Last week, Sir Ben Ainslie, the most decorated sailor in Olympic history, “won” GSB’s designation as the Green-Sports Greenwash of the Year. Sir Ben, previously lauded for his and his team’s sterling commitment to clean oceans, “earned” the “award” when he named the English fracking company Ineos as his team’s title sponsor ahead of its 2021 America’s Cup campaign.
Also last week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and UN Climate Change announced the Sports for Climate Action Framework. As part of the launch, they released a video featuring current and former Olympians urging the world to “win the race against climate change.”
Who was the first athlete to appear in the video? Sir Ben Ainslie.
While this may well be a case of the IOC and UN Climate Change not knowing about the Ainslie-Ineos partnership — or at least about Ineos and fracking — it’s also not the best way to kickoff Sports for Climate Action.
Sports played a role at the recently concluded UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland.
The Framework, according to a UN Climate Change press release, has two key goals:
Achieve a clear trajectory for the global sports community to combat climate change in ways that help meet the greenhouse gas emissions reductions goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
Use sports as a unifying tool to drive climate awareness and action among global citizens.
UN Climate and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), one of the Framework’s 17 founding signatories, produced a fast-paced, two-minute video to bring Sport for Climate Action to life. More than three dozen current and former Olympians urged viewers to support the initiative, repeating the mantra: “Together, let us win the race against climate change.”
Which athlete did the producers pick to lead off the video?
Absent the greenwash, Sir Ben was a sensible choice for that prime spot based on his commitment to sustainability and his global popularity. He promoted ocean health and, to a lesser degree, the climate fight, during his Land Rover BAR team’s three-year quest to win the 2017 America’s Cup that ultimately fell short.
What the powers-that-be at the IOC and UN Climate may not have been aware of is that Ainslie’s 2021 Cup campaign will cost as much as $40 million more than in 2017, when Land Rover BAR spent $135 million.
Sir Ben Ainslie (r), with Ineos CEO Jim Ratcliffe (Photo credit: Toby Melville/Reuters)
And perhaps the folks at the IOC and UN Climate who were responsible for the video hadn’t heard that, when British fracking and chemical company, Ineos, offered Ainslie $153 million to fund the lion’s share of his 2021 Cup quest, Sir Ben took the money.
If they did know that a fracking company is the lead funder of Sir Ben’s new Ineos Team UK, including him in the video, much less having him in the leadoff spot, would not have made sense.
So GreenSportsBlog reached out to UN Climate and the IOC to find out what they knew about the Sir Ben-Ineos partnership and when they knew it.
UN Climate has not yet responded, but the IOC issued this statement: “As an individual, an Olympic champion and a long-term supporter of the IOC’s sustainability initiatives, Sir Ben Ainslie is an outspoken advocate for climate change and other sustainability topics. This is why we wanted to add his voice to support the Sports for Climate Action Campaign. For more information about Sir [Ben] Ainslie’s sponsorship decisions, please contact his team directly.”
The IOC’s statement didn’t answer our question about what they knew about Ainslie’s partnership with a fracking company.
Our assumption was — and is — that the IOC didn’t know about the Ainslie-Ineos deal when they asked Sir Ben to do the video. It was likely just an honest mistake.
If that was the case, and our question was the first the IOC was hearing of Ainslie’s partnership with a fracking company, we simply wanted to know what they thought of it.
And they didn’t answer. Why not?
This shouldn’t be that difficult; it was a simple question. It gave the IOC the opportunity to explain.
By not doing so, the IOC leaves the impression that they are okay with Sir Ben’s greenwash.
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Corpus Christi, Texas became an unlikely center of the Green-Sports universe last month. That’s when the Youth Sailing World Championships brought a strong, new sustainability platform to the city on the Gulf of Mexico. It is fitting that leading the sustainability charge in South Texas was a relative newbie to Green-Sports, Elizabeth Kratzig.
GreenSportsBlog, always on the lookout for the next new thing, takes a look.
Elizabeth Kratzig has been sailing — and racing — almost all her life.
“I grew up on the water,” said Kratzig. “In fact, in 1991 I competed in the Youth Sailing World Championships (YSWC) in Scotland. Later, I competed for the US Sailing team and medaled in world championships in multiple classes. Then I coached 19 and unders for US Sailing.”
Sustainability? That’s a taste Kratzig acquired much more recently, as she was looking for ways to help her hometown, Corpus Christi, and the Corpus Christi Yacht Club in their bid to host the 2018 Youth Sailing World Championships.
“As a member of the Corpus Christi Yacht Club, host of the Youth Worlds, and an avid sailor, I knew that I wanted to be involved with the organizing committee of the YSWC.” Kratzig related. “I asked myself, ‘How can I assist the regatta?’ What can we — the South Texas sailing community— do differently?’ I began to think about how we could better care for our playing field — the water — as well as the land and air around it. I began to think about how we could make this a green event.”
