NHL Issues Its 2nd Sustainability Report: Environmental Performance Improvements vs. 2014; NHL Green Goals — “Innovate, Transform, Inspire”

Four years ago, the NHL became the first pro sports league to issue a sustainability report, one of many examples of its environmental leadership. Why has the NHL made such a strong commitment? The report said it best: “Perhaps more than any other sport, hockey is impacted by environmental issues, particularly climate change and freshwater scarcity. The ability to skate and play hockey outdoors is a critical component of the [NHL’s] history and culture.” At that time, the league reported on its water and energy usage, carbon emissions and its conservation efforts.

On Wednesday, with the publication of its substantive, engaging and accessible 2018 sustainability report, the NHL provided a detailed look at how it performed on a variety of environmental metrics since 2014 and sets out how it plans to improve going forward. The goal is to ensure that all levels of hockey – from frozen ponds to community rinks to the NHL – thrive for future generations. To make good on that objective, the league promises to innovate, transform and inspire.

 

“What is the greenest sports league?”

I get that question a lot from folks outside of the Green-Sports ecosystem.

My response has always been the same and without hesitation: “The NHL.”

Why? The league:

  • Launched NHL Green in 2010, a comprehensive environmental sustainability program addressing the effects of climate change and freshwater scarcity on the sport.
  • Became the first in North America to have carbon neutral seasons by offsetting all of its direct carbon emissions starting in 2014
  • Started the Greener Rinks Initiative, providing managers of many indoor ice rinks in North America with the tools to operate in more environmentally friendly ways
  • Issued, in 2014, its first sustainability report, the first ever produced by a North American professional sports league.

I could list many more but you get the gist.

The NHL, which celebrated its centennial in 2017, takes a very long view when it comes to environmental sustainability. According to Omar Mitchell, the league’s vice president of corporate social responsibility, “We are working to make sure we ensure that we have hockey for the next 100 years. That’s why ‘Green’ is integral to our DNA.”

 

omar

Omar Mitchell, NHL’s Vice President of Corporate Responsibility (Photo credit: Claire Greenway/Getty Images Europe)

 

That big picture approach to sustainability becomes crystal clear as one navigates through the NHL’s second installation of its sustainability report.

The 2018 version is imbued with the ethos expressed in a pledge the NHL made last September’s in its Declaration of Principles, stating that: Hockey should be an enjoyable family experience; all stakeholders – organizations, players, parents, siblings, coaches, referees, volunteers and rink operations – play a role in this effort. To Mitchell, this is much more than a statement: “It is our way of stating our values. We believe hockey improves lives and communities.”

 

NHL Sustainability Scorecard: Improvements in waste diversion, energy usage and more

The report provides the reader with a detailed scorecard illustrating the league’s — and its 30 teams’ — performance over the last few years on a variety of environmental metrics, including water restoration, landfill reduction, efficient electricity use, and more. Highlights include:

  • Waste diversion rate of 32 percent thanks to composting, improved concessions forecasting, and enhanced waste tracking, with half of NHL arenas currently composting their own waste. The NHL has set a goal to increase waste diversion to 50 percent within five years.
  • A one percent reduction of energy consumption from Fiscal Year (FY)14 to FY16 by using more efficient lighting, enhanced building management systems, waste heat recapture technologies, and onsite renewable energy generation.
  • An approximate seven percent decrease in water consumption from FY15 to FY16, through fixture upgrades in arenas, minimizing consumption in water towers, and installation of smart sensors on water irrigation systems.
  • Throughout the NHL Centennial year, fans donated 4,245 pounds of equipment (more than 2,000 items), including helmets, skates, and pads. This equipment avoids landfills and gets repurposed back into the community.
  • A two percent year-over-year reduction in CO2 emissions from FY14 to FY16 – from 189,503 to 182,355 metric tons – through innovations and efficiencies.
  • 963,200 megawatt hours of energy counterbalanced since 2014 through the investment of renewable energy credits, generated from U.S. wind and Canadian biomass.

 

Bringing sustainability to community rinks and pond hockey lovers

The NHL’s Greener Rinks Initiative, a program launched in 2016, is prominently featured. With approximately 4,800 indoor ice rinks across North America, the initiative measures and evaluates their environmental impact. Modern-day NHL arenas use more environmentally-friendly energy sources, including solar power, fuel cell technology, waste water recapture and reuse, and geothermal technologies. NHL Greener Rinks aims to help rink operators make similar, sustainable business decisions in their aging community rinks (average age: 30 years) while also reducing energy and operating costs.

