlier this year, the powerful OneLessStraw campaign from the high school students/sister and brother tandem, Olivia and Carter Ries, co-founders of nonprofit OneMoreGeneration (OMG!)

Ms. Ives welcomes the company: “We have 50 NGO partners globally, all of whom do great, important work. We believe Lonely Whale fills in a key missing element: A powerful umbrella platform, which includes the right social media engagement tools, the right venues and the right celebrities to catalyze and grow the movement.”

As noted earlier, restaurants and bars are key venues for #StopSucking, but sports will always have a primary role. “It is inspiring to see our stadiums and teams taking a leadership position with the Strawless Ocean challenge,” enthused Ms. Ives. “Very few outlets exist that reach and influence so many individuals at one time and through their commitment, our teams are taking steps to significantly reduce their use of single-use plastics by starting first with the straw.”

And Seattle-based teams and athletes are not the only sports figures to join in. Grenier challenged Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson to join the campaign in August and Karlsson accepted. Maybe Lonely Whale should look north of the border for their next campaign.

After all, “Strawless with the (Ottawa) Sens” has a nice ring to it.

 


 

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