She didn’t only think about greening the event, she dove in.
So, once Corpus Christi won the bid to host the 2018 Youth Sailing World Championships, Kratzig began volunteering with the Host Committee’s Green Team Committee (GTC), ultimately becoming its co-chair alongside Dr. David McKee. They brought in key people to the Green Team including leaders in local and state conservation groups, leaders from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and key personnel from city government.
Green Team Co-Chair, Elizabeth Kratzig, addresses competitors about how they can support the sustainability program at the Youth Sailing World Championships (Photo credit: Jen Edney/World Sailing)
And Kratzig, like the sailor she is, kept grinding towards greening the event: “We met with Sailors For The Sea, the Newport, RI nonprofit that certifies sustainable regattas, to learn about best practices. Finally, last September, we decided to go for platinum, their highest certification.”
LEAVING A SUSTAINABILITY LEGACY FOR SOUTH TEXAS
The Green Team worked with a variety of South Texas organizations, from the Corpus Christi Arts Center to Surfider (volunteers from the local chapter took part in beach cleanup before the event). And Kratzig, who ultimately became the Green Team’s Co-Chair, and team asked Todd McGuire, Program Director of 11th Hour Racing – an organization that establishes strategic partnerships within sailing and maritime communities to promote collaborative, systemic change benefitting the health of the ocean – for funding to help offset costs involved with going green at the platinum level.
Thing was, platinum certification from Sailors for the Sea was not going to be enough for 11th Hour Racing.
According to Kratzig, 11th Hour Racing’s vision goes beyond supporting a one-time regatta: “McGuire said ‘We need you to leave a lasting sustainability legacy, a lasting environmental movement, if we’re going to invest.’ So we went back to the drawing board to develop environmental programs that would live long after the Youth Worlds left Corpus Christi.”
Todd McGuire, Program Director of 11th Hour Racing (Photo credit: Jen Edney/US Sailing)
When Kratzig and company went back to 11th Hour Racing this February, they did so offering a laundry list of legacy-building sustainability initiatives:
Sustainability would be embedded in all aspects of the 2018 Youth World Sailing Championship.
The Green Team Committee teamed up with the Texas Sailing Association to use the TSA platform and Youth Circuit to educate sailors about ways to protect their local waters. The TSA pledged to work with Sailors for the Sea and bring Clean Regatta practices to all Texas Youth Circuit Regattas.
The Green Team created a sustainability event plan for Corpus Christi. It provides guidelines and resources for other organizations in the area to run sustainable events.
The Youth Worlds’ website would feature green content. “This is important,” offered Kratzig. “Only a small amount of spectators follow the race live in Corpus Christi. Most of them watch online so we need to be there with sustainability messaging.”
Art exhibits in the city would contain environmental messaging during the month of the regatta, including a chandelier made of over 1200 plastic bottles that would be hung in the Corpus Christi airport.
The 2018 Youth World Sailing Championships would measure a variety of sustainability metrics, from electricity usage to waste to water usage diversity. Among other things, this would serve as a benchmark for future Youth Worlds, starting with the 2019 edition in Gdynia, Poland.
The Host Committee and its team of volunteers would do everything possible to dot every green “i” at the event. Per Kratzig, “We even greened up our fences, replacing zip ties with more sustainable reusable bungees.”
A sustainability report would be written after the event based on Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards.
Environmental education would be offered to all 381 sailors from over 60 countries at the 2018 Youth Worlds. Since 80 percent of all Olympic sailing medalists have competed in the Youth Worlds, there’s a good chance that some of the participants will, in a few years time, have a big platform from which to share the sustainable sailing lessons they learned in Corpus Christi.
The Green Team’s legacy pitch was a success, as 11th Hour Racing soon became the event’s Official Sustainability Partner.
And, per the Green Team, the event was a success from a variety of sustainability metrics:
They were thisclose to being a Zero-Waste event as they diverted 89.8 percent of waste via recycling and composting — the threshold for Zero-Waste is 90 percent!
Almost 45,000 16 oz. water bottles were saved by enforcing the use of reusable bottles
A solar powered compost machine was used
Plastic Straws were banned from many areas around the regatta and all competitors were given stainless steel straws donated by Sailors for the Sea.
A solar-powered compost machine helped reduce waste by composting food scraps (Photo credit: James Tomlinson/ World Sailing)
Kudos to the Green Team for fielding pre- and post-event sustainability surveys. This needs to be the rule, not the exception, for all sports events.
2018: WORLD SAILING’S GREENEST YEAR EVER
World Sailing, the governing body that serves 70 million sailors and the sport’s 250 million followers, sees the greening of the Youth Worlds as just the latest example of what has become a very strong 2018, sustainability-wise, rebounding from a controversy-laden 2016 surrounding the decision to host of Olympic sailing at Rio’s severely polluted Guanabara Bay.
