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.

 

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NBA Signs On To UN’s Sports for Climate Action Framework; Who’s Got Next?

The UNFCCC’s Sports For Climate Action Framework has gotten some serious traction from the US sports world recently. Last month, the New York Yankees became the first pro sports team to sign on to the framework. And yesterday, the NBA became the first pro league to make the commitment.

 

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) announced yesterday that the NBA had become the first pro sports league in the US to sign on to its Sports for Climate Action initiative.

 

NBA UNFCCC

The UNFCCC’s tweet announcing that the NBA signed on to the Sports for Climate Action Framework

Launched in December, the Framework’s aim is to bring the sports industry’s greenhouse emissions in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement and inspire others to take ambitious climate action.

The Framework welcomes the NBA to its impressive list of A-List early adapters, including FIFA, the IOC, Fédération Française de Tennis, FFT, and the New York Yankees. Signatories commit to support Sport for Climate Action’s five core principles:

 

  1. Undertake systematic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility
  2. Reduce overall climate impact
  3. Educate for climate action
  4. Promote sustainable and responsible consumption
  5. Advocate for climate action through communication

With its massive global fan base and its particular popularity among millennials and Gen-Z’ers, the NBA is a terrific get for the Framework. According to the league:

  • The NBA has 150 million followers on social media
  • One billion people around the world have access to the NBA Finals
  • It is the most popular sports league in China, where over 300 million people play basketball
  • The NBA, in collaboration with FIBA, basketball’s international governing body, will launch the Basketball Africa League (BAL) in 12 countries¹ in January

Signing on to the Sports for Climate Action Framework is certainly the biggest green step taken by the league to date. Its sustainability foundation has largely been built by forward-leaning teams and a smattering of eco-athletes:

  • The Sacramento Kings’ Golden 1 Center became the world’s first arena to earn LEED Platinum certification.

 

Golden 1 Center

Golden 1 Center, LEED Platinum home of the Sacramento Kings (Photo credit: Sacramento Kings)

 

  • Portland’s Trail Blazers have hosted five “Green Games” per season at the Moda Center since 2015. The club invites its fans to take an active part in its efforts to be more environmentally conscious and to help reach a set of green goals (around energy, waste, food, water, and transportation) at the arena by 2025.
  • Malcolm Brogdon, of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals-bound Milwaukee Bucks, along with four other NBA players, launched Hoops₂O to teach East Africans to dig wells for fresh water.

 

GSB’s Take: Kudos to the NBA for joining the Sports for Climate Action Framework. Given the NBA’s brand image — cool, progressive, cutting edge — GSB will explore in the coming months if this commitment will be the beginning of a full-throated approach to the climate change fight from commissioner Adam Silver, its teams, sponsors and more of its players. I may sound like a broken record but, per the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), humanity has 12 years to cut our carbon emissions by 45 percent in order to avoid the most calamitous effects of climate change.

 

 

Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA (Photo credit: NBA)

 

Beyond basketball, in the parlance of playground hoops, the question becomes “Who’s Got Next?” — as in which leagues and events will join the NBA in signing on to the Sports For Climate Action Framework. I am surprised the NHL, the only league to issue a sustainability report — it has done so twice — has not joined the Framework. Hopefully that will change soon. The US Tennis Association, which has a very strong greening track record, seems like a logical signee sometime before the US Open starts in August.

You may ask, “What about the NFL, MLB, and MLS?”

Great question. Whaddya say, commissioners Roger Goodell (NFL), Rob Manfred (MLB), and Don Garber (MLS)? 

 

¹ Teams from Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia expected to be represented in BAL

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Eco-QB Josh Rosen Keeps Up Climate Fight; Green Sports Alliance “Plays for Next Generation”; Netherlands’ Get-Paid-to-Bike-to-Work Scheme Spreads

Happy Friday! In our TGIF GSB News & Notes column:

— The trade of quarterback Josh Rosen was one of the biggest stories to come out of last weekend’s NFL Draft. Post-draft, Rosen’s climate and environmental activism somehow became linked to the trade, at least on social media.

— Meanwhile, the UN’s Sports for Climate Action platform received a huge boost when the Green Sports Alliance agreed to sign on.

— And the Netherlands continues its environmental leadership by paying people to ride their bikes to work. 

 

CLIMATE CHANGE COMES UP IN SOCIAL MEDIA DISCUSSION OF JOSH ROSEN TRADE

There were two bizarre aspects to the trade of quarterback Josh Rosen from the Arizona Cardinals to the Miami Dolphins during the second round of last weekend’s NFL Draft in Nashville.

#1 The Arizona Cardinals selected quarterbacks in the first round two years in a row, something that has only happened once before in NFL history¹.

In 2018, the Cardinals moved up in the first round to choose Rosen with the tenth overall pick. Given the high value of that pick, Rosen was seen as the future of the franchise. That future lasted one frazzled season — his surrounding cast was weak, the UCLA product struggled, the team ended up with the worst record in the league, the coaching staff was fired, a new coach was hired, and the new head man professed unabashed love for Kyler Murray, the 2018 Heisman Trophy winning QB from the University of Oklahoma.

As a reward for having the worst record in the NFL, Arizona owned the first overall pick in the draft, and they used it grab Murray.

That meant Rosen had to go and the Dolphins, with one of the worst quarterback situations in the league, were happy to grab him for only a second round draft choice.

#2 Rosen’s interest in climate change and the environment became a rationale for Arizona’s desire to get rid of him.

The Rosen trade went down last Friday, the second day of the three-day draft. This tweet went up on Monday:

 

Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 2.40.37 PM

 

WQAM is a Miami sports talk radio station.

Rosen’s interest in the environment seemingly plays into one of the main criticisms about him: Too smart for his own good, always questions things, wants to understand the why of everything.

Color me crazy, but all of those critiques sound like strengths.

And how does an interest in the environment have anything to do with the way Rosen actually plays quarterback? I’m sure he is not thinking about the parts-per-million of CO₂ in the atmosphere as he’s about to get clobbered by a posse of hungry and angry defenders.

Back to Twitter.

A couple hours after the first tweet, Rosen was quoted in another, reacting to the media kerfuffle that resulted from his decision to unfollow the Cardinals on Instagram after they drafted Kyler Murray to replace him.

 

JOSH ROSEN 1

 

Parley for the Oceans is a non-profit that partners with adidas to produce apparel and footwear made from plastic ocean waste.

Rosen nailed the idiocy of people getting annoyed that he unfollowed the Cardinals, generating free publicity for Parley’s important work cleaning the oceans at the same time.

While the jury is still out on Rosen as an NFL quarterback — he had a statistically awful rookie season but, as mentioned above, he was stuck in a bad situation, including playing behind a leaky offensive line in Arizona — it is clear he knows his stuff when it comes to climate change.

Here’s a quote from Rosen in the run-up to the draft a little more than a year ago that shows he is an eco-athlete to watch:

One cause I’ll champion is the environment. It touches everything. I mean, the war in Syria started because of the drought and famine that destabilized the country and led the population to revolt against the government. I know global warming is a partisan issue for some stupid reason, but it touches everything.

Being traded to a quarterback-needy team located in sea level rise-threatened South Florida could be a win-win; for the Dolphins and the climate change fight.

 

GSB’s Take: I’m seriously conflicted here.

On the one hand, I love that Rosen is an eco-athlete who actually talks about the environment and climate change in public. If he does well on the field and continues to speak out on climate off of it, that will be a very good and important thing indeed.

On the other hand, I’m a New York Jets diehard. They and the Dolphins are big rivals so cheering for Miami has never been an option. And in last year’s draft, the Jets picked a rookie quarterback of their own in the first round. Sam Darnold of USC showed flashes of potential to be their first franchise signal caller since the days of Joe Willie Namath a (very long) half century ago. So he and Rosen will also be rivals for perhaps the next 10-15 years.

What to do?

I can’t switch from the Jets and Darnold — that’s too ingrained in my DNA. But aside from the two annual Jets-Dolphins matchups, I will pull for Josh Rosen.