The sustainability report also shines a welcome spotlight on RinkWatch, a research initiative launched in 2013 by two professors from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. The program brings together citizens from across North America who share a love for outdoor hockey. Participants track and monitor backyard rinks, ponds, and winter weather conditions to assist with the study of long-term impacts of climate change. To date, more than 1,400 outdoor rinks and ponds have been tracked and monitored. Fans are encouraged to participate; those interested can visit RinkWatch.org to join the movement.

 

Creating a Sustainability Report that is accessible for fans, substantive for sustainability “deep divers”

Have you read a corporate sustainability report? I have. And let me tell you, some of them make corporate annual reports seem like light reading. And I’m a sustainability metrics nerd!

Thus, I was a bit nervous before clicking on the new NHL sustainability report. The one major criticism I had of its 2014 predecessor was that it was hard to follow as it was laid out in the “continuous scroll” format  in vogue at the time. I felt like I had to scroll forever to get to a desired topic area.

So I was immediately heartened upon seeing that the 2018 sustainability report had done away with continuous scroll and replaced it with what I call an accessible site map structure in its “Report at-a-Glance” page.

 

Report at a Glance

Screen shot of the 2018 NHL Sustainability Report’s “Report At-A-Glance” navigation page

 

Eureka! I wanted to see where climate change fit into the league’s efforts and plans. There it was, “Frozen Ponds & Climate Change,” third from the top in the Home section. Interested in how the NHL is doing in its carbon emissions reduction efforts? Check out the “Innovating the League” section, second item from the top. And so on.

“Moving away from ‘continuous scrolling’ was intentional on our part,” shared Mitchell. “Taking feedback about the readability of our 2014 report to heart, we spent a lot of time with Scrum50, our marketing agency, to develop a ‘Choose Your Adventure’ approach. This resulted in a report that is at once broad enough to engage casual fans in understanding what the NHL is doing on the environment and detailed enough for sustainability practitioners and the like to take deep, analytic dives.”

 

NHL’s First Green Month

The 2018 sustainability report comes out at the same time as the NHL is launching its first Green Month. “The last two years we had ‘Green Week’ but found out that was not enough time to do it right,” offered Mitchell. “Our clubs now have the time to activate meaningful fan engagement programs.”

 

A 30 second NHL Green Month video from the Anaheim Ducks about the environmental performance at their Honda Center arena

 

League needs to measure fan awareness of NHL Green

It says here that the one major area the NHL can improve upon in its sustainability reporting is to get a baseline measure of fan awareness of, and interest in, NHL Green and then track it over time. To my mind, this should be done ASAP — don’t wait three or four years until the next sustainability report is issued. Keeping score as to how NHL fans react to NHL Green will help the league tweak and improve upon its environmental efforts on the fly.

And when I say fans, I mean all NHL fans: those who attend games, and the far bigger number who don’t set foot in an NHL arena but who follow the sport on TV, online, via mobile devices, etc.

 

Innovate, Transform and Inspire

What will a 2022 NHL Sustainability Report look like?

It’s (way) too early to get into that conversation but, says Mitchell, the league’s direction for NHL Green is clear.

“Our sustainability missions now and going forward are to innovate, transform and inspire. Innovate means we will continue, at club and arena levels, to improve on water and electricity use, waste reductions, and more. For example, we have a goal to have installed energy efficient LED lighting at all NHL arenas within five years. Transform…an initiative like Greener Rinks is transformative. It takes what we’ve learned to help community rinks operate more effectively from a variety of environmental and efficiency perspectives. It also helps them connect on the environment with their customers. Inspire means doing more to educate and engage our fans and players to take positive environmental action. One player from each club will be designated as a Green Ambassador. ”

 

Rogers Place

Rogers Place, home of the Edmonton Oilers, features LED lighting (Photo credit: NHL)

 

The NHL also sees environmental sustainability as economic and social imperatives. Final words go to Omar Mitchell:

“Our focus on community rinks is crucial because it’s how kids come to the sport. We think Green Rinks can potentially help those rinks lower the high cost of ice time — it typically ranges between $200-$700 per hour — by reducing energy costs. Reductions in natural ice — as documented by RinkWatch — can limit kids to playing in rinks and many can’t afford it. So, you see, environmental sustainability is existential for the NHL and hockey more broadly.”