According to Dan Reading World Sailing’s Sustainability Programme Manager, “Young people really get sustainability. Mom and dad? It’s much harder to change their minds. That’s why we made the environment such a focus at this year’s Youth Worlds. And that’s just a part of our much more ambitious and strategic approach to sustainability over the last year or so. After all, sailors work and play on the water, they understand the power of nature. Most importantly, sailors see what’s happening to the oceans in terms of plastic and other waste up close. They’re sustainability specialists.”
In the last year alone, World Sailing (which, in addition to the Youth Worlds, sanctions the America’s Cup, and Volvo Ocean Race) launched a raft of sustainability initiatives — from boat construction to the significant reduction in the use of single use plastics, from environmentally friendly packaging to diversity.
Climate change has also become more of a focus. “Sailing teams from Pacific island nations like Fiji and Vanuatu see effects of climate change every day,” said Reading. “So we’re measuring our carbon footprint, including the emissions of our supply chain.”
The Green Team decided to measure how their sustainability efforts are playing with participants, team leaders, coaches, and volunteers. “The Green Team approached Brian McCullough, an expert in Green-Sports at the University of Seattle, to assist in developing a longitudinal survey [i.e. before and after] that looks at how attitudes about the environment and environmental behaviors are changing among sailors and fans,” reported Kratzig. “It’s early yet, but survey response rates have been good.”
The upshot? The post-race survey showed a dramatic and positive change in sustainability habits and attitudes. Of those responding to the survey:
The event’s sustainability theme resulted in more than 80 percent to stop buying single-use plastic completely and more than 40 percent to recycle.
87.6 percent thought the sustainability focus enhanced the event
95.6 percent would like to see sustainability and ocean conservation at all sailing events.
The organization promotes its sustainability initiatives to the sailing media, along with local media where it hosts regattas.
That was the case in South Texas with the 2018 Youth Sailing World Championships. “Our sustainability story got good local coverage,” Kratzig reported. “The Corpus Christi ABC and NBC affiliates covered us as did print and online media.”
Given GSB’s belief that getting media of all stripes to #CoverGreenSports is the most important thing the Green-Sports movement can do right now, a heartfelt thank you goes to Elizabeth Kratzig, her Green Team and World Sailing.
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Sir Ben Ainslie is the most decorated sailor in Olympics history. As skipper of Land Rover BAR, the British entry in the 2017 America’s Cup in Bermuda, he won deserved plaudits from the green and sports worlds, for making environmental sustainability, in particular ocean health, a core value of his team.
One thing Land Rover BAR did not win was the 2017 America’s Cup, despite spending in the neighborhood of £100 million ($USD135 million) over the four-year cycle. By some estimates, it will cost as much as 30 percent more to mount a legitimate campaign for the 2021 Cup, to be contested in New Zealand.
So when British fracking and chemical company, Ineos, and its founder Jim Ratcliffe, offered Ainslie £110 million ($153 million) to fund the lion’s share of his 2021 America’s Cup quest, Sir Ben had a choice: Take the money and risk being labeled a greenwasher, or keep his good name and his well-earned global reputation as an eco-athlete among fans, his competitors, sponsors and more.
He chose the money.
Since 2015, GreenSportsBlog has posted no less than 10 stories featuring Sir Ben Ainslie and his Land Rover BAR sailing team’s significant and substantive sustainability programs, including an interview with Sir Ben. I publicly lauded his and his team’s sustainability bona fides any chance I got.
That is why, as recently as two weeks ago, I could not have imagined writing this sentence:
Sir Ben Ainslie is a greenwasher.
Sir Ben earned that moniker with the April 26th announcement that his team had signed Ineos, one of the UK’s leading fracking firms, as title sponsor for its 2021 America’s Cup campaign. This was big news beyond merely the Green-Sports niche: The Guardian and CNN, among others, covered it.
Jim Ratcliffe (l), CEO of Ineos, with Sir Ben Ainslie (Photo credit: Toby Melville/Reuters)
To get a sense of how stunning Ainslie’s 180 degree flip from eco-athlete to greenwasher is, one has to turn back the clock only two years or so.
AINSLIE WALKED SUSTAINABILITY WALK AND TALKED SUSTAINABILITY TALK IN 2017 AMERICA’S CUP CAMPAIGN
It is no exaggeration to say that sustainability was the most core of core values — along with trust and integrity — for the Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) team during its four year campaign to win the 2017 America’s Cup. The team:
Built a state-of-the-art home base in Portsmouth to BREEAM Excellent (the British equivalent of LEED Gold) standards
Used Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to measure and improve the efficiency of its use of resources, including from a carbon point of view, in the building of its race and support boats. This was a first in sailing
Promoted its clean oceans ethos to fans around the world during the America’s Cup World Series prep races and at the America’s Cup finals in Bermuda through engaging, interactive educational programs
Shared its sustainability stories with millions of fans around the world through a myriad of mainstream, sailing and green media
Land Rover BAR would not have been able to pull the above without its groundbreaking and close partnership with 11th Hour Racing.