 

GREEN SPORTS ALLIANCE ENCOURAGES MEMBERS TO COMMIT TO SPORTS FOR CLIMATE ACTION FRAMEWORK VIA “PLAYING FOR THE NEXT GENERATION”

The Green Sports Alliance marked Earth Week by launching “Playing for the Next Generation,” a campaign designed to encourage its members and partners to commit to the United Nation’s Sports for Climate Action Framework.

The Framework, which the UN kicked off in December, is buttressed by five overarching principles: 

  1. Undertake systematic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility;
  2. Reduce overall climate impact;
  3. Educate for climate action;
  4. Promote sustainable and responsible consumption;
  5. Advocate for climate action through communication.

Sports for Climate Action’s charter members represent a Who’s Who of sports governing bodies, leagues and events, including the International Olympic Committee, Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, French Tennis Federation (Roland Garros), International Sailing Federation, World Surf League, and Formula E.

Forest Green Rovers, the English League Two football club and, it says here, the greenest team in sports, is also a charter member. And, as reported in GreenSportsBlog on April 23, the New York Yankees became the first North American sports organization to sign a pledge to support Sports for Climate Action.

Yankees Earth Day

The Yankees’ Earth Day-themed pregame ceremony on April 21 commemorated the club’s commitment to operate by the tenets of the UN’s Sports for Climate Action platform. From left to right, it’s Doug Behar, Yankees Director of Operations; Satya Tripathi, UN Assistant Secretary General; Yankees manager Aaron Boone, and Allen Hershkowitz, Environmental Science Advisor to the Yankees (Photo credit: New York Yankees)

Now the Alliance has stepped up to encourage its 500+ members, including MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL and NHL, to commit to the Framework.

“The Alliance recognizes the vital need for the sports industry to address climate change and play a significant role in combatting it,” said Roger McClendon, Executive Director of the Alliance. “By supporting this Framework, sports teams are committing to work collaboratively with peers, sponsors, fans, and other relevant stakeholders to implement the UN’s climate action agenda in sports.”  

GSB’s Take: The UN’s Sports for Climate Action Framework just got a big momentum boost with the addition of the Green Sports Alliance to its roster. The Alliance will no doubt promote support of the Framework to its many members. GSB expects to see 1) Alliance members large and small sign on, and 2) Sports for Climate Action to get a lot of attention at the Alliance’s annual Summit in Philadelphia in June. As for the Framework’s five principles, GSB hopes the Alliance and its members put particular emphasis on #3 (Educate for climate action) and #5 (Advocate for climate action through communication).

DUTCH WORKERS GET PAID FOR COMMUTING TO WORK; NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES GET INTO THE ACT

The Netherlands is a Green-Sports leader.

Ajax (AH-Yax), the country’s top soccer club with 25 first division championships and a contender for the European Champions League title this season, has deployed a Nissan Leaf storage battery at Amsterdam ArenA

But it is at the grassroots level where the country’s Green-Sports leadership really shines through. Consider these two factoids:

  1. There are more bicycles than people in the Netherlands;
  2. Bikes account for almost half of all journeys between home and work in  Amsterdam. 

Yes, the pervasiveness of bike paths makes commuting on two wheels safe. And the country’s flat terrain makes it easy for people to get around on their bikes. But, according to a story by Sean Fleming in weforum.org, the Dutch government gives the public a helpful leg up on to their bikes in the form of tax credits.

Every kilometer cycled to and from work can earn a Dutch citizen up to an extra 22¢US tax-free. And this is no longer unique to the Netherlands: A similar incentive is now available to bike commuters in neighboring Belgium. 

Netherlands

Commuters are paid to ride their bikes to work in the Netherlands (Photo credit: Yves Herman/Reuters)

I know what you’re thinking: “What about the third Low Country, Lew? What about Luxembourg?!”

Not to worry. Luxembourg workers can take advantage of a $340 tax rebate to be used to buy a bicycle.

France, clearly looking to their Low Country counterparts, will enact a cycle-to-work reimbursement program next year.

While Great Britain is trying to figure out how to (Br)exit the EU, their Cycle to Work program mimics their counterparts (for now) on the continent. The UK operates a lease-to-own model allowing employees to get discounted bikes and equipment through their employer.

The employer buys the bike and leases it to the employee. Monthly lease payments are deducted before taxes, resulting in an after-tax savings of 32 percent for most taxpayers. A mileage allowance is also available for British cyclists who use their bikes for business purposes.

What about the USA?

Fleming reports there are “a range of tax breaks aimed at commuters in the US, too, including a $20 per month allowance for cycling expenses. However, the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (aka “The Trump Tax Cuts”) changed all that and cycling costs can no longer be deducted from pre-tax pay, effectively making it a little more expensive for some American cyclists.”

GSB’S Take: GSB is not surprised the Netherlands leads on providing incentives for bike commuting. After all, with much of its coastline lying below sea level, the country has by necessity led the world in developing technologies to fight climate change-caused sea level rise. Sadly we are also not surprised that the Trump Tax Cut law made it less rewarding financially for American cyclists.

¹ The Baltimore (now Indianapolis) Colts selected Ohio State’s Art Schlichter in the first round in the 1982 draft and then chose John Elway out of Stanford with the first overall pick of the 1983 draft.

 


 

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The GSB Interview: Chris Mazdzer, US Olympic Medal-winning Luger & Eco-Athlete

Chris Mazdzer is a true pioneer.

He became the first American male to win an Olympic medal in Single’s luge when he took home silver at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games. And he is leading a burgeoning movement among world class lugers to engage fans on the climate change fight.

GreenSportsBlog spoke with Mazdzer about his work on the luge track and as an environmental activist.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Chris, before we get into your very important work with your fellow lugers on the environment and on climate, I’d like to know how you got into the sport in the first place.

Chris Mazdzer: Thanks, Lew. So I grew up in Peru, New York near Lake Placid…

GSB: …Site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics and the “Miracle on Ice” — “Do you believe in miracles?? YES!!!!” — and one of the few places in the U.S. with a bobsled/luge run.

Chris: That would be the place. I was exposed to luge at eight years old and it was natural for me. I loved sledding — would go sledding through apple orchards for hours. Luge was like ultimate sledding for me. Anyway, I showed some talent for it at a young age. I was on a development team when I was 12; at 13, I showed enough promise that I was picked for a junior team that went to Europe for a competition.

GSB: Sliding down a sheet of ice on your back, with no protection. Yikes! I guess when you’re young, you’re more likely to be fearless, right? How come you picked luge over bobsled?

Chris: First of all there were many more kids bobsledding so there was a long line and not as many runs. Plus you’re only driving 50 percent of the time — that’s really where the action is. And luge was just SO MUCH FUN! It’s as simple as this: two runs with bobsled or ten with luge. Anyways, when I was 17, I was having a breakout season and tried out for the Olympic team for the 2006 Torino Games. I missed the last spot by 0.161 seconds total over three runs; lost out to my roommate.

GSB: You must’ve been devastated…

Chris: …Disappointed but not at all devastated. It gave me motivation and the confidence to really believe, “Hey, I can do this!” So I made the team in 2010, finishing 13th in Vancouver. Same thing happened in 2014 in Sochi. Finally, I broke through last year in Pyeongchang, winning silver

GSB …In the process, becoming the first American male luger to win a medal of any kind in singles. Congratulations! Do you compete in doubles?

 

Chris Mazdzer

Chris Mazdzer (Photo credit: USA Luge)

 

Chris: Thank you, Lew. I did doubles in juniors but ended up specializing in singles, until now that is. My goal is to give the Olympics one more shot in Beijing in 2022, both in singles and for the first time in doubles.

GSB: How about medaling in both? Not to put any pressure on you or anything like that! OK, now pivoting to the environment. How did you get involved?

Chris: I’m 30 years-old. Growing up in the Adirondacks and being involved in winter sports, I’ve seen changes to our winters just in the time that I’ve been active. From bigger thaws to more rain during winter when it would normally snow. But it’s not just in winter. I travel a lot — I was in Indonesia and saw massive amounts of plastic on the beaches, in the oceans. I live in Salt Lake City these days, and the air quality is really, really bad. I don’t need the science to tell me — it’s clear, the climate is changing, the environment is worsening and it is humans that are helping to cause these adverse effects. And studying the science only confirms this. Without a doubt.

GSB: So what did you do, what are you doing to have an impact?