 

 

 


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LA 2024: Smartest, Greenest Olympics Bid Ever

Paris and Los Angeles are the two cities still in the running to host the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games—the International Olympic Committee will make that decision on September 13 of this year in Lima, Peru. GreenSportsBlog reported on Paris’ sustainability efforts last month; now it’s LA’s turn to shine in the Green-Sports spotlight. We were pleased to speak with Brence Culp, Sustainability Director of the LA 2024 Bid Committee, about the many substantive sustainability initiatives her team is planning.

 

The greenest sports venue and/or Olympic and Paralympic Village is the one you don’t have to build.

That has been and is the mantra of LA 2024, the committee handling the bid for Los Angeles to host the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, and especially its sustainability team. The bid process is now in the home stretch—the International Olympic Committee (IOC) votes in September in Lima, Peru—and only Paris stands in the way of Los Angeles becoming the host for the third time (1932 and 1984).

GreenSportsBlog documented Paris’ strong and comprehensive sustainability plan in February; now it’s Los Angeles’ turn to have its say.

Wait.

Before we get to LA 2024’s sustainability story, let’s reflect on this: How GREAT is it that the two remaining bids to host the 2024 Summer Olympics are in a figurative, innovative battle to see which is the most sustainable? Would this have been the case five years ago? I think not. To channel my inner Joe Biden, this is a “big…deal!”

OK, now back to LA 2024 and its sustainability story.

 

THE MOST SUSTAINABLE OLYMPICS VENUES ARE THE ONES YOU DON’T HAVE TO BUILD

When the LA 2024 bid committee first began planning the Olympic and Paralympic Village and Media Center, it, like pretty much every other Olympic bid in recent memory, was looking at massive redevelopment alternatives. Thus, it made sense to recruit Brence Culp as its sustainability director. You see, Ms. Culp had been in charge of many big redevelopment and urban renewal projects as the second in command to the CEO of Los Angeles County (appointed, not a political position) for five years. Prior to that, she worked at a redevelopment agency in LA.

Brence Culp LA 2024

Brence Culp, Sustainability Director, LA 2024. (Photo credit: LA 2024)

 

But a funny thing happened on the way to the major redevelopment projects for LA 2024. The bid committee team visited the UCLA and USC campuses. “Before we got to the campuses, we thought ‘oh, the dorms and the food will not be up to par,” recalled Ms. Culp. “But, both UCLA and USC were absolutely stunning, from the dorms to the recreation facilities to the landscaping. The food was fantastic. So, it turned out the most sustainable Village and Media Center were the ones we already had!” In the LA 2024 bid plan, UCLA will be home to the Olympic and Paralympic Village and USC, near the downtown venue cluster, will host the Media Center.

Now don’t get the idea that, because she is not supervising a big urban redevelopment project, Brence Culp is at all disappointed. Far from it.

“Sustainability is core to our bid and our DNA,” declared Ms. Culp, “Gene Sykes, LA 2024’s CEO has a long background in conservation and environmental stewardship. So our core principals of sustainable environmental and financial stewardship, as well as social inclusion are baked in to everything we do. When we, (LA) Mayor Garcetti and our sustainability consultants, AECOM, looked at, oh, two dozen urban redevelopment sites for the Village, we kept on coming back to UCLA and USC^. Great for the athletes and media. Sustainable from an environmental and financial sense. Innovative in that we don’t have to build something new and shiny.”

And LA 2024 doesn’t have to build new and shiny sports venues. The area boasts a veritable Hall of Fame lineup of stadia and arenas from which to choose, including:

  • Honda Center (Anaheim Ducks)
  • LA Coliseum (USC football and host of Olympic Track and Field as well as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies in 1932 and 1984 as well as Super Bowls I and VII)

Coliseum 2024

Artist’s rendering of the renovated LA Coliseum. (LA 2024)

 

Since the venues are largely in place, the sustainability team’s initiatives focus on making them greener. Exhibit A is the StubHub Center.