The Newport, RI-based organization partners with elite sailing teams committed to sustainable practices, providing them with financial, technical and other support. America’s Cup hopeful Land Rover BAR was certainly the organization’s highest profile elite sailing team partner. In addition to an annual investment estimated to be in the seven figures, 11th Hour Racing provided Sir Ben and his team with a wide range of sustainability-related services.
As Jeremy Pochman, 11th Hour Racing’s President, said in an April, 2016 GreenSportsBlog post, “We work with [Land Rover BAR] to meet the ambitious standards we set together: challenge and change practices in technology, procurement, energy production and use, efficiency, economy, community and legacy.”
Jeremy Pochman, President, 11th Hour Racing (Photo credit: Yachts And Yachting)
In the same story, Sir Ben showed he was fully on board: “It was clear to me when we launched the team that we could make a real difference – to operate sustainably, protect the marine environment and positively impact the people and local businesses we needed to build a winning team. With the help of 11th Hour Racing, we’ve set up Land Rover BAR to be one of the most sustainable sports teams on the planet.”
“In the last 30 years, climate change has accelerated and we have lost the equivalent of a third of the size of Europe in Arctic sea ice. The impact of this change is an infrastructure breakdown in some parts of the world, with increased conflict and migration as people are displaced in their efforts to survive; and agriculture and food supply are lost through extreme weather events, such as huge droughts or severe flooding.”
“We have already seen a one degree global temperature rise since pre-industrial levels. I’ve got a 3-month old daughter and if we continue to do nothing then in her lifetime she will see a further three degree global increase. It will lead to a sea level rise of almost a meter and potential loss of over 24 per cent of the mammals and half of the plant species currently on the planet. In that scenario we can anticipate massive disruption to society as individuals and nations struggle for the resources – water, food, energy – required to survive.”
When one takes into account the depth of this quote and Ainslie’s massive global popularity (sailing is a very big deal in many countries, not so much in the U.S.), it’s not a stretch to say that Sir Ben was the most influential eco-athlete in the world.
SAY IT AIN’T SO! SIR BEN SELLS OUT FOR INEOS’ FRACKING MONEY
What a difference a year makes.
Last year at this time, Land Rover BAR and 11th Hour Racing were working together to bring sustainability to racing fans in Bermuda, site of the 2017 America’s Cup finals.
But just a couple of weeks ago, Sir Ben announced he had ditched incumbent title sponsor Land Rover — which supported the team’s sustainability ethos in a number of ways — for fracking^ giant Ineos.
As reported by Matthew Campelli in Sport Sustainability Journal on April 30, Ainslie’s partnership with 11th Hour Racing also is no more. While representatives of the organization declined to comment for this story, it seems impossible to imagine that 11th Hour Racing would have worked with Ineos Team GB. Pochman, co-founder Wendy Schmidt and the rest of the 11th Hour Racing team must feel gutted.
During happier times, Sir Ben Ainslie with Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of 11th Hour Racing (Photo credit: Harry Kenney-Herbert/Land Rover BAR)
What the frack happened?
The prospect of skippering Britain’s first-ever America’s Cup win clearly trumped Sir Ben’s (I guess not so deep) commitment to sustainability.
And, with costs to mount a 2021 America’s Cup campaign expected to run as much as 30 percent higher as compared to 2017, money was an understandable concern for Ainslie.
Until Ineos’ Jim Ratcliffe, recently announced as Britain’s richest man, stepped up with his £110 million offer, that is.
Ainslie was quoted thusly by Martha Kelner in the April 26 issue of The Guardian: “The investment of Ineos leaves us with our best ever chance of bringing the America’s Cup home.” Allow me to translate that bland, press release-type language into what Sir Ben might have been thinking: Hmmm, with Ineos providing virtually all of my funding needs, I can focus on sailing pretty much 24-7. Land Rover and 11th Hour Racing won’t be able to cover our expenses by themselves so if I stayed with them, I would have had to spend valuable time selling more sponsors. And, if we end up needing additional funding, Mr. Ratcliffe can probably ring up his friends Charles and David Koch to sign on Koch Industries. OK let’s do this!
In the same story, somehow, the depth of climate change knowledge Sir Ben expressed in late 2016 eluded him in 2018: “Fracking is not a subject I’m an expert on, but I know, having worked with Ineos for this partnership, that they take their responsibilities with the environment extremely seriously.” Translation: Climate change? Sustainability? I want to talk about sailing! Of course if — strike that — when we bring the America’s Cup home to Britain, all of this will be forgotten by my fans, the media, everyone.
WILL FANS CARE?