Chris: Well, I started out looking to offset the carbon emissions for which I’m responsible from all my flights. But, because I fly over 150,000 miles per year, that becomes quite costly. So I try to offset at least half for now. But then I became an athlete member on the International Luge Federation (FIL), sitting on a lot of committees. And I realized this is where I could have an impact! We’re starting small, working to have reusable cups at major competitions. But then I saw a video featuring several skiers at the World Championships in Finland, talking about why they love winter and why it’s important to take action on climate to protect it. I thought to myself, ‘We could do something similar.’ People don’t believe politicians; they don’t believe scientists. Who do they trust? Their peers and athletes! Scary but true: They trust athletes more than scientists. Thing is, athletes generally don’t engage on climate. And so I aimed to change that, at least with lugers.

GSB: You’ve put yourself on the hot seat, Chris: Qualify for the Olympics and getting athletes — in this case — lugers to care about and talk about climate. How are you doing the latter?

Chris: Well, I started in January by putting together a seminar for lugers competing at the 2019 World Championships in Winterberg, Germany. I was able to secure funding from one of my personal sponsors and brought in an expert and amazing speaker, Michael Pedersen of M Inc., a leader in sport governance. Tragically and unbelievably, Michael passed away suddenly a few weeks after our event due to a heart attack. He was 43.

GSB: I heard about that. What a tragic, unfathomable loss.

Chris: It’s still hard to believe. And his presentation to our group was incredible. He shared that athletes are in a unique position, with a powerful megaphone. He showed videos of people who’ve stood up and spoken up on a variety of issues, including climate, including Greta Thunberg, the 16 year-old Swedish girl who recently was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for starting what has virally become a global student “climate strike” movement.. He did not focus on the science — the athletes are already on board there — but rather the need to use our platform to talk about the environment, whether it be climate, plastic ocean waste, pollution, etc.

 

Michael Pedersen

The late Michael Pedersen (Photo credit: M Inc.)

 

GSB: How did the lugers react and how many showed up?

Chris: Michael did such a great job — they really bought in. We had 15 lugers there. It was not as many as we would’ve liked but it was World Championship Week, the guys had to train, had media requirements so it was tough to get a bigger group. And it was a first time, so we learned a lot and am confident we’ll do better going forward.

GSB: How did you do on the track in Winterberg?

Chris: I only competed in doubles and doubles sprint this year due to a neck injury I sustained earlier in the week.  My partner Jayson Terdiman and I finished fifth in the Doubles sprint and eleventh in Doubles. Being it was our first year together I felt that we did we really well.

GSB: Good to hear. What else are you working on, sustainability-wise?

Chris: I’m working on the single use plastic issue among athletes and also with the IOC to see how they can help athletes reduce their carbon footprints. It’s a bigger issue than you might think — we get killed by some critics. Because of going from event to event all over the world, my carbon footprint is 10 to 15 times that of the average American. I think that finding creative ways to partner with the IOC, FIL and sponsors to help fund the offsetting of athlete travel-related emissions will allow athletes to stand on firmer ground when discussing this important topic.

 

Luge - Winter Olympics Day 1

Chris Mazdzer navigates Turn 14 at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics (Photo credit: USA Luge)

 


 

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Yankees Sign On To UN Sports for Climate Action Framework; Strongest Public Commitment to Climate Change Fight Among North American Pro Sports Teams

The Yankees’ announced today they have added their name to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework, making them the first North American professional sports team to do so. The groundbreaking move by the Bronx Bombers drew praise from the UN Secretary-General António Guterres. 

 

The New York Yankees are off to a middling start on the field in 2019, with a 2-3 record after last night’s 3-1 loss to Detroit¹ but, from a Green-Sports perspective, the team is leading the field.

The 27-time World Champions today became the first major North American sports team to sign on to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework. Launched by UN Climate Change in December, the Framework’s aim is to bring the sports industry’s greenhouse emissions in line with the Paris Climate Change Agreement and inspire others to take ambitious climate action.

 

Yankee Stadium II

Yankee Stadium (Photo credit: New York Yankees)

 

Before I go on to the rest of the story, just pause and let the following sink in:

The New York Yankees, the most storied and successful franchise in North American sports history, just made a clear, definitive, public commitment in support of the climate change fight.

Allen Hershkowitz, the Yankees’ newly-minted Environmental Science Advisor and Chairman of Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI), framed the organization’s climate promises this way: “This announcement by the Yankees, due to their powerful, iconic brand, has the chance to change cultural assumptions about sports and climate action. The organization, from the top down, recognizes they, the sports world more broadly, and all of humanity, are facing a global climate crisis. The hope is that, if the Yankees can do this, other teams across all sports — many of which have taken similar actions — will feel emboldened to make their own commitments to the Framework.”

And those pledges have real teeth.

In addition to the GHG reduction and offsetting guarantees, the Yankees and the other signatories to the Framework, have promised to support the following principles:

  • Undertake systematic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility
  • Reduce overall climate impact
  • Educate for climate action
  • Promote sustainable and responsible consumption
  • Advocate for climate action through communication

 

YANKEES JOIN GLOBAL ALL-STAR TEAM OF SPORTS ORGANIZATIONS JOINING THE FRAMEWORK

The Yankees have been at the cutting edge of Green-Sports since moving into the current iteration of Yankee Stadium in 2009. From attaining Zero-Waste status (i.e. diverting 90 percent or more of waste from landfill via recycling, composting and other methods) to funding the distribution of clean burning cookstoves to women in East Africa that will help public health while reducing carbon emissions, and much more, the Yankees have already started down the path to reaching their Framework commitments.

The organization joins numerous prominent international high profile sports organizations committed to the Framework, including the International Olympic Committee, FIFA, the French Tennis Federation-Roland Garros, Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, 2021 Rugby League World Cup, Formula E, and others.

“The New York Yankees are proud to support the United Nations Sports for Climate Action Framework,” said Yankees’ Principal Owner and Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner in a press release. “For many years, the Yankees have been implementing the type of climate action now enshrined in the Sports for Climate Action principles, and with this pledge the Yankees commit to continue to work collaboratively with our  sponsors, fans and other relevant stakeholders to implement the UN’s climate action agenda in sports.”

 

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL SOUNDS LIKE A YANKEES FAN — AT LEAST FROM A GREEN-SPORTS PERSPECTIVE

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres recognized the importance of having a team as prominent and influential as the Yankees endorse the Sports for Climate Action Framework.

 

Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary-General António Guterres (Photo credit: Forbes)

“I welcome the announcement by the New York Yankees to join Sports for Climate Action,” Mr. Guterres said. “With their rich winning tradition, the Yankees bring a new level of leadership to global efforts to tackle climate change. When it comes to safeguarding our future, it’s time to play ball.”

 

GSB’s Take: I am particularly proud to be a lifelong Yankees fan today. Kudos to team management, from Hal Steinbrenner on down, for moving to become the first North American professional sports franchise to sign on to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework. Because of the competitive nature of pro sports, I expect other MLB teams to follow suit and for teams in other sports to do so as well. I will be interested to see how the Yankees communicate this commitment to their fans, both at the ballpark and those who follow the team on TV, online and elsewhere.

 

¹ It’s early!

 


 

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The GSB Interview: Lex Chalat, On Where Green-Sports Fits with Beyond Sport and thinkBeyond

Green-Sports is one spoke of the Purpose & Sports wheel that also includes child protection, diversity and inclusion, supporting refugees and more. Lex Chalat began working in that space in 2008 when she joined Beyond Sport, which was just starting out in London, and she hasn’t left.

Since then, she helped the organization become an influential convener and funder of sport-for-good nonprofits around the world. And Lex also has been a driving force behind thinkBeyond — a consultancy born out of Beyond Sport — that “helps organizations and people that do good, to do it better through sports.”

Our conversation covered a wide range of topics, including where the environment fits in the Beyond Sport/thinkBeyond “cause lineup” and how green can become a bigger factor going forward.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Lex, I’ve wanted to interview you for GreenSportsBlog for a long time so thank you! I can sometimes get very myopic about Green-Sports and so having the perspective of someone who looks at all aspects of Purpose & Sport, from gender to refugees to, well, green, is valuable indeed. How did you get into the sport-for-good niche?

