The second Sustainable Innovation in Sports (SIIS) conference, organized by Climate Action, took place in Munich last month. GreenSportsBlog spoke with Climate Action’s Event Director Claire Poole to get her take.
The second Sustainable Innovation in Sport (SIIS) conference took place in Munich over two days in late February. To find out about the highlights, the key learnings, and to get a sense of next steps, GSB spoke with Claire Poole, SIIS’ Event Director on behalf of Climate Action and the Principal of ClearBright Consulting.
GreenSportsBlog: Claire, following up on the first SIIS in Paris in 2015, what were your two or three biggest takeaways from SIIS 2017?
Claire Poole, speaking at last month’s Sustainable Innovation in Sport conference in Munich. (Photo credit: SIIS)
Claire Poole: The big thematic takeaways were definitely the need for education, partnerships and technology in the Green-Sports space. There were some amazing insights from speakers that I’d like to highlight as well. Dr. Willem Huisman, President of Dow Germany opened the conference. He made this very powerful point: what binds together sustainability, innovation and sport is PASSION, PERFORMANCE AND PARTNERSHIPS, these themes came up time and time again. Then Michelle Lemaitre, Head of Sustainability for the International Olympic Committee highlighted their sustainability strategy, which is aligned with the UN Development Programme’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with 2030 goals and beyond in mind. But then Neil Beecroft, most recently of UEFA, said that, while we’re making progress, the sport world has to “shake existing models” and “dare for innovation”. Finally Norman Vosschulte, Director of Guest Experience for the Philadelphia Eagles, shared the club’s incredible sustainability story, which started with blue recycling bins under employees’ desks and has now reached the point of running a nearly 100% efficient stadium, with thousands of solar panels, aluminum recycling and much, much more. We were also glad to have speakers from the BBC, World Bank and Land Rover BAR’s (the UK’s entry in the 2017 America’s Cup, skippered by Sir Ben Ainslie) sustainability director, Susie Tomson among too many others to mention.
Michelle Lemaitre, Head of Sustainability for the IOC at SIIS. (Photo credit: SIIS)
GSB: What a speaker roster! How did climate change fit into the mix?
CP: The climate change world was well represented at SIIS. Connect4Climate^ and Ecosphere+# were there. And Niclas Svenningsen, Manager, Strategy and Relationship Management, of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said something that resonated with many attendees, I thought: that Sport needs to let the climate change world know what it is doing.
GSB: I’m glad he said that but it’s also sad that he felt compelled to do so. A big part of GreenSportsBlog’s mission is to get the sports world to push a positive climate change message in the same way it, rightly, pushes against racism, bullying, homophobia, and more. And sports legitimately has great greening stories! It needs to share those greening stories much more loudly or else what’s the point?
CP: For sure. The UNFCCC has a Carbon Neutral Now pledge. Which doesn’t say you have to be carbon neutral now; you just have to make a pledge to get there. FIFA and adidas have already taken the pledge; more sports organizations need to do the same.
GSB: Especially the sports organizations and sponsors that are already on the carbon neutral road! How many people came to SIIS and how many streamed it via Facebook Live?
CP: We had over 150 people in attendance with about 85 percent from Europe and the rest joining us from the US, Canada, Australia, Japan and elsewhere. And we were very excited that another 1,500 or so joined us via live stream…
GSB: Including yours truly! The streaming saved on emissions, by the way…What kind of feedback did you get overall?
CP: The two words I heard over and over were “interactive” and “relevant”. People said SIIS was different than most other conferences they’ve attended in that the speakers, who were very knowledgeable and compelling, presented in ways that really encouraged interaction and collegiality. The other thing was that the attendees said they learned important new things that they were taking home to implement. This is exactly what we wanted to happen. We were also heartened to see that the event had a strong gender balance, with nearly 40 percent female representation.
GSB: This sounds like, forgive the American sports reference, a home run! Now, what, in your view, could have gone better?
CP: To my mind, we would have liked to see more corporate partners and corporate attendees there. Sports stadiums, clubs, federations and the like were well represented. But the corporations who support sports and also are greening were in shorter supply, with some notable exceptions like Dow, Schreder, and IWBI.
GSB: Getting in on a movement that will improve their image and lead to more business? Why in the world would they want to do that? Just kidding! Sheesh! So what’s next? The first SIIS was in Paris in 2015, during the COP21 climate conference, if memory serves. So will this be an every-other-year kind of event?
CP: The feedback we got was so positive and those who came along, tuned in online or we are in touch with through other channels, tell us we need to convene annually…
GSB: That’s just about the best endorsement you could get!
CP: Thank you! So we’re just starting to think about what a SIIS 2018 would look like. To those who want to be a part of it, I say – get in touch!
^ Connect4Climate is a global partnership among the World Bank Group, the Italian Ministry of Environment, and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, that takes on climate change by promoting solutions and empowering people to act.
# Ecosphere+ was established by the Althelia Climate Fund to develop and scale the market for carbon assets, environmental services and sustainably produced commodities generated through transformational forest conservation and sustainable land use projects,