Aside from some excited comments about the new partnership from sailing and technological perspectives, early reaction on Ineos Team GB’s Facebook account was largely negative. Many commenters were disgusted with Sir Ben’s turn towards Ineos and fracking and away from sustainability. Here’s a sampler:
$217 million buys your conscience and your morals? WOW! The seas are murderously loaded with plastics and your sponsor is a plastics manufacturer who intends to turn the UK into a toxic teabag for fracked gas. You are clearly seeing the dollars but ignoring the two most important issues of life, environment and health.
Please think about it. Ineos will pollute the ground. It’s not a safe bet for sponsorship.
Ineos is a fracking company which brings significant challenges for ongoing public support for the team.
But the sad truth is winning does cure pretty much everything, at least from a PR perspective. Many fans across all sports, from all corners of the world, excuse awful behavior from the favorite players, from domestic violence to tax fraud to PED# use, as long as they win. Sir Ben didn’t cheat. He didn’t beat anyone.
All Ainslie did was play the fans, sponsors and media — yours truly included — who bought into his “commitment to sustainability” spiel for fools.
All he did was make a mockery of his core values.
And all he did was show his now two year-old daughter that he values an America’s Cup on the mantel more than clean oceans and a hospitable climate.
Say in ain’t so, Ben.
^ Fracking (also known by its more technical name, hydraulic fracturing) is a process by which large amounts of water and sand, combined with often hazardous chemicals, are injected, at high rates of pressure, into rock formations to fracture surrounding material for the purpose of extracting oil and gas. Its negative environmental and health impacts are legion, many of which would’ve concerned pre-Ineos Sir Ben. These include contamination of groundwater, large volume water use in water-challenged regions, methane pollution which exacerbates climate change, exposure to toxic chemicals, and fracking-induced earthquakes.
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THIS STORY IS AN UPDATE OF A PIECE THAT FIRST APPEARED IN SUSTAINABLE BRANDS ON JANUARY 2, 2018
Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s team director Mark Towill and skipper Charlie Enright take on challenges the way most people layer cold cuts; one on top of the other. The duo and their team are 1) one of seven squads trying to win the Around the World Volvo Ocean Race, a nine-month sailing slog, over 45,000 nautical miles, in all sorts of weather; 2) doing so while being the most sustainable team in the race; and 3) working to increase public awareness, concern and action on behalf of ocean health.
No problem, right?
Perhaps the main reason they have a chance to succeed on all three counts is the unique collaboration between sport (Towill and Enright), business (Vestas, the largest wind turbine maker in the world) and philanthropy (11th Hour Racing, an organization that promotes ocean health via the sponsorship of elite sailing teams).
A LIFELONG INTEREST IN OCEAN HEALTH; A DESIRE TO COMPETE IN THE PINNACLE OF OPEN OCEAN SAILING RACING
For Mark Towill, concern about ocean health goes back to childhood. “I saw significant amounts of marine debris up close, growing up on the water in Hawai’i,” said the team director of Vestas 11th Hour Racing, one of seven sailing squads competing to win the Volvo Ocean Race.
Towill attended Honolulu’s Punahou High School, alma mater of Barack Obama. In his senior year, he met environmentally minded Rhode Island native Charlie Enright during filming of the documentary “Morning Light,” produced by Roy Disney, in which young sailors competed in the TransPac Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu.
Vestas 11th Hour Racing team director Mark Towill (top) and skipper Charlie Enright (Credit for both photos: Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race)
The duo sailed for Brown’s nationally ranked team in the mid-2000s; it was at the Providence, RI university that Towill and Enright hatched their dream of leading a team in the Volvo Ocean Race, the pinnacle of open ocean racing. Making that dream a reality costs serious money — upwards of $20 million — but only a few years after Enright graduated in 2008, the business majors (Towill also majored in environmental science) set out to raise the money to fund a boat for the 2014-15 race.
Surprisingly to many in the sailing world, a three-year effort to find a major sponsor bore fruit when Alvimedica, a new Turkish medical equipment manufacturer, signed on.
SEEING OCEAN WASTE AND EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE DURING 2014-15 VOLVO OCEAN RACE
Towill’s and Enright’s first trip around the world was peppered by a substantial amount of ocean waste.
“The amount of marine debris we encountered was truly astonishing,” marveled Charlie Enright. “We expected to see plenty of ‘leakage’ — all sorts of materials from container ships that would fall into the ocean — and we did. But the old refrigerators, air conditioners and tires we saw floating around in the middle of the ocean — they didn’t fall off of ships. The waste was so thick, it looked like you could walk in some parts of the waters between Malaysia and Indonesia, thanks to the lax dumping regulations.”
As one might expect, the ocean waste occasionally slowed Team Alvimedica’s progress. “It hindered our performance, big time. Sometimes, when the boat would slow down, we would send someone overboard to go underwater and take the stuff off,” offered Enright. “Of course, it wasn’t only our boat that had to deal with this problem; it affected everyone in the race.”