Lex Chalat: I was a gymnast growing up in Colorado, so I got the power of sports early on. Went to UPenn in Philadelphia and became captain of the gymnastics team, which was just an incredible experience that has had a lasting influence on my life. Majored in journalism and art history. After graduation, I became a journalist in Philly, working at a small local paper in the southwest section of the city. It was really a forgotten neighborhood of Philadelphia, not well connected to mass transit. The problems were many and serious but there also was a lot of good going on in the Southwest. We only wrote good news stories about the community — which meant most of them focused on arts, music and sports — hey, if you wanted to read about murders in the area, then you’d read The Inquirer! From there I moved to being editor at South Philly Review, which covered similar topics. I also wrote about community development and art for Philadelphia Weekly, including a weekly column called The Edge that told stories about how arts and sports were both gentrifying but also supporting the development of the areas on the fringes of the city. I loved and became obsessed with not only the writing but also community development.

 

Beyond Innovation Summit

Lex Chalat (Photo credit: Beyond Sport)

 

GSB: Did you go into community development?

Lex: No. Instead I got my Masters at the London School of Economics, choosing that school because of its independent, open-ended approach. So I created my own path, studying about unique catalysts for change — like sports and arts — in urban areas. In fact, my dissertation was entitled, “Art Affects.”

GSB: Very cool. What did you do next?

Lex: So in 2008, I saw that an entrepreneur and ex-athlete, Nick Keller, was starting something called Beyond Sport. He had some very prominent early backers, with Tony Blair being the chairman of the Beyond Sport Ambassadors…

GSB: You can’t get more prominent in Great Britain than Tony Blair! He had just left the Prime Ministership at that time, right?

Lex: That’s right. He and Nick both saw the power of the connection between sport, the business world, and society. Not a lot of people were talking about it then, especially not in the private sector.

GSB: Having Tony Blair onboard was a huge coup!

Lex: Yes! He helped Beyond Sport get support from other elite athletes and celebrities of that time like David Beckham, Seb Coe…

GSB: Former world record holder of the mile and the head of the London 2012 Olympics…

Lex: …former NBA basketball star and U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, legendary Olympic swimmer Donna De Varona and more.

GSB: That’s an impressive roster

Lex: I saw that Beyond Sport launched and said to myself, ‘Obviously I’m going to work for them.’ I found out they were looking for an intern and even though I had a Masters degree, I said ‘YES!’ right away. We were a true startup — there were eight of us at the time. Our approach was to connect governments and the private sector to help publicize and fund the most effective nonprofits in the burgeoning “sport for good” world. And we had early success, thanks in large part to signing Barclays as a lead sponsor. By the summer of 2009, we were hosting the first Beyond Sport global summit in London. Desmond Tutu, Australian Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Ian Thorpe, and Marcus Agius, the CEO of Barclays at the time, headlined the speaker list. Sport-for-good organizations applied for Beyond Sport awards, which included a prize of funding and business support, in categories like Sport for Education, Sport for Health, and the Environment. We covered the cost of all short-listed organizations to get to London for the Summit. It was INCREDIBLE!!!

 

Adolf ogi-and-Desmond tutu1

Adolf Ogi, UN Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace and former President of the Swiss Confederation, presents the 2009 Beyond Sport Humanitarian in Sport to Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Photo credit: Beyond Sport)

 

GSB: No kidding! So convening the private sector and governments to fund sport-for-good became Beyond Sport’s ‘special sauce’?

Lex: That’s right…And the Summits allowed us to educate, tell stories, and inspire. Since those early days, we’ve diversified and grown, with Beyond Sport United, which brings the major U.S. leagues together to explore how they can make a bigger social impact, Beyond Innovation — focused on Sport-for-STEM, Beyond Soccer, Beyond Rugby, Beyond Sport UK, Beyond Sport Mexico… the list goes on.

GSB: I’ve been to one global Summit and several Beyond Sport United events, although none in the last couple years. And, full disclosure, I was a judge for the environmental category shortlist a few years back. The events I attended were indeed inspiring — seeing the incredible Sport-for-Good nonprofits, like Skateistan, an organization that teaches kids in war torn Kabul, Afghanistan to skateboard, was, well…beyond. What’s been happening with Beyond Sport since 2015-2016?

 

Skateistan1

Kids participate in 2013 ‘Sport For Education’ Beyond Sport Global Award winner Skateistan’s program in Kabul, Afghanistan (Photo credit: Skateistan)

 

Lex: A lot has changed since we first started. First, the sport for good world has become far more sophisticated. Second, the corporate and government sectors are far more interested and committed to purpose than they were a decade ago. And finally, we have found people are interested in engaging in content in a different way. As a result of these three key components, we are constantly trying to revolutionize how we evolve and deliver our platforms so we can continue to benefit the sectors, but also push forward and grow. This year, we’re really changing it up with Beyond Sport United this September.

GSB: How so?

Lex: For the past few years, Beyond Sport United has expanded beyond a one-day conference to include peripheral events – from Community in Action to roundtable, senior leadership discussions. This year, we are creating something called Beyond Sport House, which will be one location that will host many small, vibrant sessions. Along with Beyond Sport United, which will still focus on teams and leagues, there will be pop-up talks here, workshops there, debates across the hall, networking in a corner over there. The discussions will be solutions-oriented, no matter the topic, from human rights to mental health to STEM to the environment. The content will be partner-led and attendees will be able to curate their own itinerary, as well as run their own sessions and side meetings. There will also be a chance to attend affiliate UN week events after Beyond Sport House closes. It will be a very fluid way of serving content and a different way to engage people. Details will be coming out soon.

GSB: WOW! It sounds like you and your team have gone beyond shaking things up! Does this mean the Beyond Sport Awards are no longer?

Lex: Not at all! That’s one of the most exciting things we’re working on this year. The awards will still play a major role, although we are re-envisioning them. There will still be a number of categories, a short list for each and then a winner. What’s new is that we are looking to add two big awards to deal with two big UN Global Goals. One is likely to be gender or social-related and — you will like this — the other is likely to be climate action. We’re looking to get bigger funding and name multiple “sport for good” organizations — likely three to five — as winners of each prize. They will be tasked with teaming up to come up with big solutions to the defined mega-problem.

GSB: So it’s a matter of the whole being great than the sum of its parts?

Lex: Exactly. We’re really excited about this.

GSB: I can see why. I’m looking forward to attending. Now, let’s pivot to thinkBeyond. What is it, how did it come about and how does it relate to Beyond Sport?

Lex: This goes back to 2013. Barclays announced they were ending their partnership but they gave us a three-year off-ramp, which was very generous of them. So we had some time to think about how to diversify our revenue generation because, since the Great Recession of 2008, the corporate sponsorship world was changing dramatically. Getting corporates to sponsor conferences and summits like ours became exponentially harder. On the other hand, many corporations were becoming increasingly interested in ‘purpose’engaging their communities and stakeholders for good, enhancing their brands, attracting and retaining employees — but didn’t know how to do it! Through Beyond Sport, we had the expertise about how to use sport to develop and execute purpose-driven strategies. And we sat at the intersection of hundreds of governing bodies, incredible sport-for-good nonprofits — most of which many brands had never heard of — and government agencies that could help activate those strategies. thinkBeyond grew out of this, really taking off in 2014-15.

GSB: So thinkBeyond is a purpose-driven strategic agency that uses the deep experience developed through Beyond Sport. With whom have you worked and what kind of work have you done?

Lex: We work in three main buckets — 1. Helping corporations and sports governing bodies develop their ‘sport for good’ strategies; 2. Implementing and activating those strategies; and 3. Helpng to position and communicate those strategies. ESPN is a great example of our work in all arenas. thinkBeyond developed and project manages their international purpose-driven initiative, “Built To Play,” in Latin America, India and Australia. It creates safe spaces to play as well as providing access to sport for women, employment training programs and more. Key to the program’s success was our ability to find the nonprofits on the ground in the local areas that made things happen. We also work with SAP on their sport and CSR strategy. The NFL and NHL are also clients we work with on developing purpose-driven content. So is the Qatar FIFA 2022 World Cup as well as World Rugby.

