The GSB Interview: Claire Poole, Climate Action, Reviews Sustainable Innovation In Sport Conference 2017

The second Sustainable Innovation in Sports (SIIS) conference, organized by Climate Action, took place in Munich last month. GreenSportsBlog spoke with Climate Action’s Event Director Claire Poole to get her take. 

 

The second Sustainable Innovation in Sport (SIIS) conference took place in Munich over two days in late February. To find out about the highlights, the key learnings, and to get a sense of next steps, GSB spoke with Claire Poole, SIIS’ Event Director on behalf of Climate Action and the Principal of ClearBright Consulting.

GreenSportsBlog: Claire, following up on the first SIIS in Paris in 2015, what were your two or three biggest takeaways from SIIS 2017?

Claire Poole SIIS

Claire Poole, speaking at last month’s Sustainable Innovation in Sport conference in Munich. (Photo credit: SIIS)

 

Claire Poole: The big thematic takeaways were definitely the need for education, partnerships and technology in the Green-Sports space. There were some amazing insights from speakers that I’d like to highlight as well. Dr. Willem Huisman, President of Dow Germany opened the conference. He made this very powerful point: what binds together sustainability, innovation and sport is PASSION, PERFORMANCE AND PARTNERSHIPS, these themes came up time and time again. Then Michelle Lemaitre, Head of Sustainability for the International Olympic Committee highlighted their sustainability strategy, which is aligned with the UN Development Programme’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with 2030 goals and beyond in mind. But then Neil Beecroft, most recently of UEFA, said that, while we’re making progress, the sport world has to “shake existing models” and “dare for innovation”. Finally Norman Vosschulte, Director of Guest Experience for the Philadelphia Eagles, shared the club’s incredible sustainability story, which started with blue recycling bins under employees’ desks and has now reached the point of running a nearly 100% efficient stadium, with thousands of solar panels, aluminum recycling and much, much more. We were also glad to have speakers from the BBC, World Bank and Land Rover BAR’s (the UK’s entry in the 2017 America’s Cup, skippered by Sir Ben Ainslie) sustainability director, Susie Tomson among too many others to mention.

Michelle Lemaitre

Michelle Lemaitre, Head of Sustainability for the IOC at SIIS. (Photo credit: SIIS)

 

GSB: What a speaker roster! How did climate change fit into the mix?

CP: The climate change world was well represented at SIIS. Connect4Climate^ and Ecosphere+# were there. And Niclas SvenningsenManager, Strategy and Relationship Management, of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said something that resonated with many attendees, I thought: that Sport needs to let the climate change world know what it is doing.

GSB: I’m glad he said that but it’s also sad that he felt compelled to do so. A big part of GreenSportsBlog’s mission is to get the sports world to push a positive climate change message in the same way it, rightly, pushes against racism, bullying, homophobia, and more. And sports legitimately has great greening stories! It needs to share those greening stories much more loudly or else what’s the point?

CP: For sure. The UNFCCC has a Carbon Neutral Now pledge. Which doesn’t say you have to be carbon neutral now; you just have to make a pledge to get there. FIFA and adidas have already taken the pledge; more sports organizations need to do the same.

GSB: Especially the sports organizations and sponsors that are already on the carbon neutral road! How many people came to SIIS and how many streamed it via Facebook Live?

CP: We had over 150 people in attendance with about 85 percent from Europe and the rest joining us from the US, Canada, Australia, Japan and elsewhere. And we were very excited that another 1,500 or so joined us via live stream…

GSB: Including yours truly! The streaming saved on emissions, by the way…What kind of feedback did you get overall?

CP: The two words I heard over and over were “interactive” and “relevant”. People said SIIS was different than most other conferences they’ve attended in that the speakers, who were very knowledgeable and compelling, presented in ways that really encouraged interaction and collegiality. The other thing was that the attendees said they learned important new things that they were taking home to implement. This is exactly what we wanted to happen. We were also heartened to see that the event had a strong gender balance, with nearly 40 percent female representation.

GSB: This sounds like, forgive the American sports reference, a home run! Now, what, in your view, could have gone better?

CP: To my mind, we would have liked to see more corporate partners and corporate attendees there. Sports stadiums, clubs, federations and the like were well represented. But the corporations who support sports and also are greening were in shorter supply, with some notable exceptions like Dow, Schreder, and IWBI.

GSB: Getting in on a movement that will improve their image and lead to more business? Why in the world would they want to do that? Just kidding! Sheesh! So what’s next? The first SIIS was in Paris in 2015, during the COP21 climate conference, if memory serves. So will this be an every-other-year kind of event?

CP: The feedback we got was so positive and those who came along, tuned in online or we are in touch with through other channels, tell us we need to convene annually…

GSB: That’s just about the best endorsement you could get!

CP: Thank you! So we’re just starting to think about what a SIIS 2018 would look like. To those who want to be a part of it, I say – get in touch!

 

Connect4Climate is a global partnership among the World Bank Group, the Italian Ministry of Environment, and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, that takes on climate change by promoting solutions and empowering people to act.
# Ecosphere+ was established by the Althelia Climate Fund to develop and scale the market for carbon assets, environmental services and sustainably produced commodities generated through transformational forest conservation and sustainable land use projects,

 


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The GSB Interview: David Muller, Green-Sports-Corporate Partner Matchmaker

David Muller has successfully shown sports teams, venues, and leagues, as well as corporations large and small, the value of attaching themselves to the Green-Sports Movement. After playing a key role in building the Green Sports Alliance from start up to mature force, Muller went off on his own to increase his impact. We sat down with Muller to get his take on the Movement, where it’s going and what he sees his role as being.