They also observed the effects of climate change up close. “One way we saw this was through ‘ice gates,’ which are established for safety reasons by race organizers to represent the northernmost and southernmost latitudes beyond which the boats cannot safely sail,” explained Enright. “Because of climate change, icebergs are floating further south from the Arctic regions and further north from the Antarctic. That meant that, for example, the Cape Town to Melbourne leg’s Antarctic ice gates were pushed further north for the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race than they would have been in prior years.”
Even before Team Alvimedica’s fifth place finish in their maiden 2014-15 voyage, Towill and Enright began planning for the race’s 2017-18 edition.
The pair had worked with a sustainability consultant to determine the environmental impact of their 2014-15 journey, establishing a baseline for the next go-round. More importantly, it says here, they made a commitment that improving ocean health as well as fighting climate change would be core values for both the team as well as prospective sponsors. Their goals were, of course, modest: Just win the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race and be, as Towill put it, “the [event’s] most sustainable team.”
Vestas 11th Hour Racing aims to win the 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race, be the event’s most sustainable team, and, in the process, increase public awareness, concern and action on behalf of ocean health (Photo credit: Martin Keruzore/Volvo Ocean Race)
With that dual mission firmly in place, it is highly doubtful that the team director and skipper could have found a better title partner pairing than Vestas and 11th Hour Racing.
VESTAS: PARTNERSHIP WITH TOWILL/ENRIGHT, 11TH HOUR RACING AND VOLVO OCEAN RACE IS A PERFECT FIT
To Magnus Bach, senior director of global marketing at Aarhus, Denmark-based Vestas, the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer, co-sponsoring Towill and Enright’s team with 11th Hour Racing, a program of The Schmidt Family Foundation focused on ocean health, was a perfect storm of sorts: “We see ourselves as the ‘above the water surface’ sustainability partner with our focus on wind energy and climate solutions. Meanwhile, 11th Hour Racing brings its ‘below the surface’ expertise on ocean waste and ocean health.”
Magnus Bach, senior director of global marketing at Vestas (Photo credit: Magnus Bach)
Bach says the relationship between Vestas, Towill/Enright and 11th Hour Racing came about thanks to the matchmaking skills of Volvo Ocean Race executives: “Having sponsored a team in the 2014-15 cycle, we knew the ropes a bit. Our goal in 2017-18 was to partner with a team that would make a serious, long-term commitment to sustainability and to the climate change fight; we were not interested in a one-off. Knowing this, our friends at the Volvo Ocean Race introduced us to Mark and Charlie in December 2016. From there, the relationship between us, the guys and 11th Hour Racing crystallized quickly and we announced our joint partnership in March.”
The strategic and technical fit between Vestas and sailing could not be tighter and is a prime reason the company also serves as the Data Analytics Partner of the race itself. Bach noted Vestas “is in the business of harvesting wind and so, of course, is sailing. And think about this: the aerodynamics of a hull is somewhat similar to that of a wind blade; in fact many of its engineers have worked in both sailing and the wind business. Vestas also has the biggest climate library in the world — the amount of data in the wind business is staggering — which the sailors use to help with navigation.”
Sponsoring the team and the race provides Vestas with unmatched business building opportunities. “We are a business-to-business company — we sell wind turbines and service solutions mostly to utility companies around the world — so doing a big, consumer-facing sponsorship with, for instance, a soccer team like Manchester United or Liverpool does not make sense for us,” asserted Bach. “The global nature of the race and the intimate nature of its stops provides us with powerful opportunities to entertain some of our existing partners along with new prospects, wherever they may be located. This makes the Volvo Ocean Race a stronger option for us than, say, the America’s Cup, which takes place in far fewer locales.”
11TH HOUR RACING: SAILING SPONSOR WITH A POSITIVE ENVIRONMENTAL PURPOSE
When you think of a typical corporate sponsor of a sports team or event, what kind of company comes to mind? A car company? A beer brand, perhaps? No matter what category you chose, you know that companies spend substantial sums to put their products or services in front of their target audiences so they can sell more of those products or services.
Newport, RI-based 11th Hour Racing is not a corporation, and it is not selling a product or service.
Rather, the organization pays for the privilege of selling behavior change — positive environmental actions, primarily surrounding ocean health — to dual audiences: 1. World class sailing teams and, sometimes, the races in which they compete, and 2. The millions of sailing fans worldwide who follow the teams, and races.
How does 11th Hour Racing help close its “sale”? By acting as sustainability consultant — helping to develop sustainability plans — as well as a marketing and communications agency of sorts for the teams it sponsors in the world’s most widely followed sailing races.