In January we launched thinkBeyond Talent — we advise athletes on how to make the most of their purpose-driven efforts.

GSB: Who have you signed on so far?

Lex: We manage Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson’s foundation, work with Brian Dawkins of the Philadelphia Eagles, helping him develop his new foundation, and Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh, British Olympic field hockey players and the first gay married couple on Team GB, developing their cause narrative.

GSB: Great work on two counts: 1. Coming up with a smart, sustainable response to the need for Beyond Sport to change its business model, and 2. Developing impactful thinkBeyond programs that benefit people on the ground and sponsor brands. Now let’s talk environment and climate. It’s always seemed to me that green has taken a bit of a back seat to the other areas of endeavor at Beyond Sport. What’s your take?

Lex: To be totally honest, Beyond Sport has struggled in the green space. We’ve never gotten huge interest from our nonprofit and corporate networks on environment and climate. It’s been on the periphery. Since we’re not “Sport for Climate” experts, judging Beyond Sport’s environmental awards and creating our green content have largely been outsourced to the Green Sports Alliance and other leaders. thinkBeyond changed all that, finding corporate clients interested in green, in climate. We helped BT in 2015-16 with their 100% Sport initiative in the UK that got athletes and teams to push for action on climate. We handled their online campaign and managed their activation at the COP21 climate conference in Paris…

GSB: …The conference where Paris Climate Accord was signed.

Lex: We’re also working with Lewis Pugh, the long-distance swimmer, to get corporate partnerships through thinkBeyond Talent. He swims in places like Antarctica to highlight the seriousness of climate change.

GSB: Pugh is an incredible eco-athlete and humanitarian…

 

Lewis Pugh

Lewis Pugh trains for his 2018 across the English Channel which helped spur the UK government to take action to protect the world’s oceans (Photo credit: Kelvin Trautman)

 

Lex: Absolutely. We’ve done better, green-wise, with thinkBeyond which I think is a sign that people care about it they just don’t know how to activate that interest. But we’re not where we want to be yet. And we’re ramping up, green-wise, on Beyond Sport. In fact, there will be a Global Goals workshop focused on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at Beyond Sport House in New York in September. So green will be featured — along with gender equity, refugees, safe play and more.

GSB: What can Beyond Sport, thinkBeyond, the Green Sports Alliance, the UN, and others do to accelerate sport’s involvement with the climate crisis? Because, per the UNFCC’s latest report, the world doesn’t have time to waste. And I ask this question knowing there are politics involved.

Lex: I think Beyond Sport can ensure there is always a platform for experts to share how they are tackling climate issues through sport; thinkBeyond can do its part by tooling up our strategic services to cater to those who want to develop sustainability strategies – so we can make sure we help them in a smart way; and I think GSA and other experts need to move forward, and go beyond sport (no pun intended) by that I mean: In addition to trying to fix the sports world, we need to work with sports to fix the world. And, as far as climate change is concerned, we need to go beyond greening the sports world, and find ways for sports to green the world.

 

 

 

 


 

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Sir Ben Ainslie, GSB’s Greenwasher of the Year, Featured in IOC’s/UNFCCC’s Sports For Climate Action Video

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.

UN Climate Change, working with various sectors of the sports world, announced the Sports for Climate Action Framework.

The Framework, according to a UN Climate Change press release, has two key goals:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?

None other than Sir Ben Ainslie, GSB’s Green-Sports Greenwasher of the Year.

 

 

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.

 

Ainslie Ratcliffe

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.”

 

GSB’s Take: 

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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The GSB Interview with Ann Duffy, Sustainability Leader for Olympic, FIFA World Cup Bids — Part II: Advancing Mega-Event Sustainability Post-Vancouver 2010; Where We Go From Here

Ann Duffy has been working at the intersection of mega-sports events and sustainability for more than a decade. She was hired as Chief Sustainability Officer for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. Since then, Ann has been involved in some way, shape or form with the sustainability efforts for several of the Olympic/Paralympic bids, as well as with the successful United Bid of Canada, Mexico and the United States to host the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup. No one is better positioned to talk about sustainability and mega sports events than Ann Duffy so GreenSportsBlog is honored to offer this two part interview.

In yesterday’s Part I, Ann shared how mega-sports events are in her blood, how she came to lead the sustainability efforts at the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games and what she and team were able to accomplish there.

Today, in Part II, we examine Ann’s post-Vancouver 2010 work with a variety of Olympic and FIFA World Cup bid and organizing committees. We also discuss what future bid and organizing committees can do to engage fans on climate change and other environmental issues.

 

GSB: Kudos to you and the Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee (VANOC) team for advancing mega-event sustainability. What did you do for a follow up act once the Olympic Flame was doused?

Ann: Thanks! Like I said before, this was the best job I ever had. It was also incredibly intense. Once the Games were over I decided I didn’t want to work in such a cauldron. So in 2010, as my work with VANOC wound down, I started quietly to build The Ann Duffy Group as a sustainability-focused consultancy to mega-event bid and host committees, with an emphasis on the broader, ESG definition of sustainability. The organizing committee for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics reached out in June, 2010 and asked “Can you help us more fully reflect environmental, social and governance goals of the IOC?

GSB: I’m sure you could and did help them. My question is did the Russian authorities allow the sustainability plans to actually be implemented. Aside from the insanity, in my view, of awarding a Winter Olympics to a Mediterreanean-like city on the Black Sea, it sure looked like the Russian government engaged in a serious greenwash. Was that the case?

Ann: Well, I worked with the Sochi committee for one year until the fall of 2011. My experience with my Russian colleagues was incredible; they were totally committed. We put together a sustainability management system including an environmental protection program, a process for sustainable procurement, and a new sustainability reporting structure.

 

Duffy Sochi

Ann Duffy (2nd from right) and her colleagues at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Organizing Committee (Photo credit: Ann Duffy)

 

GSB: They didn’t have one in place?

Ann: No. Sadly, the program didn’t get fully implemented and the sustainability team was terminated 18 months before the Games. It’s just different in Russia, obviously. I mean, there was no warning in the run up as to how they would turn on the LGBTQ communities the way they did.

GSB: That was awful…and not surprising.

Ann: Thankfully, Canada showed how it’s done by having a Pride House at Canada House in Sochi. And the Deputy Mayor of Vancouver at the time went to Thomas Bach, head of the IOC, and pressed him to ensure that the IOC would expand the Olympic Charter to address LGBTQ issues and they did. On sustainability, I worked on the IOC’s Sustainability and Legacy Commission as part of the development of its Agenda 2020 (a strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic movement).

GSB: Good job, Ann; good job, Canada! And despite the problems with Sochi that were way beyond your control, congratulations on getting The Ann Duffy Group up and running quickly.

Ann: I was very blessed and very busy. From 2013 to 2015, I worked with the local organizing committees of three, count ’em three mega-events, all of which were happening in Canada in 2015.

GSB: I know about the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup; what were the other two?

Ann: The Canada Winter Games were held in Prince George, BC in February of that year. Then the FIFA Women’s World Cup were held across Canada^ in June-July. And then Toronto hosted the Pan Am Games in late July.

 

Women's World Cup

England (white) battles Mexico during the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup (Photo credit: Zou Zheng/Xinhua)

 

GSB: That’s a mega-event trifecta right there! Did you get any sleep?

Ann: Not much. Especially when you factor in that, in 2013, I also was working on the sustainability aspects of Istanbul’s bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, which ultimately went to Tokyo.

GSB: Talk about what you did for the 2015 Canada mega-event trifecta…

Ann: We built on the sustainability efforts of Vancouver 2010 with all three mega-events. The Canada Winter Games are by far the smallest, featuring younger, pre-Olympic athletes. We raised the green bar for all Canada Games going forward by improving sustainability practices, beefing up sustainability-related community engagement and issuing a sustainability report. The FIFA Women’s World Cup was a much bigger yet different animal…

GSB: How so?

Ann: Well, first of all, FIFA put greater emphasis on the Men’s World Cup. But that just meant we had to push extra hard and we did. We worked to leave a sport legacy with integrated environmental management processes and sport development opportunities for women and girls in each of the six host cities and national soccer association. The Pan Am Games were more focused on economic and social sustainability than the environment…

GSB: Why do you think that was the case?

