The GSB Interview: Viviane Fraisse, Helping to Make the Already-Green Roland Garros Even Greener

Viviane Fraisse is not close to being satisfied.

Not at all.

One could excuse the head of sustainability at Roland Garros — the Paris home of the French Open — as well as for the French Tennis Federation (FFT) if she rested on the strong green laurels her organization and the world’s lone clay court Grand Slam championship have earned over the past eight years.

But my refreshing conversation with Fraisse revealed her laser-like focus on — and a sense of urgency about — how she and her team could do better, from greenhouse gas emissions reductions at the tournament to fan engagement to tennis ball recycling to much more.

So with the 2019 French Open now underway, here is our interview with Viviane Fraisse.

GreenSportsBlog: Viviane, the FFT and Roland Garros have great Green-Sports stories. Before we get to them, how did you get involved with the organization and with sustainability?

Viviane Fraisse: Well, Lew, I’ve enjoyed sports from when I was a young girl and played tennis for fun. Then in 1991, I saw France defeat the United States in the Davis Cup final in Lyon and it was then that I knew that I wanted to work in sports.

 

Viviane Fraisse Sust Innovation Sport

Viviane Fraisse (Photo credit: Sustainable Innovation in Sports)

 

GSB: For those who don’t follow tennis, the Davis Cup is the most important tournament between national teams in men’s game. I unfortunately remember the ’91 Final. Somehow a US team with Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi approaching their primes lost to Guy Forget (fore-ZHAY) and Henri Leconte. Don’t worry, I’m over it. 

Viviane: It is a very pleasant memory for me. Anyway, I’ve been fortunate to work with with FFT and Roland Garros for many years. I was a law student and got to work in FFT’s legal department. Then I studied at the French Institute of Press and switched over to publishing, eventually become in charge of the department. Basically we handled everything the FFT published, for our tennis club operators all over France, for our athletic trainers. And at Roland Garros, we handled all of the match programs plus all other publishing during the tournament.

GSB: What a big and fun job! How did you end up running sustainability?

Viviane: Well, in around 2010 I was ready leave the publishing department. I had done pretty much everything I wanted to do there. While I was in publishing, I worked on a tennis ball recycling program on my own time and was really into it. The FFT were in the process of creating a CSR department; I decided I wanted to run it. And, in 2012, that’s exactly what happened.

GSB: That sounds like a huge challenge. How did you create a CSR department and, more specifically, an environmental sustainability effort from basically nothing?

Viviane: I was fortunate to start in 2012. That was the year London hosted the Summer Olympics and the host committee made huge strides forward on sustainability versus what had existed before. We followed their leadership in many areas. One was doing what was needed to earn ISO 20121 certification for Roland Garros as a sustainable event. Another was deploying our first Green Teams at the Open. And our commitment went far beyond the tournament. We also decided to take a similarly strong approach from 2012 on sustainability with our headquarters and with our tennis leagues around the country.

At the league and club level, we pushed an aggressive tennis ball recycling program — it some respects, it’s been the most important thing we’ve done. All the leagues across the 13 regions that make up France participate. To date we’ve recycled more than 12 million tennis balls. The clubs collect them and then our recyclers grind them up into granulate and felt.

The granulate has been used to construct over 1,200 square meters of playgrounds and tracks in areas of need, for schools and hospitals in the Paris area. The felt is trickier. First of all, the felt on our tennis balls is already recycled and it can’t be recycled more than once. So for now, we burn the felt and turn it into energy. We’re looking for a new partner to improve the process.

 

Equipe Verte, Roland Garros 2019, Photo : Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Members of the Roland Garros Green Team, or équipe verte (Photo credit: Corinne DuBreuil/FFT)

 

GSB: Well done, Viviane. What have you done to green the FFT’s/Roland Garros’ headquarters?

Viviane: At headquarters, we focus on sustainable transport for our 360 employees, recycling and sustainable procurement. On the latter, we look to apply a sustainability lens to everything we buy. Right now, all contracts over €100,000 are governed by our sustainable procurement policy, which represents about 85 percent of all of our procurement. Alas, the last 15 percent, the small contracts, are proving to be a challenge. We have a long way to go but we will get there.

GSB: I can imagine how the small contracts and companies would be the hardest to push on sustainability. Talk about your efforts at Roland Garros. It clearly has the highest profile of all of your areas of endeavor.

