The Power of Partnership, the theme of the sixth annual Green Sports Alliance Summit, permeated its Opening Day at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, home of the Astros. The morning Thought Leadership Forum and the lunch-time Women, Sports & the Environment Symposium were as much about the ideas on how to advance the impact of the Green-Sports movement generated by small groups of attendees from diverse backgrounds and disciplines as they were about the presenters on the dais. Here are the highlights.
THOUGHT LEADERSHIP FORUM
Joe Khirallah, Green Sports Alliance Board Member, Founder and CEO of Green Bear Group and emcee for much of this year’s summit, began the proceedings with a challenge to each of the attendees: Make at least three new, real partnership contacts during the three days and, over the next year, turn at least one into a real partnership. Joe then put us to work as each of the 10-12 tables were tasked with delving into why partnerships in the Green-Sports world makes sense and how organizations go about making those partnerships work. Then a lucky volunteer from each table shared a story of an actual partnership that actually worked.
My table offered a mix of already existing partners—Susie Tomson, Sustainability Director of Land Rover BAR, the team trying to win Britain’s first America’s Cup (2017 in Bermuda), and to do so while reducing its carbon footprint, Ian Ellison, Sustainability Director at Land Rover and Jill Savery of 11th Hour Racing, Land Rover BAR’s Exclusive Sustainability Sponsor—along with a diverse and talented group of new potential collaborators, including Eric Moncrief, host of iHeart Radio’s Atlanta-based “Green Guy Show”, John Marler, Senior Director, Energy and Environment of AEG (he presented our case study of his company’s partnership with Schneider Electric on the building of the new, LEED certified T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas), Warren Gorowitz and Troy Smith from Phoenix-based Ewing Irrigation Landscape and Supply, sustainability strategist and consultant Kathleen Hatch.
John Marler, AEG’s Senior Director of Energy & Environment (Photo credit: Venues Today)
To be sure, there was a bit of “Captain Obvious”-ness to the why we partner (whole greater than the sum of the parts, generate added value, get green-sports to scale faster than would otherwise be the case) and how we partner (work with organizations with like values, go for the long-term commitment) across the tables. Yet I was struck by the resolve of the attendees as most seemed to acknowledge the challenges inherent in getting the sports world to care about sustainability and to push it harder–and that, basically, they don’t care, damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead. Jill Savery offered “Be courageous” as her how to partner example (it could’ve been a why answer as well) and that seemed embody the sense of the room.
WOMEN, SPORTS & THE ENVIRONMENT SYMPOSIUM
One can easily imagine the Women, Sports & Environment symposium panelists partnering with each other to accelerate green-sports. Facilitated by Alliance board member Jen Regan, the dais featured a league sustainability executive (Catherine Kummer from NASCAR Green), an architect who works on stadium projects (Sonya Jury, HOK), an executive from a leader in the greening of food services world (Jami Leveen, Aramark), an academic who works with students to green baseball’s All Star Game (Tiffany Richardson, University of Minnesota) and a green building consultant (Elaine Aye).
NASCAR’s Kummer’s presentation, which focused largely on data about NASCAR fans attitudes towards sustainability-related topics was, to my mind, the most eye-opening and also perplexing.
On the one hand, NASCAR Green’s achievements in only seven years are impressive:
- 22 corporate partners, focused solely on NASCAR’s greening efforts
- 85% of avid NASCAR fans are aware of NASCAR Green
- When NASCAR posted a carbon calculator quiz online recently, it drew 48,000 page views in 7 days, with 15,000 fans taking the quiz
- #NASCARGreen’s social media reach was 8.7 million in a 7 day period
Wait, there’s more:
- 87% of NASCAR fans believe climate change is real. A January 2016 Monmouth poll showed that only 70% of Americans concur.
- 67% believe it is human caused.
NASCAR CEO Brian France (l), Retired US General Wesley Clark and Vice President Al Gore (r) at the 2013 NASCAR Green Summit. (Photo credit: Getty Images)
What’s perplexing is this: Mr. France endorsed climate change denier Donald J. Trump for President. Drivers Chase Elliott, Ryan Newman and David Ragan did the same. NASCAR drivers for Hillary Clinton, who acknowledges climate change’s reality and human causation? I couldn’t find any.
And a September, 2015 poll from Alabama-based Yellowhammer News showed a 30-point spread in favor of Trump vs. Clinton.
There is just a slight disconnect here, one that GreenSportsBlog will explore further. And, based on the data Ms. Kummer presented, there seems to be an opportunity for Ms. Clinton to explore the Power of Partnership with NASCAR fans—or at least NASCAR Green fans.
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