Ann: It comes down to the opportunities and preferences of leadership, plain and simple.

GSB: I guess. But if mega-sports events are really going to lead on sustainability, what can be done to ensure environment and climate are never relegated to the sidelines again?

Ann: I think the prevalence of visible best practices in Europe and other host cities and stadia that demonstrate responsibility for climate impacts, waste impacts, water and biodiversity will help. Environmental stewardship and respect for human rights are now bid requirements for FIFA and Olympic bids. North American professional sports leagues like the NHL, NFL, MLS and MLB are demonstrating leadership. Stadium owners that have built or renovated stadia to green building standards like LEED are also leading on green operations and supporting community initiatives.

GSB: Speaking of leadership, what kind of sustainability projects do you like to lead more: Bids or organizing committees?

Ann: Good question. I guess I love both, but for different reasons. Creativity and “visioning” are crucial for bid work. Organizing committee work is also satisfying — it involves not only organizing and implementing but also coaching, and that means everyone from volunteers up to the C-suite.

GSB: Talking about bid work, you consulted with one of the most sustainable mega-event bids to date, LA 2028.

Ann: Actually, when I started working with them on sustainability it was the LA 2024 bid. But the IOC awarded Paris, another incredibly sustainable bid, those Games and slid LA to 2028. It was great to work with Brence Culp and the LA sustainability team.

GSB: Brence is terrific. GreenSportsBlog interviewed her awhile back.

 

Duffy Brence Culp Rio

Ann Duffy (l) and Brence Culp, head of sustainability for LA 2028 (Photo credit: Ann Duffy)

 

Ann: LA 2028 is an example of what you can do sustainability-wise, when all the stakeholders get it: The city, county, state and local utilities were “all in”. So were the sponsors.

GSB: It doesn’t hurt when most of the venues for LA 2028 already exist…You recently worked on another bid in which no new venues are needed, the United Bid between Canada, Mexico and the US that won the right to host the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup over Morocco.

Ann: The environment, including climate change, along with community and fan engagement took central roles in both the United Bid and the LA 2028 bid. In addition to no new permanent venues, both have robust and sophisticated climate action plans that include new partnerships and collaboration with city and state utilities, public transit providers, stadia/venue owners. Host cities will showcase urban policies such as bold commitments to clean energy.

GSB: What was your role on the United Bid?

Ann: I was a sustainability-legacy advisor. It was a real sprint as the timeline was short but we were fortunate that FIFA had established a strong sustainability mandate.

GSB: They needed to do that, especially in light of the mega-laundry list of mega-problems with Qatar 2022: Human rights violations, indentured servitude, deaths of perhaps as many as 1,200 construction workers building eight stadiums in a country of only 2.5 million people, stadiums that will have air conditioning even though they’re outdoor venues because of the country’s extreme heat…What did the sustainability mandate, well, mandate for the 2026 bid?

Ann: It went deep, Lew. And the United Bid stepped up. GRI sustainability reporting, a climate action plan, ISO 2012-1 certification for sustainable events. Human rights, labor rights, ethical business conduct standards. Green Sports Alliance Board member Mary Harvey took the lead on human rights. I took the lead on the rest, working with the financial services firm Grant Thornton on ethical business and Arup, the global design and engineering firm, on some of the environmental aspects.

GSB: I’m so glad you and Mary were on the case and that the United Bid won the day. Now I’d like to widen the lens a bit. You’ve been involved in the greening of the Olympics and World Cups from the early days of Vancouver 2010 through LA 2028. My main concern, as it is with the whole of the Green-Sports movement, is that most fans — attendees and the much bigger number who watch on TV or online — have no idea this is going on. None.

Ann: Lew, I’m with you 100 percent! We need to do a much better job of using the platform of the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup to share the great greening stories with fans.

GSB: So how do we ensure this happens? If Rio 2016 could have a climate change-themed vignette at the Opening Ceremonies seen by an estimated 1 billion people, why didn’t Pyeongchang 2018 do something similar? Will Tokyo 2020 or Beijing 2022 communicate something on climate to fans?

Ann: Funny you mention Rio 2016. I helped on the Rio 2016 with communications during the actual Games.

GSB: I would be surprised if you weren’t involved with Rio!

Ann: I was fortunate to be at the rehearsal for the Opening Ceremonies. When the powerful climate change vignette came on, I started bawling. Mainstreaming climate change messaging was so…powerful. Incredible, really.

 

Duffy Rio Open

Ann Duffy and her colleagues on the 2016 Rio Olympics Organizing Committee at the rehearsal for the Opening Ceremonies (Photo credit: Ann Duffy)

 

GSB: So how do we make sure that climate change vignette is not a one off?

Ann: Well, the Olympics…and all sport event hosts, frankly, are desperately trying gain relevance and traction with younger audiences…

GSB: …Millennials, GenZ and the rest…

Ann: And those young people want to have an exciting sport event experience. Young people expect responsible action that includes all of it — climate solutions, environmental solutions, diversity and ethical solutions. Sometimes these features will take the lead in the event experience and most of the time they will support the event experience. Mega-event hosts need to recognize this. Well executed, eco-themed fan engagement programs will go over well. Sponsor brands are already stepping up, as well. I am confident this will happen at Paris 2024, the United 2026 FIFA World Cup and LA 2028.

SB: What about Tokyo 2020, Beijing 2022, and Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022?

Ann: I’d love to say “yes” to the engagement question with those events but it’s a bit complicated. I haven’t worked with any of those mega-events so what I know about them is from a distance. As far as Tokyo 2020 is concerned, I know that, from a technical innovation perspective, the Summer Games will be at the leading edge of sustainability, from energy efficiency to tree planting and much more. On the other hand, from what I’ve heard, on social aspects of sustainability like LGBTQ issues, they’re not so advanced. And on fan engagement issues, I don’t know what they’re going to do. I do know that Pyeongchang 2018 did not follow the lead of Rio and communicate their greenness to fans.

GSB: True. And based on my conversation with the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee sustainability team, it seems, sadly, like they will be more like Pyeongchang than Rio in terms of fan engagement. I don’t have any intel on the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and sustainability as yet…

Ann: …One thing I can say about China is that, as a country, it is stepping up on climate action nationally far more aggressively than the USA is. I don’t yet know of any specific action by the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics…

GSB: …Maybe the Beijing Organizing Committee will surprise in a good way. Speaking of 2022, what are your thoughts, sustainability-wise, regarding the aforementioned Qatar FIFA World Cup?

Ann: The problems, human rights-wise and otherwise, have been horrible. And that Qatar was a weird choice in the first place given the size and climate of the country is an understatement. The one heartening thing is that, as we heard at the GSA Summit in June, there are some striking environmental innovations underway with the stadiums and the strong national commitment to renewable energy will be a part of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

GSB: I hear what you’re saying, Ann, but I guess, as the expression goes, I’m from Missouri on Qatar: Show Me! At least it looks like environmental sustainability will play a big role at the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, the United 2026 FIFA World Cup and the LA 2028 Summer Games…What do you think?

Ann: Mega-events like the Olympics and FIFA World Cups generally have seven year planning cycles. The key from an environmental sustainability perspective is to develop an integrated set of environmental actions that tackle climate, water, waste, pollution and biodiversity all together throughout the planning cycle. For both Paris 2024 and LA 2028 I am confident we will see “net positive solutions.”

GSB: What does “net positive solutions” mean?

Ann: That hosts will be adding more environmental assets and benefits to their communities and host region than they consume.

GSB: I love that. Two things: 1. Paris and LA really should engage fans on “Net positive solutions” and 2. I only wish Pyeongchang, Tokyo, Beijing and Qatar went the “Net positive solutions,” mega-event route.

Ann: Well, we know we need bolder leadership on sustainability engagement, in all walks of life, from business to government to mega-events. The progress on engagement at mega-events won’t be linear but, to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the arc of mega-events is long but it bends towards sustainability and engagement.

GSB: Amen, Ann, AMEN!

 

Ann Duffy shares her thoughts on the intersection of sustainability, innovation and mega-sports events (3 mins 4 secs)

 

IN TUESDAY’S PART I: Ann shared the story of her beginnings as an Olympics-loving girl in Western Canada through her time leading the sustainability efforts at the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver.