Viviane: You’re right about that, Lew. In 2019, our big goal is to raise public and fan awareness of sustainability.

GSB: That’s music to my ears…Say more…

Viviane: We are an original member of the UN’s Sports for Climate Action Framework. In a certain sense, we look at the Framework as the UN asking us to do more than we have on fan engagement on climate, regarding fan use of public transportation, waste diversion and more.

We’ve been tracking fan use of public transport since 2011. Back then, 55 percent of fans used it. Last year 60 percent used mass transit and another 12 percent walked or took their bikes. And only 1.6 percent came by themselves by automobile. So we’re headed in the right direction but there still is room to grow. With that in mind, we have a new bicycle parking area at Roland Garros this year. And that will lead in to a much more comprehensive bicycle plan in 2020.

On waste sorting, we’ve had Green Teams at Roland Garros since 2012 showing fans where to dispose of recyclables, compostables, and the rest. Messaging on waste sorting runs on video boards on the concourses. In 2015 we started a contest in which Green Teamers quiz fans about our sustainability efforts, including our climate impacts. The winner gets a pass for two to the following year’s tournament.

GSB: What a great approach! What kind of waste diversion rates do you have at the French Open and how much goes to landfill? 

Viviane: Nothing goes to landfill, Lew. That is the law for the entire Paris region. Last year, 45 percent gets recycled and composted. Of the remaining 55 percent, 85 percent is converted into biogas and 15 percent is burned as electricity.

GSB: That is of course terrific, Viviane. Congratulations. I guess I still wonder how you are making the connection between your waste reduction mass transit to climate change?

Viviane: Great question, Lew. And this is of course very important. We weren’t talking about it as much as we could have before Sports for Climate Action. That is changing. For starters, we are hosting our first climate conference during the tournament on June 5, with a great lineup, including the Deputy Mayor of Paris, IOC, Paris 2024, the World Cup of Rugby 2023. Also our sponsors Lavazza and ENGIE.

Messaging about climate, including the conference, will run on screens, on our website, in the match programs. And there will be environmentally themed videos featuring players. Last year, Novak Djokovic, the world number one on the men’s side, did a video for us.

 

Novak Djokovic screen shot

Novak Djokovic, the world’s #1 tennis player, in FFT’s green-themed video (Photo credit: FFT)

 

GSB: What about on French TV? Of course it’s great to communicate on the environment and climate at Roland Garros but millions more watch the tournament on TV.

Viviane: Our environmental messages run a few times on TV but we need to do better there. We’re very strong via our social media channels.

GSB: We will keep up with you on progress on the TV front. What is happening regarding the expansion and renovations at Roland Gross from a green perspective?

Viviane: Our new Philippe-Chatrier Stadium, our #1 venue, will open in 2021 with a retractable roof. We are going for BREEAM¹ certification for sure. And we are working with ENGIE on a new way to do solar at a sports venue: This year we will be testing mobile solar on campus with the goal of a bigger deployment down the road.

 

Philippe-Chatrier

Rendering of the renovated Philippe-Chatrier Stadium which will open in 2021 with a retractable roof and a likely BREEAM certification (Credit: Roland Garros)

 

GSB: Very cool, Viviane. That’s the first I’ve heard of mobile solar at a sports venue. I have to say, you, the FFT and Roland Garros have done an amazing job on the environment and things are looking up on climate. But, as you say, you need to do more. With that in mind, what keeps you up at night, sustainability-wise?

Viviane: We need to do a better job of getting our sponsors fully on board regarding environment and climate. Some are doing great things but we can’t really have the effect we need on innovation, communications and more without more sponsor support. We believe Sport for Climate Action and the Climate Conference on June 5 will help. And our collaboration with Paris 2024, which is a daily thing, should help with sponsors.

 

¹ BREEAM = Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method, an alternative certification protocol to LEED. The Building Research Establishment is based in Watford, England.

 

Please comment below!
Email us: lew@greensportsblog.com
Friend us on Facebook: http://facebook.com/greensportsblog
Tweet us @GreenSportsBlog
#CoverGreenSports

GSB Football Preview, Part II: Philadelphia Eagles Earn ISO 20121 Certification for Sustainable Events, First Pro Team To Do So

With the American football season in full kick-off mode, GreenSportsBlog offers a two-part football preview as we take a look at two teams at different points on the sustainability spectrum. Yesterday, we spoke with Lauren Lichterman of the University of Texas-Austin Athletics Department, about the relatively new initiatives surrounding sustainability, especially the challenges of greening Longhorns football.