They played this role for Land Rover BAR, the British entry in the 35th America’s Cup held in 2017. And, with a history of support for Towill and Enright, it’s not surprising they are doing the same as part of the Vestas 11th Hour Racing team. And, if that’s not enough, 11th Hour Racing is also providing sustainability consulting services to the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race as Founding Principal Sustainability Partner and Race Partner.
VESTAS 11TH HOUR RACING TEAM: A WORLD CLASS COLLABORATION
11th Hour Racing’s collaboration with Towill, Enright along with Vestas for the 2017-18 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race resulted in a comprehensive and groundbreaking sustainability, communications, legacy and reporting plan that put the team on a path to make good on its “most sustainable team in the race” pledge — and more. Sustainability and communications initiatives include:
Calculating Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s carbon footprint by tracking all travel, accommodations, electricity usage, water consumption and waste. That footprint will be offset at race’s end.
Outfitting each team member with a “sustainability kit” containing refillable water bottle, coffee mug, bamboo toothbrushes, and much more. It also includes a personal water filter to ensure clean, safe drinking water.
Creating a positive plastic footprint by removing more trash from beach cleanups than they create during the race
Using a desalinator for on-board water needs, saving an estimated 13,500 one-liter water bottles
Achieving a 75 percent waste diversion rate
Wearing Karün sunglasses made from 100 percent recycled fishing nets and using Aethic sunblock, produced with a unique formula that does not harm coral reefs
Sourcing local, sustainable foods from the countries they visit
Following a Meatless Monday diet
Designing and operating Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s Exploration Zones at 10 of the 12 race stops. The Exploration Zone is a dedicated, immersive educational space where the public learns about renewable energy and ocean health through the prism of sailing’s most crucial elements; wind and water. From virtual reality goggles to interactive displays, the space drew thousands of people each day at the race’s first three stops (Alicante, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal, and Cape Town, South Africa). Visitors can also charge their phone using a grinder similar to the ones on board the race boat, and make their own public pledge for a sustainable future.
Raising awareness of the team’s vision of a cleaner, healthier environment at race stops and during the race via the Vestas 11th Hour Racing website, Social Media channels and the #LeadingSustainability hashtag
Video detailing the Vestas 11th Hour Racing “Exploration Zone” (1 min 6 sec)
At each Volvo Ocean Race stopover, Vestas 11th Hour Racing will be meeting with a local non-profit to learn more about their environmental work.
11th Hour Racing will be giving a $10,000 grant to each of these non-profits as part of the team’s mission to leave a lasting legacy beyond the race.
11th Hour Racing is using the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) template to monitor the team’s progress (or lack thereof) towards reaching its sustainability goals after each legs. A final sustainability report will be issued after the race ends.
YOU PLAY TO WIN THE RACE!
To paraphrase the famous 2002 rant of Herm Edwards, the preacher-like former head coach of the New York Jets (a woebegone American football team, for those unfamiliar with U.S. sports), ESPN commentator, and soon-to-be head man at Arizona State University, “You play to win the Volvo Ocean Race!!”
Former NY Jets head coach Herm Edwards’ now infamous 2002 “You Play to Win the Game” rant (37 seconds)…
…and the Vestas 11th Hour Racing team, “playing to win the race…while being its most sustainable team!” (Photo credit:
Winning would be a great boost for the awareness and impact of the Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s sustainability leadership.
Towill and Enright are, of course, all in on winning both the Volvo Ocean and sustainability races.
“Winning the race is of paramount importance and a massive challenge. Know that our team is up for it,” said Mark Towill. “Ocean health and climate change are also of paramount importance. That’s why we set out to be the most sustainable team in the Volvo Ocean Race. Thanks to Vestas and 11th Hour Racing, we’re on the way to achieving the environmental goals. As for the race, that’s on us!”
After winning the first leg from Alicante, Spain to Lisbon, Vestas 11th Hour Racing earned third place honors in both the second (Lisbon-Cape Town) and third (Cape Town-Melbourne) chapters. Thus the team left Melbourne tied for second place when the fourth leg set off on January 2 for Hong Kong, with expected arrival on January 19.
After Hong Kong, the race proceeds to Guangzhou (China) then back to Hong Kong. After that, it’s on to Auckland (New Zealand), Itajaí (Brazil), Newport (Rhode Island, USA), Cardiff (Wales), Gothenberg (Sweden), before finishing in The Hague (Netherlands) at the end of June.
Innovation is fast becoming a Green-Sports watchword and it undergirds today’s GSB News & Notes: PyeongChang, South Korea, host of the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, will be the first to feature self-driving buses. Reebok will bring plant-based footwear to the market later this year. And Vestas, the only global energy company dedicated solely to wind, partners with 11th Hour Racing to bring a forward-looking sustainability message to the 2018 Volvo Ocean Sailing Race.