^ Edmonton, Moncton (New Brunswick); Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Winnipeg were the host cities for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

 


 

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The GSB Interview with Ann Duffy, Sustainability Leader for Olympic, FIFA World Cup Bids — Part I: Born to Work on Olympic Bids; Leads Sustainability at Vancouver 2010

Ann Duffy has mega sports events bidding and organizing work in her DNA. Her dad was an advisor to her hometown of Calgary’s early bids to host the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Winter Games — the Alberta city eventually won the right to host the 1988 Games. Eighteen years later, Ann was hired as Chief Sustainability Officer for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. She’s been involved in some way, shape or form with the sustainability efforts for several of the Olympic/Paralympic bids since then, as well as with the successful United Bid of Canada, Mexico and the United States to host the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup. No one is better positioned to talk about sustainability and mega sports events than Ann Duffy so GreenSportsBlog is honored to offer this two-part interview.

In today’s Part 1, Ann shares how mega-sports events are in her blood and how she came to lead the groundbreaking sustainability efforts at the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

 

GreenSportsBlog: I doubt that there’s anyone on the planet who can say they have inherited Olympic bid work as a genetic trait except for you, Ann Duffy.

Ann Duffy: You may be right, Lew. If I’m not the only one, I know I’m a member of a very small club. I was born in Calgary. My dad, who was an alpine ski racer, worked on two Winter Olympics bids in the 1960s involving my hometown: Both were collaborations between Banff, Lake Louise, and Calgary. They did not win. Then, in the early 80s, Calgary was ultimately successful in its bid to host the 1988 Games.

GSB: You had a front row seat to the ’88 bid!

Ann: Not only that; I just loved the Olympics! I OD’d on it on TV. And my family were all recreational athletes: Skiing, tennis, cycling, you name it.

 

Duffy Mexico City Oct

Ann Duffy, speaking at a sport and sustainability symposium in Mexico City in 2014 (Photo credit: Ann Duffy)

 

GSB: So the Olympics and Olympic bids are in your blood. What path did you take to make Olympic bid work, and sustainability in particular, a big part of your career?

Ann: I went to the University of Guelph in Ontario and majored in geography and environmental studies. Then I got a Masters in marketing communications at the University of Calgary with a focus on behavior change. I was there when Calgary hosted the 1988 Olympics, which was very exciting. A lot of us on campus volunteered and took in the Games. I was working at the business school on a study of the economic benefits of hosting mega sports events.

GSB: A hint of things to come…

 

Calgary 1988 Opening Ceremonies

Opening Ceremonies at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics (Photo credit: Canadian Olympic Committee)

 

Ann: Next I moved to Switzerland and worked for the World Wide Fund for Nature – International (WWF) for four years in corporate communications and education. I lived in Lausanne…

GSB: …Home of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)

Ann: Indeed! In fact, my jogging route often took me right by the IOC headquarters. I’d think to myself as I looked at the beautiful building, “How cool would it be to work with the IOC in some way.” Eventually, I moved to Vancouver and worked as a communications and environmental management consultant but that Olympics thought remained in my head. And there it stayed as I moved on to lead the sustainability practice with the engineering and project delivery firm CH2M.

GSB: The sustainability-minded firm with the strange name that works on everything from wastewater treatment to urban infrastructure to greenhouse gas management?

Ann: That would be CH2M. People there really cared about sustainability; it wasn’t just box checking. From about 2000 to 2006, I developed CSR strategy for big engineering projects. And CH2M has a sport events practice…

GSB: …Ahhh, that Olympics thing!

Ann: YES! And, from 2000 to 2003, Vancouver was deep into the bid process for the 2010 Winter Olympics. CH2M pitched the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) on infrastructure planning for the bid. And, after Vancouver won the bid, VANOC hired me in 2006 to be the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO)!

GSB: Fantastic!

Ann: Oh it was! And my dad, Dr. Patrick Duffy, was so proud!!!

GSB: He should’ve been! Ann: He even became a volunteer driver!

 

Duffy Asst Pops

Ann Duffy (r), her dad Patrick and her assistant Fiona Kilburn at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics (Photo credit: Ann Duffy)

 

GSB: So what was it like to be CSO of the Vancouver Olympics?

Ann: Lew, it was the best job I’ve ever had — and I’ve had some great jobs — it was thrilling, really. And I was inspired and engaged every day I went to work.

GSB: I can imagine! So what did you work on as CSO?

Ann: Our broad goal was to put on a great, sustainable games. But some of what I worked on was quite nerdy and technical.

GSB: Hey, I’m nerdy and I’m sure many of our readers have technical chops so go for it!

Ann: OK! #1: I developed the sustainability management and reporting system for the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games. We took a holistic view to embed sustainability into our approach to daily decision-making that included environment, social, economy and legacy. And we always kept in mind how we would communicate our sustainability efforts with stakeholders, critics, partners and others. #2: We worked very hard to make sure that any venues we built would be relevant to the host communities well after the Games.

GSB: No White Elephants coming out of Vancouver 2010!

Ann: Absolutely not. For example, the Richmond Olympic Oval was transformed from long-track speed skating right after the Games into a community recreational and sport training center. Everything from rugby to volleyball to wheelchair basketball to hockey is played there.

 

Canada's Lucas Makowsky celebrates after winning gold in the men's speed skating team pursuit DIMITAR DILKOFF : AFP:GETTY IMAGES

Canada’s Lucas Makowsky celebrates after winning gold in the men’s speed skating team pursuit at the Richmond Speed Skating Oval during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. (Photo credit: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Richmond Olympic Oval

The Richmond Oval today, set up for basketball (Photo credit: Richmond Oval)

 

GSB: I’m sure the people of Richmond are thrilled. Speaking of people, how many did you have on your sustainability team?

Ann: Our core staff ranged from eight to ten. We had socio-economic impact professionals, specialists in environmental management and communications who worked with other units departments including designers, architects, builders, operations folks…the gamut. My job was to collaborate and provide them with the information they needed so they could do their jobs and help us reach our collective sustainability goals.

GSB: What was the #1 sustainability goal?

Ann: To infuse sustainability into everything VANOC did…

GSB: …Which was a state-of-the-art approach back then.

Ann: It was. Sustainability, in its broad Environment-Social-Governance (ESG) definition, became a core facet of everything from volunteer training to procurement to packaging to venue construction and siting…and more. The sustainability, “what do you want your legacy to be?” ethos permeated the entire staff, from the CEO on down.

GSB: Tell us more about legacy…

Ann: One of our most meaningful legacies was with First Nations (indigenous people) in British Columbia and the rest of Canada. We were intent on making sure that our interaction with them would be real and not just about headdresses. So we connected construction companies to members of four First Nations in the Vancouver to Whistler corridor to work on construction projects for the Games. This collaboration eventually led to reversing seasonal unemployment for the Mount Currie Nation and, once the Olympics were over, many First Nations were able to get additional work in the Sea to Sky Corridor from Vancouver to Whistler.

 

Duffy and Ass't Summer 2010 CH 502

Ann Duffy (l) and Fiona Kilburn next to the Olympic Truce monument for peace during the 2010 Games, designed by First Nations artist Corinne Hunt (Photo credit: Ann Duffy)

 

GSB: That is what I call a positive legacy! What about from the environmental point of view?

Ann: Sure. We looked to innovate environmentally on climate action, recycling and waste reduction. All new permanent sport venues met LEED building certification from silver to platinum levels. Fortunately IOC corporate partners like Coke, McDonalds’ and VISA had a lot of experience in these arenas. They were able to make sustainability cool. Coke, for example, established 100 percent bottle recyclability solutions on site as well as water efficiency in their bottling processes, not to mention their uniforms made from recycled PET bottles – all firsts at an Olympics. Local Canadian and BC companies undertook similar initiatives. As a result, we were able to establish a protocol for managing sustainability for mega events with the Canadian Standards Association.

GSB: How did climate change fit into Vancouver 2010?

Ann: We were early movers on climate among mega-event committees: We measured and reduced our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation and venue operations to athlete and staff travel and offset the direct emissions we couldn’t further eliminate. And, we publicly reported and communicated our plans, successes and challenges.

