The GSB Interview: Roger McClendon, New Executive Director of the Green Sports Alliance

Roger McClendon was named Executive Director of the Green Sports Alliance on January 15. The former Chief Sustainability Officer of Yum! Brands took a break from the whirlwind of his first six weeks weeks on the job to talk with GreenSportsBlog about his path to the Alliance and his early thoughts on where the organization needs to go.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Congratulations, Roger! I’m sure you’re being pulled in a million directions, so let’s get into it. When did your interest in sustainability and sustainable business begin?

Roger McClendon: Thank you, Lew, for the opportunity to talk to GreenSportsBlog readers. I’m an engineer by academic training and a graduate from the University of Cincinnati. Early in my professional career I studied and worked on automating manufacturing processes in a paper mill using control theory and algorithms to improve production efficiency. I also worked on wastewater treatment and power generation systems. Those projects focused on important questions like how do you reduce waste and improve the process as well as save money?

So it was that mindset that drew me to sustainability, technology, and innovation. Of course this work became the foundation of my environmental sustainability experience and background. And, as time went on, I became interested in the social and governance sides of the sustainability equation as well. Things like diversity, how workers are treated, human trafficking, public policy, shareholder proposals, etc. These are, I think, undervalued aspects of the sustainability world, and was something I pushed in my role as Chief Sustainability Officer at Yum! Brands.

 

roger mcclendon gsa

Roger McClendon, the new executive director of the Green Sports Alliance (Photo credit: Green Sports Alliance)

 

GSB: Speaking of the CSO job, that didn’t exist before you took it on in 2010. How did you come to create it? And how did Yum! Brands management react?

Roger: Sustainability was not really on top management’s radar screen when I brought it to them in 2009-10. But you have to understand David Novak, the founder of the company, which was a spinoff of the restaurant brands KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell from PepsiCo was a passionate values-driven leader. His management style recognized that, by putting people first, profits would follow, not the other way around. Before the Yum! Brands spinoff, I had worked my way up through the engineering ranks at KFC and, in so doing, had seen that prioritizing sustainability would grow profits and drive new business.

So after the spinoff, I saw that the new company had a Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR function but there was a big gap: Sustainability was not included. I saw this as a huge opportunity for the company. I conducted some benchmarking studies internally to see how applying a sustainability lens — efficiency, innovation, environment — could improve our best practices. Then I looked outside the company to see how corporations like GE and P&G were treating sustainability. Eventually, I made a presentation to top management about how sustainability could be a powerful business driver. They loved it! David did ask ‘Why should I make you CSO?’ I said ‘Because I’m already doing the job!’ And that was that.

 

David Novak Yum!

David Novak (Photo credit: Yum! Brands)

 

GSB: Great story! Was there any pushback from management and/or the rank-and-file at Yum! Brands about sustainability? Did some say things like ‘Why are we doing this tree hugger, Berkeley stuff?’

Roger: There was some of that cultural stuff but the broader challenge was that big change is difficult, especially in a penny-profit business like restaurant chains. I mean, we worried about each napkin that we bought. Getting 16, 17 year-old employees and franchisees to implement programs and promotions was always a heavy lift.

GSB: How did you overcome that?

Roger: Well we always looked to show all stakeholders how sustainability aligned with value creation. And we emphasized, especially with millennial and GenZ employees, that we were transforming Yum! Brands into triple bottom line company — People, Planet, Profit. And now the company is well on its way to living those values.

GSB: Aside from the very important transition on corporate values, what were some of Yum! Brands biggest sustainability wins during your tenure as CSO?

Roger: Thanks for asking. We helped drive energy efficiency initiatives that have resulted in an estimated savings of 4.3 megawatt hours (mWh) of electricity globally. Yum! Brands also created Blueline, a sustainable restaurant design, build, operational, and maintenance standard that uses key restaurant-relevant aspects of LEED, paired with proven, actionable solutions in areas such as lighting and optimized hood exhaust and ventilation systems.