Today, we turn our attention to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Green-Sports pioneers and — oh yeah — Super Bowl LII Champions, recently became the first pro sports team to earn ISO 20121 certification for integrating sustainability practices into their management model.

To get the story of what ISO 20121 status is and how the Eagles attained it, GSB spoke with Norman Vossschulte, the Eagles’ director of fan experience, and Lindsay Arell, the sustainability consultant who worked with the team by assisting with the ISO framework, advising on strategies, and helping the through the final stage of certification.

 

 

With apologies to Tom Cruise as Jerry Maguire in the 1996 movie of the same name, it sounds like Lindsay Arell, President of Denver-based sustainable events consulting firm Honeycomb Strategies, had Norman Vossschulte, the Philadelphia Eagles director of fan experience, at “hello.” At least when it comes to ISO 20121 certification for sustainable events, that is.

“I met Lindsay at the 2014 Green Sports Alliance Summit in Santa Clara,” recalled Vossschulte. “We hit it off right away on sustainability, as she is an expert on ISO 20121 certification.”

 

(player/coach/executive name)

Norman Vossschulte, Philadelphia Eagles director of fan experience (Photo credit: Philadelphia Eagles)

 

Lindsay Arell

Lindsay Arell, president of Honeycomb Strategies (Photo credit: Honeycomb Strategies)

 

The Super Bowl champs have been Green-Sports winners for more than a decade, thanks in large part to the visionary leadership of Eagles Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie and Christina Weiss Lurie, the President of the Eagles Charitable Foundation, and Eagles Social Responsibility .

 

ISO 20121: MORE SUSTAINABLE EVENTS MANUAL THAN A CERTIFICATION

But it turns out that, while certifications for green buildings like LEED are well established in North America, not much is known here about sustainable events-focused ISO 20121.

That was about to change, at least as far as the Eagles were concerned.

“When I met Norman, Lincoln Financial Field was already LEED certified, and its GO GREEN initiative had been in place for years,” recalled Arell. “But, as we talked, I got the sense that he and the team wanted to do even more with sustainability, wanted to differentiate themselves even further from the increasing number of teams that were starting to green themselves. And Norman made it clear that he wanted to make green fun. That conversation led me to think the Eagles needed to go for ISO 20121 certification.”

Going for a certification that sounds like a Dewey Decimal system classification doesn’t immediately say “fun” to me but, hey, what do I know?

Actually, what I’d like GreenSportsBlog readers to know is what ISO 20121 certification is…and isn’t.

“ISO 20121, created by the International Organization for Standardization, is an event management system standard designed to help event organizers and producers incorporate sustainability into their operations,” shared Arell. “It was developed and piloted during the London 2012 Olympics to accelerate the impact of their sustainability program.  ISO 20121 emphasizes continual improvement on a range of sustainability issues. This results in a venue or organization-based approach to sustainable operations that addresses the specific environmental impacts of an organization/venue while engaging all stakeholders.”

On the other hand, ISO 20121 is not metrics-based, nor is it point-based in the way LEED, BREEAM^ or other green certifications are.

To my way of thinking, LEED certification shows the world you have built a green stadium or other type of building. ISO 20121 shows the world you are committed to continual improvement of your sustainability program through an inclusive stakeholder engagement program — and, in the Eagles case, in a LEED certified stadium.

Vossschulte looked at ISO 20121 in yet another way: “ISO 20121 is more a sustainability manual than certification, and a fluid manual at that. So we engaged Lindsay in 2016 to take us on a deep ISO dive and help us figure out how we can make the ISO manual work for us. And that meant everyone in the organization.”

Arell, who had worked in sustainable events and venues since 2007 — one of her first big assignments was working to help green the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver — dove right in. She performed a “gap analysis” to determine what the Eagles needed to do to improve upon GO GREEN and achieve ISO 20121 status.

“The goal of our GO GREEN ‘Gap Analysis’ was to find out what was working and what could be improved upon,” recalled Arell. “By holding meetings with small groups of employees, we were able to learn, for example, that internal and external communications about GO GREEN could be much more effective. It turned out that GO GREEN needed a re-boot, a version 2.0.”