 

IN WEDNESDAY’S PART II: Ann tells the story of her post-Vancouver 2010 sustainability-related work with a myriad of Olympic and FIFA World Cup bids and organizing committees. She also shares her thoughts on what future mega-event bid and organizing committees need to do to ensure fans get engaged on sustainability and climate.

 


 

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The GSB Interview: Giulia Carbone, Limiting the Sports Industry’s Impacts on Biodiversity Loss

The past 10 years has seen a boom in new stadium and arena construction in North America and beyond. Readers of GreenSportsBlog know that the sports facilities industry has done a strong job in making sustainability a priority, from construction (i.e. LEED certification) to operations (i.e. zero-waste games) and much more. But what about the effects of stadium and arena construction and operations, as well as the conduct of mega-events like the Olympics, on biodiversity — i.e. animal and plant life? That is a topic we have not touched on — until today.

Giulia Carbone is Deputy Director of the Global Business and Biodiversity Programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN. In the GSB Interview, and on World Biodiversity Day, Giulia delves into what is being done to limit the sports industry’s impacts on biodiversity loss.

 

GreenSportsBlog: We need to give more oxygen to the effects of sports on biodiversity so, Giulia, I am so glad we are talking with you! How did you get into the intersection of sports and biodiversity?

Giulia Carbone: Well Lew, from the time I was a girl in Torino…

GSB: Are you a Juventus or Torino F.C. fan?

Giulia: Oh, Torino ABSOLUTELY! Anyway, during my youth, I always loved nature and the also felt that it was only fair that people, no matter their circumstances, needed to have access to it and co-exist with it. Then I went to the University of California at Santa Barbara

GSB: UCSB — the Gauchos!

 

Carbone1

Giulia Carbone, Deputy Director of the Global Business and Biodiversity Programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN (Photo credit: IUCN)

 

Giulia: Best. School. EVER! I focused on the environment, especially marine issues, and the coexistence of people and the environment. That held true when I started my work life in London, focusing on marine issues. Then I worked with UN Environment for eight years on tourism and the environment.

GSB: What did you work on for UNEP? When was this?

Giulia: I started at UNEP in 1999, and focused on environmental initiatives for tour operators. Our approach was to bring together like-minded operators and give them the tools and the vision to integrate effective supply chain management, eco-friendly destinations and other protocols.

GSB: What tour operators took the lead back then on the environment?

Giulia: Tui, a German tourism company now headquartered in the UK — was really aggressive. They wanted to set the agenda for the tourism sector on supply chain and other sustainability elements and were successful, at least to an extent.

GSB: That’s terrific. What did you do next?

Giulia: I moved to Switzerland, near Geneva, and, in 2003, and started working for the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN.

GSB: What is the IUCN? It seems like something I should’ve heard about.

Giulia: You should have! It’s been around for 70 years, since 1948. It’s a membership organization that includes governments, NGOs large and small and, unlike the UN, groups of indigenous peoples. Today, it is the world’s largest and most diverse environmental network. We have a Congress every four years, and, just like for the Olympic Games, there are bids and organizing committees. The host of our June 2020 Congress is going to be in Marseilles, France; in 2016, we met in Hawai’i, and before that in 2012, we convened in South Korea.

GSB: What does IUCN do?

Giulia: Programmatically, we work in a number of critical conservation issues related to water, forests and oceans, dry lands and more. Where possible, we also engage with corporations to show them that leading on the environment, and taking biodiversity conservation into account in their planning and operation, is actually good business. At the beginning of my time at IUCN, my work focused solely on tourism. But then I branched out to the extractive and energy sectors…

GSB: Energy? Mining?…That sounds like a BIG conservation challenge.

Giulia: Yes, but to our way of thinking, it is crucial for mining and energy companies to figure out how they can operate successfully in ways that limit biodiversity loss. As part of this work, we have also focused on the role that biodiversity offsets can play in conservation.

GSB: I imagine IUCN has taken some criticisms from others in the environmental movement for working with companies seen as bad actors…or worse.

Giulia: There is some of that for sure but we believe that collaborating with companies like Rio Tinto in the mining world and Shell in the energy world is important and necessary. They know that their opeations have environmental impacts and they are interested in working with us to improve things. Another example was with LafargeHolcim, one of the largest cement companies in the world, who owned hundreds of quarries at the time. In just four years of working with IUCN, biodiversity indicators were put in place, employees were trained to respect and account for biodiversity, standards were adopted — and biodiversity became recognized as an important risk factor, something that had value in being managed.

GSB: That’s hard to believe and yet I believe it. Amazing… So now sports? Why did IUCN decide to get involved with sports in the first place?

Giulia: The impacts of sport on biodiversity are also significant, but the opportunities to address them are equally huge. The sports industry has enormous influence and reach, so just being able to talk about the value of biodiversity and the role that species play with this audience is incredible.

GSB: Absolutely! How did IUCN get started in sports?

Giulia: The IOC approached us about four years ago about one of its bid cities. They were concerned about the bid damaging a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That led to conversations about how the IOC could influence sports federations on biodiversity loss. We were engaged to help bid committees and teams on how to limit biodiversity and species loss during venue construction, allocate funds for conservation and protection, and even to educate them on the value of purchasing climate-related offsets.

GSB: Did IUCN work with the summer and winter Olympics bids?

Giulia: Yes, we were involved with the bids for the Olympic Games 2024 and reviewed all the bids from a biodiversity perspective. We are also providing maps of the areas considered to be of high biodiversity value to the potential candidates for the 2026 Winter Olympics. For each of the cities, we have created maps that highlight the location of protected areas, World Heritage sites, Ramsar (intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources) sites, and Key Biodiversity Areas. Additionally, we have provided reports that list all the species of animals and plants that have been classified as threatened or close to extinction, in proximity of these sites. These maps are an amazing tool to help the cities plan better on where to place the venues and new infrastructures, and thus reduce the risk of having an impact on important plants and animals as well as key ecosystems.

GSB: As of now, it looks like there are seven cities considering bids to host the 2026 Winter Olympics, a marked increase as compared to recent cycles. These include Graz, Austria; Calgary, Canada; a joint Italian bid amongst Cortina d’Ampezzo, Milan and Torino; Sapporo, Japan; Sion, Switzerland; Stockholm, Sweden; and Erzurum, Turkey. How does IUCN get the word out about its work in the sports sector?

 

Sion 2026

Sion, Switzerland is one of seven cities looking into bidding on the 2026 Winter Olympics

 

Giulia: We just issued the first of a series of reports on Sport and Biodiversity.  It’s an overview for all of the industry’s key constituents…What is the intersection of sports and biodiversity? What are the risks and opportunities? The next report will be more technical than the first one, and it is almost complete. It focuses on how to mitigate biodiversity loss from venue construction. Then, the third one will focus on how to manage impacts on biodiversity in the organization of sporting events, including recommendations for athletes, venue managers and the fans. In the future, we hope to focus on things like Natural Capital Accounting^ and sports; how to manage invasive species; and, how to engage fans on biodiversity and involve the media more in these issues.  We have quite a challenge ahead of us!

 

Sport and Biodiversity

Cover of IUCN’s “Sport and Biodiversity” guide

 

GSB: Who are your audiences for these reports? Sports fans?

Giulia: No, our prime targets are senior level, C-suite executives throughout the sports world, who are not yet convinced biodiversity is an issue they need to be concerned about. We are also targeting those people involved in venue development and planning as well as those organizing sport events.

GSB: Do you have a sense as to what percentage of sports executives fit that “unconvinced” label?

Giulia: Actually, I just attended a very cool meeting on sport and the environment, the Sustainable Innovation in Sport Summit 2018 in Amsterdam, from 2-3 May, and I was very impressed by the level of commitment and involvement of the participants, mostly all representing sport federations, venues and teams. So I think this is a sector that it is already doing a lot of great work and is ready to do more.

GSB: That’s great! I look forward to reading the reports and seeing biodiversity taking its place in Green-Sports fan engagement programs in the not-too-distant future.

 

Natural Capital Accounting is the process of calculating the total stocks and flows of natural resources and services in a given ecosystem or region. Accounting for such goods may occur in physical or monetary terms. 

 


 

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