These initiatives and more resulted in Yum! Brands being named to the Dow Jones Sustainability North America index in 2017 and 2018. We also earned Top 100 Best Corporate Citizens status by Corporate Responsibility Magazine, also in 2017 and 2018.

GSB: Have any of the major Yum! Brands messaged sustainability to consumers?

Roger: Consumer messaging really has been centered on the local level rather than through national ads. KFC in Australia did a local campaign around its switch to canola oil. That screams sustainability and health without actually saying it. And the folks got it.

GSB: Which is great. I understand you retired from Yum! Brands last spring but you’re way too young to be fully retired. Was Green-Sports and the Alliance on your radar at the time?

Roger: Not really. I mean, I was well aware of the sports greening movement, especially since KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell sponsor all manner of sports. And I’d been at conferences at which folks from the Alliance spoke. So I knew Green-Sports was a growing and good thing but I wasn’t looking at it as a landing spot when I retired from Yum! Brands.

Instead I worked with the Aspire Basketball Foundation in Louisville where my family lives. It teaches life skills, leadership, and personal development to high school students and those in a gap year before college, all through the prism of basketball, which I played at the University of Cincinnati and love. That’s what I was doing when I heard about the opening at the Alliance. I reached out to Scott Jenkins, the Board Chair at the GSA and we talked about the job, how I would be able to magnify the impact of Green-Sports at a high level. I thought, ‘this sounds like a great fit’ so I went for it.

 

roger mcclendon uc hoops

Roger McClendon, while a member of the  University of Cincinnati Bearcats, launches a jump shot over Virginia Tech’s Dell Curry, aka Steph Curry’s dad (Photo credit: University of Cincinnati Athletics)

 

GSB: And you got it!

Roger: I’m very thankful and realize that, as I take this position, I realize I stand on the shoulders of giants who created the Green-Sports movement like Christina Weiss Lurie, minority owner of the Philadelphia Eagles and their Go Green initiative, the late Paul Allen, owner of the Portland Trail Blazers, Seattle Seahawks and Sounders, and an early funder of the GSA, and Allen Hershkowitz, one of the true Green-Sports visionaries.

GSB: Indeed. And, as you take the helm at the Alliance, you do so as the movement is at what I see as a pivot point, from a Green-Sports 1.0 world, in which the focus is on greening the games and venues, to the Green-Sports 2.0 world, in which the emphasis shifts to engaging fans, both those who attend games and those who consume sports via media. I know it’s early days, but with that backdrop, what do you see as the top two or three items on your agenda?

Roger: That’s a great way to frame it, Lew. And you’re right, it’s early days. So my first order of business is engaging the Board, teams and venues, and the media to get a great sense of the state-of-play in Green-Sports. At the same time, I think we need to take a look at what’s next — Green-Sports 2.0 as you call it — and then what comes after that.

GSB: Green-Sports 3.0?

Roger: That’s right.

GSB: What do Green-Sports 2.0 and 3.0 look like to you right now?

Roger: First, it’s important to note that the sports world has done an admirable job on Green-Sports 1.0, greening the venues…

GSB: Thanks certainly go to the Alliance for its part in 1.0.

Roger: I wasn’t here for that work, obviously, but I’ll accept that thanks on behalf of the people who were. The greening of stadiums, arenas, and training centers needs to continue. And then we need to go forward on not only fan engagement, but also on helping our member teams, venues, leagues and more take on environmental and social issues in ways that have measurable impacts. The 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs can serve as great metrics for us.

GSB: Absolutely. Of course seven of the 17 SDGs focus on the environment¹. Going forward, will the Alliance work mainly on helping its members on those seven green SDGs? Or will it look to put as much weight on the social and governance aspects of sustainability, as it does on the environment?

Roger: The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is one framework that I think the Alliance can leverage with our key stakeholders and determine where we should focus and prioritize. It can help us focus on what has the most material impact to our partners, members, fans, and communities as a whole.

There is a process of engagement, alignment, strategy development and execution planning that the Alliance will facilitate with our partners, members, and other key stakeholders. I anticipate that the Alliance and our partners will focus primarily on social and environmental sustainability issues and less on governance.