Per Ms. Culp, “Under the leadership of the venue’s owner, AEG, StubHub Center is going ‘all in’ on sustainability as it will be the location of LA 2024’s Green Sports Park, highlighting the best in sport and green innovation. AEG is implementing robust water efficiency strategies, including use of municipal greywater for irrigation. They also built and manage an onsite garden that includes a large chicken coop and a greenhouse. StubHub Center’s chef uses the garden’s fruits and vegetables in meals prepared for staff, athletes and other guests. AEG also came up with an innovative way to harvest honey from relocated beehives found onsite –located safely away from spectators! Leading up to the Games, we will actively explore ways to enhance AEG’s current practices, including onsite solar.”

 

MASS TRANSIT RAMPING UP IN LA IN TIME FOR 2024

Moving from chickens and bees to pachyderms, the big elephant in the room, sustainability-wise, is transportation. LA is a sprawling area—Paris’ geographic footprint is significantly smaller—and its mass transit offerings have been, relatively speaking, limited. But that is changing fast, to the benefit of the LA 2024 bid.

“The LA area is in the middle of an historic mass transit investment and much of it will be operational by the 2024 Opening Ceremonies,” offered the LA 2024 sustainability director, “And leading up to the Games LA 2024 will work with Metro to further incentivize comfortability with public transportation among Angelenos.”

 

FINANCIALLY LEAN, INNOVATIVELY GREEN

An important facet of LA 2024’s sustainability equation is financial. It stands to reason if an Olympic host committee can use existing athletic venues and existing structures for an Olympic and Paralympic Village and Media Center, it will save money. But how much? Well, LA 2024’s budget is projected to be $5.3 billion as compared to Paris’ projection of $9.3 billion. Both sound like lots of dough but consider that Rio 2016 spent $12 billion and Tokyo 2020 is looking at $30 billion. Russia spent $50 billion to put on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games ($50 billion??? On a Winter Olympics, which is a much smaller enterprise than its summer cousin?? That’s insane.) London 2012, considered the sustainability gold standard among Olympics, spent about $12 billion. So both LA 2024 and Paris 2024 are demonstrating that sustainability is not good Olympics business, it is great Olympics business.

Despite its lean budget and its reliance on existing structures, LA 2024 is not skimping on sustainable innovation. “One of our priorities is bringing together folks who are advancing sustainable practices through sport. Thus, we have allocated $25 million in seed funding for high impact, sustainability-focused projects with our partners,” Ms. Culp said, “The goal is to leave a positive long-term legacy for the community.”

 

WILL FANS KNOW THE LA 2024 SUSTAINABILITY STORY?

This wouldn’t be a GreenSportsBlog column on the sustainability impacts of a mega-sports event if we didn’t delve into how LA 2024 plans to communicate its sustainability initiatives to the fans at the Games and to the potentially billions who will be watching on TV, online and who knows how else in seven years time. Rio set the marker, with its Opening Ceremonies vignette on climate change that was seen by an estimated 1 billion people worldwide.

While there are no firm fan-focused sustainability communications plans in place (that would start to take shape if LA wins the bid), Ms. Culp is confident that “the more sustainable we make our Games, the more that broadcasters and other media will pick that up. And we will have plenty of eye-catching, sustainability stories, accented with a distinctly diverse and innovative LA flavor from which the media will be able to choose: From the aforementioned region-changing mass transit expansion to the use of locally sourced food to the use of recycled construction materials, and much more.”

 

LA 2024’S SUSTAINABILITY LEGACY GOES BEYOND VENUES AND MASS TRANSIT

A recurring theme to our conservation was this: Go big on environmental sustainability and innovation, add a diverse and vibrant culture and you have Los Angeles—and LA 2024. “I tell you, wherever I go throughout the area, people across the demographic spectra—gender, age, income, race—are very excited about the bid, with public support running at 88 percent” said Ms. Culp. This is in stark contrast to other cities in this cycle which had to withdraw their bids due to lack of public support; Boston, Budapest, Hamburg and Rome among them.  Sustainability is a foundational building block of that strong level of public support, opines Ms. Culp: “It is almost impossible these days to get people in a mega city to row together in the same direction. We know that our emphasis on sustainability in our bid has helped to make this happen.”

 

This 3 min 24 sec LA 2024 Venue Plan video demonstrates the bid committee’s commitment to use existing facilities.

 

 

^ UC Riverside is another university that is lending its facilities to the LA 2024 cause; it is designated to host the rowing competition.

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