SELF-DRIVING BUSES AT PYEONGCHANG 2018 WINTER OLYMPICS
South Korean telecommunications company KT Corporation plans to launch its next generation 5G cellular network in 2019. The Official Telecommunications Provider of the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in PyeongChang will use the quadrennial event to pilot the new technology. State-of-the art cell phones, 22nd century virtual reality devices and drone deliveries are only some of the 5G applications that will be on display at the Games.
In concert with the South Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and partner companies Samsung Electronics, Ericsson, Nokia and Intel; KT Corporation will unveil self-driving shuttle buses in PyeongChang during the Games.
Self-driving shuttle bus from KT Corporation will be featured during PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games in South Korea. (Photo credit: KT Corporation)
Per a story by Yoon Sung-won in the Korea Times, the self-driving buses were tested Tuesday (Monday in the US) at an event in snowy PyeongChang. “The bus was connected to a control center through the 5G network at the venue and drove itself through a short route. It automatically stopped as a car appeared in front of it and slowed down over a slippery road covered with snow.”
The driverless shuttles, which will bring fans, staff and media from the city center to a variety of Olympics venues, are projected to reduce energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions and accidents vs. their human-driven counterparts.
REEBOK TO MAKE SHOES FROM “THINGS THAT GROW”
The athletic shoe and apparel industries are bringing innovative Green-Sports products to market at a breakneck pace. Nike’s new FlyKnit shoes cut waste by 80 percent. adidas recently-launched UltraBOOST Uncaged Parleysneakers are made from 95 percent plastic ocean waste.
Reebok, a division of adidas, will join the greening fray by bringing plant-based footwear to the market later this year; an initiative the company says will create shoes that are “made from things that grow.” The first release will be a shoe that has an upper, the part that goes over the top of the foot, comprised of organic cotton and a base originating from industrially-grown corn (a non-food source). Reebok is partnering with DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products to create the “Cotton + Corn” shoes.
Prototype of Reebok Cotton + Corn sneakers, made of plant-based materials. (Photo credit: Reebok)
The Cotton + Corn initiative impacts all three phases of the product lifecycle in textbook “Cradle to Cradle” fashion. In the development phase, Reebok uses materials that grow and can be replenished, rather than the petroleum-based materials used today. When the product hits the market, the company has ensured consumers that they won’t have to sacrifice performance and style. Finally, the plant-based materials in the the shoes are compostable at the end of the lifecycle. Reebok says it will take back used sneakers and compost them to grow the materials for the next batch of shoes.
Bill McInnis, head of Reebok Future, told Environmental Leader’s Jennifer Hermes on April 5 that the plant-based shoes will be a bit more expensive to create at first than their traditional rubber, polyurethane, and synthetic rubber counterparts: the company is using new materials that it has not used previously and the small quantities at launch limit economies of scale.
The Reebok Future team has been at work on this concept in various forms for over five years. According to McInnis, its focus is on “making more sustainable products and minimizing our environmental impact” that don’t compromise on quality so consumers will not be forced to choose between style, comfort and the environment.
VESTAS AND 11TH HOUR RACING TEAM UP TO BRING SUSTAINABILITY TO VOLVO OCEAN SAILING RACE
Global wind power company Vestas recently announced a partnership with 11th Hour Racing, to bring a strong sustainability message to the ’round the world 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race by their sponsorship of the American duo of Charlie Enright and Mark Towill. Before that, 11th Hour Racing, a program of The Schmidt Family Foundation which establishes strategic partnerships within the sailing world to promote systemic change for the health of our marine environment, will put sustainability front and center at this summer’s America’s Cup in Bermuda via its sponsorship of Land Rover BAR, the British entrant.
Charlie Enright and Mark Towill will bring their sustainability message around the world in the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race, with the support of Vestas and 11th Hour Racing. (Photo credit: Billy Weiss/VOR)
The Vestas-11th Hour Racing-Enright-Towill campaign is a unique platform for the Danish company to promote its vision, which is to be the global leader in sustainable energy solutions.
“Our partnership with 11th Hour Racing sends a very strong signal with two leading players within sustainability combining forces to promote sustainable solutions within wind and water,” said Vestas President and CEO Anders Runevad.
Wendy Schmidt, 11th Hour Racing Co-Founder and President of The Schmidt Family Foundation, added: “Mark and Charlie have been serving as ambassadors for 11th Hour Racing for the past two years, having witnessed first hand during the last Volvo Ocean Race the many ways pollution and plastic debris are destroying ocean life and threatening all of us. Our partnership with Vestas is about inspiring positive change in the way we think about energy and the natural resources of the planet.”
The Vestas-11th Hour Racing sustainability message will start its circumnavigation of the globe with Enright and Towill when the race departs Alicante, Spain in late October. They then will travel 45,000 nautical miles with stops at Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Cardiff and Gothenburg before the finish in The Hague.
Map of 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race (Courtesy Volvo Ocean Race)
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