GSB: Finally, I want to get your take on climate change. I think it’s fair to say that the sports world at large and the Alliance to this point have, for the most part, stayed away from the topic. How do you want to take it on?

Roger: Well this gets into what problems do we want to help solve. Can we impact things like access to clean drinking water, dealing with drought, wildfires, and more? I say yes and we need to get involved in a strategic, focused way to do that sooner rather than later. But do we need to get into the politics of climate change? I think we should stay away but, at the same time, focus on doing what we can to help venues and teams to reduce their emissions.

GSB: Understood. Thing is, I think it will be much harder to stay away from climate change and the politics surrounding it with the recent introduction in Congress of the Green New Deal proposal. How might the Alliance’s alter its approach to climate change in a Green New Deal world?

Roger: We don’t have to debate climate change as the science is evident. We do have to act as a responsible citizen, business, community, city and country. We need to focus on improving sustainable operations and supply chains as well as partnering and investing in smart city infrastructure and develop social and environmental awareness and engagement movements to engage future generations.

GSB: Sounds good, Roger. I look forward to our future conversations to see the types of Green-Sports 2.0 initiatives the Alliance undertakes under your leadership, particularly on fan engagement and climate change. In the meantime, all the best.

 

¹ Seven SDGs that focus on the environment are Clean Water and Sanitation, Affordable and Clean Energy, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action, Life Below Water and Life on Land. The rest of the SDGs are: No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-Being, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Industry/Innovation/Infrastructure, Reduced Inequality, Peace and Justice, Partnerships to Achieve the Goals

 

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

GSB News and Notes: Oracle Park Goes LEED Platinum; Climate Change Forces Move of Speed Skating Race; Nike to Go 100% Renewable Energy via Partnership with Iberdrola

With pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training this week, it’s fitting that we lead off our GSB News & Notes column with a baseball story: Oracle Park (formerly AT&T Park), the home of the San Francisco Giants, just became the first LEED Platinum venue in MLB.

Elsewhere, an iconic Dutch speed skating race is moved to Austria because of the effects of climate change. And Nike continues to push on the sustainability front, pledging to generate all of its energy for its European operations from renewable sources

 

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS BALLPARK BECOMES FIRST MLB VENUE TO EARN LEED PLATINUM CERTIFICATION

Oracle Park, formerly AT&T Park and home of the San Francisco Giants since 2000, is one of the best places to watch baseball in the major leagues¹. With McCovey Cove in San Francisco Bay beyond the right field bleachers and the Oakland Bay Bridge off in the distance, the vistas and atmosphere are sublime. Oh yeah, and the Gilroy Garlic Fries are simply beyond.

 

Gilroy Garlic Fries

Oracle Park’s famous and delicious Gilroy Garlic Fries (Photo credit: Wally Gobetz/Flickr)

 

Less obvious to the senses — aside from the solar panels outside the right field wall — are the ballpark’s many green features. Hopefully that will begin to change as Oracle Park recently became the first venue in the big leagues to receive LEED Platinum Certification, the highest possible designation from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). It had earned LEED Gold status in 2015.

 

 

Solar at AT&T

Solar panels outside Oracle Park’s right field stands, overlooking McCovey Cove in San Francisco Bay (Photo credit: San Francisco Giants)

 

Moving up from LEED Gold to Platinum for existing buildings is not easy. The structure must be best-in-class in every category imaginable, including water efficiency; energy and atmosphere; materials and resources; indoor environmental quality and innovation in design. Able Services (building maintenance) and Goby (data analytics) were key players in helping Oracle Park make the grade. Greening initiatives included:

  • Demonstrating a more than 75 percent reduction in conventional commuting trips for employees;
  • Offsetting 50 percent of its energy use through renewable energy credits;
  • Diverting more than 94 percent of waste from landfill through an aggressive recycling and composting program;
  • Instituting water-efficient landscaping – resulting in a more than 50 percent reduction in water usage from improved irrigation technology systems;
  • Installing LED Field Lights for over 55 percent energy reduction in field lighting.