 

EAGLES ORGANIZATION GOES ALL-IN ON “GO GREEN 2.0” AND ISO 20121

To kick-start the re-boot and to put the Eagles on course to achieve ISO 20121 status, Arell collaborated with team executives to form four internal working groups or “communities” —  Engagement, Communications, Community and Operations, or ECCO —  to help the organization figure out how to close those gaps. Here’s Vossschulte’s take on each community:

  • Engagement: “How well are we engaging employees on sustainability and GO GREEN and how can we do better? I was involved with this working group, along with the VP of Human Resources, Kristie Pappal. We want to improve sustainability awareness and engagement from when someone is hired, through their daily activities. They need to see the Eagles’ commitment on coffee mugs, water bottles, on signage. We wanted it to become part of every employee’s DNA.”
  • Communications: “How is GO GREEN communicated, both internally and externally? Are we talking about it in our newsletters to staff? What about talking to fans through marketing, PR and through our players?”
  • Community: “Here we asked ourselves ‘when we go into the community, do we embed a sustainability message into that outreach?’ This working group involved our corporate responsibility, community relations and media relations teams.”
  • Operations: “The operations and facilities teams were already steeped in sustainability through GO GREEN and our work to earn LEED certification, so this was a great opportunity for us to further amplify and strengthen that focus.”

The work of each committee was rigorous and detailed — it took a year and a half to complete— and the results were significant:

  • The Communications team developed edgy and fun GO GREEN-themed billboards for the stadium concourses, ramps, and yes, even the restrooms. Per Vossschulte, “We thought that adding a sense of humor to our GO GREEN messaging would increase its memorability and impact.”
  • From the Engagement team came an interactive LED screen that was installed at the NovaCare Complex, the team’s practice facility down the street from Lincoln Financial Field. “It shows our employees how much energy our solar panels and wind turbines are producing every day, how much we recycle, and more,” said Vossschulte.
  • The Community working group offered 14,000 season ticket members “Go Green/Bleed Green” magnets. And wide receiver Mack Hollins has fully embraced the team’s sustainability culture. “Mack rides his bike to work,” shared Vossschulte. “And he was featured in a video that announced the site of the 2019 Green Sports Alliance Summit will be Lincoln Financial Field.”

 

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles

 

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles

Two examples of sustainability-themed signage on display at Lincoln Financial Field (Photo credits: Philadelphia Eagles)

 

The result of this work was the creation of a sustainability playbook. Before applying for ISO 20121 certification, the Eagles had to show could “walk the green talk”, or, in football parlance, could “run the plays in their sustainability playbook.”

That meant over a year of setting sustainability plans, implementing them, and reporting on the outcome. Once the team and Arell were satisfied with the performance of the program, they submitted documentation to a third-party auditor for ISO 20121 review. A series of meetings with the auditor ensued in which the documentation was analyzed and discussed in detail. Finally, the Eagles achieved ISO 20121 certification earlier this year.

But the process didn’t end there.

You see, continual improvement is a hallmark of the ISO 20121 standard. So, the working groups still meet regularly to discuss new goals and initiatives. According to Arell, that aspirational quality is what makes this standard so effective: “It builds upon itself. There is not magic number that finally indicates ‘we are sustainable.’ The Eagles continue to improve their game…both on and off the field.”

 

WILL ISO 20121 CATCH ON BEYOND PHILLY?

Now that the Eagles and Lincoln Financial Field have blazed the ISO 20121 trail for North American sports, will other teams and venues soon follow?

Arell sure hopes so: “ISO 20121 emphasizes collaboration between departments and so going through the certification process ensures that sustainability becomes deeply seeded in an organization. The ability for a team and/or a venue to tailor their own path to ISO certification is another point in its favor.”

Vossschulte sees some early interest in ISO 20121 among his NFL counterparts and expects that interest to build.

But first, there’s a Super Bowl banner to raise at Lincoln Financial Field when the 2018 NFL season kicks off against the Atlanta Falcons tomorrow night. And when Eagles fans enter the stadium, they will see the sustainability banners and LED displays that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, as Lindsay Arell puts it, that “you can be a Super Bowl winning team in Philadelphia and GO GREEN at the same time.”

 

^ BREEAM = LEED’S British equivalent

 


 

Please comment below!
Email us: lew@greensportsblog.com
Friend us on Facebook: http://facebook.com/greensportsblog
Tweet us @GreenSportsBlog
#CoverGreenSports