“For years, the San Francisco Giants have been steadfast in their pursuit of a sustainable environment at Oracle Park,” said Paul Hanlon, Major League Baseball’s Senior Director of Ballpark Operations and Sustainability. “Through their extensive recycling and environmental efforts, which includes consistently recording waste diversion numbers of 94 percent and greater since 2012, the Giants have achieved the impressive feat of having Oracle Park receive the first LEED Platinum Certification among MLB ballparks, and thus continuing to be a leader throughout all of sports. We commend their efforts, and look forward to their continued growth.”

“We have been committed since opening this park 19 years ago to making it the most sustainable and greenest ballpark in the country,” added Jorge Costa, Giants’ Senior Vice President of Operations and Facilities for Oracle Park. “From the time we opened our gates, we have been working to achieve LEED silver, gold and now platinum certification. We will continue to refine and reevaluate our sustainability and efficiency practices to remain an environmental leader in the operation of Oracle Park,”

 

CLIMATE CHANGE FORCES MARATHON SPEEDSKATING EVENT TO MOVE FROM NETHERLANDS TO AUSTRIA

After soccer, speedskating is arguably the most popular sport in the Netherlands. And the tradition of speedskating outdoors on natural ice can be considered the Dutch equivalent of apple pie in the U.S.

So what to do when climate change results in winters so warm that the Dutch waterways don’t freeze consistently enough to make speedskating possible?

According to “Racing the Clock, and Climate Change,” a piece by Andrew Keh in the February 7 issue of The New York Times, the Dutch have adjusted to the new reality by moving the Elfstedentocht, one of Netherlands’ most iconic speedskating events — to Austria of all places.

Per Keh, the Elfstedentocht, is “a one-day, long-distance speedskating tour through 11 cities of the Friesland province. [It] has been held casually since the late 1700s and more officially since 1909…Covering a continuous route of about 200 kilometers — about 124 miles — the Elfstedentocht takes place only when the lakes and canals of Friesland develop 15 centimeters (almost six inches) or more of ice…That was once a relatively common phenomenon; lately, it has been exceedingly rare. From its [modern] inception in 1909 to 1963, the Elfstedentocht was held 12 times. Since then, there have been three, most recently in 1997.”

 

Elfstendocht

The last Elfstedentocht, the one-day distance race through 11 Dutch cities, was held in 1997. (Photo Credit: Dimitri Georganas/Associated Press)

 

Some wonder if it will ever be held there again. “The chances of an 11 Cities Tour decrease every year because of global warming,” Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, climate researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, told Keh. “That should be a good incentive for the Dutch to do something about it.”

The Dutch have long led the way on renewables and energy efficiency in an effort to reverse the effects of climate change. But because the Netherlands is both low lying and exposed to the see, its people have also needed to show the way on climate adaptation. That goes for speedskating, so the Dutch figured out a work-around for the Elfstedentocht, which translates to “11 cities tour”.

“Every winter, close to 6,000 people from the Netherlands make a pilgrimage to Weissensee, Austria (population 753),” wrote Keh. “Climate migrants of the sports world, they seek the cold and the ice of this town’s enormous, asparagus-shaped lake. Known as the Alternative Elfstedentocht, the relocated race has been embraced by the Dutch, [since it launched in 1989], as the chance to skate the same, staggering 200-kilometer distance (roughly the driving distance between Los Angeles and San Diego) their ancestors did.”

The key difference, aside from location between the original and the Alternative Elfstedentocht, is that the latter snakes 16 times through a 12.5 kilometer course laid out on the lake in Weissensee, rather than running through 11 towns.

 

Alternative

The Alternative Elfstedentocht snakes, serpentine-style, on a lake in Weissensee, Austria (Photo credit: Pete Kiehart, The New York Times)

 

And while the thousands of skaters who trek to Austria are appreciative that the Alternative Elfstedentocht exists and of their hosts’ hospitality, most hope to be able participate in the original at least one more time.

Erben Wennemars, 43, and a professional speedskater, embodies that spirit.

“I’m an eight-time world champion, I won two Olympic medals, but I would throw it all away for the Elfstedentocht,” Wennemars told Keh. “There are a lot of people who have gold medals. But if you win the Elfstedentocht, you’ll be known for the rest of your life.”

 

NIKE PARTNERS WITH IBERDROLA TO REACH 100 PERCENT RENEWABLE ENERGY GOAL FOR ITS EUROPEAN OPERATIONS

Nike Just Did It.

“It”, in this case, refers to the company’s recent partnership with Iberdrola, a clean energy producer based in Spain. The goal is to accelerate Nike’s progress on sourcing 100 percent of its energy from renewables for its European operations.

According Nike’s Chief Sustainability Officer Noel Kinder, the new Nike-Iberdrola team “catapult[s] us ahead of the timeline that we outlined three years ago when we joined [The Climate Group’s] RE100, a coalition of businesses pledging to source 100 percent renewable energy across all operations.”

 

Noel Kinder

Noel Kinder, Nike’s Chief Sustainability Officer (Photo credit: Nike)

 

Iberdrola looks to be an ideal partner for Nike.

The only European utility to be part of Dow Jones Sustainability Index since its inception in 2000 certainly talks the clean energy talk. On the hope page of its website, above the fold: “we are committed to a sustainable, safe and competitive business model which replaces polluting sources of energy with clean ones and intensifies the decarbonization and electrification required worldwide.” And it is putting its money where its mouth is, investing more than €32 billion by 2022 in the electrification of the economy.

 

¹ In order, my five top favorites of the 20 or so MLB ballparks I’ve visited are 1. PNC Park (Pittsburgh Pirates), 2. AT&T Park, 3. Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs), 4. Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox), 5. Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles)

 


 

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

BREAKING NEWS: Roger McClendon of Yum! Brands Named Executive Director of Green Sports Alliance

Roger McClendon, Chief Sustainability Officer of Fortune 500 restaurant management company Yum! Brands, has agreed to become the Executive Director of the Green Sports Alliance, according to a source.

 

McClendon brings a track record of sustainable business leadership along with a passion for sports to the Green Sports Alliance’s top management position. The Executive Director position has been open since August when Justin Zeulner left the Alliance. A several-months long recruitment process, led by a national search firm, resulted in McClendon’s hiring.

He worked for Yum! Brands, the Louisville, KY-based parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, for 23 years, launching the Chief Sustainability Officer role in 2010. Under McClendon’s leadership as CSO, the company was named in 2017 to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and as one of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens by Corporate Responsibility Magazine.

 

roger mcclendon yum!

Roger McClendon, CSO of Yum! Brands, will become Executive Director of the Green Sports Alliance (Photo credit: Yum! Brands)

 

McClendon was a four year starter for the University of Cincinnati basketball team (1984-85 to 1987-88). When the 6′ 4″ guard finished his Bearcats career, he did so as the school’s second leading career scorer, trailing only the legendary Oscar Robertson. McClendon was elected to the UC Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998.

 

Roger McClendon UC Hoops.png

Roger McClendon, member of the University of Cincinnati Athletics Hall of Fame, launches a jump shot over Virginia Tech’s Dell Curry* (Photo credit: University of Cincinnati Athletics)

 

According to its website, the Portland, OR-based Alliance, which opened its doors in 2011, currently has 413 member teams, leagues and venues. It looks to leverage “the cultural and market influence of sports to promote healthy, sustainable communities where people live and play.”

 

GSB’s Take: This is a particularly important hire for the Alliance as the Green-Sports movement is at an inflection point. It is moving from what GSB calls Green-Sports 1.0, the greening of the games themselves (i.e. LEED-certified venues, Zero-Waste Games) to Green-Sports 2.0, engaging fans, athletes and media on environmental action, especially including climate change. GreenSportsBlog will bring you updates on the McClendon-to-Green Sports Alliance story as they develop.

 

* Dell Curry is Steph Curry’s dad

 


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