 

GreenSportsBlog: David, how did a kid from Springfield, IL find his way to the epicenter of the Green-Sports Movement?

David Muller: Things certainly didn’t start out that way. Yes, I am from Springfield. Grew up a Bulls fan during the Jordan Years, and of course love the Bears and White Sox too. But I didn’t intend to work in sports at all. I wanted to move west and went to Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR as a Religious Studies major. Thought I would go the academia route but you know what? Whenever I looked at an academic, they seemed so unhappy—bored, really, and removed from the real world. So I ditched that plan and wandered—worked in education and journalism, taught English in Argentina, then worked in software project management. Over time I came to the conclusion that I needed to work in sustainability in some way, shape or form. Ended up going to the Bainbridge Graduate Institute’s (BGI) Graduate Business School for Sustainability in Seattle. Now part of Presidio Graduate School, I was attracted to it because it embedded sustainability in every aspect of the curriculum with the goal of making the world a better place through business, or “changing business for good” as the motto goes.

GSB: That’s a lofty goal, indeed…

DM: No doubt about it. They really want to change business from the inside out.

GSB: So how did you go from BGI to the Green Sports Alliance?

DM: During my time at BGI, Jason Twill came to speak. He was working at Vulcan

GSB: …Vulcan is Paul Allen’s company, Allen being one of the co-founders of Microsoft.

DM: Correct. Included among Vulcan’s assets at the time were the Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Sounders and the Portland Trail Blazers. Twill worked for Allen at Vulcan and was one of the co-founders of the GSA. He made the point that sports can change the world; that it can be a powerful platform for social change. I got it immediately, being an avid sports fan, having experienced in person and up close the power of sports to be a great unifier. Twill also said, “If you hear someone speak that inspires you, reach out to him/her.” So I took him at his word and did just that. The GSA hadn’t even launched yet, but Jason invited me to a board meeting/workshop. Soon enough I was an intern, there for its birth. And 9 months later, I was the second-ever staffer behind the original Executive Director Martin Tull.

GSB: What was your role there?

DM: I started out as a Jack-of-all-Trades, handling communications, writing blogs, and researching the ‘state of the state’ of the fledgling Green Sports Movement. I developed and managed the webinar program from its inception, focusing on the key identified impact areas of waste, energy, water, purchasing, transportation, and fan engagement, and featuring leading practitioners and successful case studies. We secured some terrific speakers early on, including several GMs and Directors of Operations of major professional sports venues, executives from international corporations like Aramark and Waste Management, as well as leading environmental NGOS and the U.S. EPA—and we quickly built a solid audience.

muller-matt-cohen

David Muller (Photo credit: Matt Cohen)

 

GSB: How many people attend those webinars?

DM: We started with an audience of 20-30; as of the spring 2016, we were getting 150-200 people per webinar. And then I took on generating memberships among teams, venues and leagues.

GSB: How did you do there?

DM: Well, from about 20 members when I came on board in 2011 as Membership Director, the GSA grew to nearly 400 members as of 2016.

GSB: That’s really impressive, David. Congratulations! How much did the memberships go for?

DM: There were two levels: Basic was $500/year and Premier went for $2,500. Premier members got a deeper level of direct support on greening initiatives from myself and other staff, as well as more significant promotion through the GSA website, public communications, and events.

GSB: What kind of services did the GSA offer its members?

DM: As far as the team and venue members were concerned, the we helped them reach their sustainability commitments and goals, whether it be recycling, composting, energy efficiency, etc. We really became sustainability consultants for stadium operators who increasingly were getting the direction from team management that they needed to take smart and fiscally responsible actions to reduce environmental impacts.

GSB: And they weren’t equipped to do so…

DM: Well, we provided the sustainability expertise they needed by reviewing their operations, examining their supply chain, researching available grants and incentives, etc.

GSB: At $500-$2,500 per year, that’s a great bargain!

DM: We thought so. And the spirit of collaboration among GSA members and staff was incredible.

GSB: Can you share a specific example of how you and the GSA worked with a team?

DM: Ah, it’s tough to pick out just one…

GSB: That’s why I ask the tough questions!

DM: OK, I really enjoyed working with the Baltimore Ravens, M&T Bank Stadium and the Maryland Stadium Authority. My key contact was Jeff Provenzano, who at the time was running Stadium Operations at M&T Bank Stadium. When we first met in Baltimore, we spoke for almost three hours about how Jeff and his team, who already helped make the operations more efficient, needed to secure the investments to take their greening program to the next level. It was invigorating, really.

GSB: Did the Ravens buy in?

DM: The Ravens owners challenged the stadium ops team to prove greening measures could save them money. So, Jeff and his team showed them how this could work with a modest investment and a terrific pay off. The entire staff at the stadium was engaged in a massive effort to lower its energy usage. It started off with little things like closing doors when leaving the office, turning lights off, reporting spaces that were being heated/cooled even though no one spent any significant time there (e.g. supply closets). Over several months, they reduced their energy usage by some 40-50%, which translated to an annual savings of ~$500,000—or about the cost of a rookie contract at the time.

GSB: I bet that got their attention.

DM: No doubt about it. Ownership embraced this and agreed to invest some capital in the program. They decided to go for LEED certification for existing buildings, but in order to achieve it, they needed access to a substantial amount of comparison data from other stadiums. In the spirit of collaboration that really defined the GSA at the time, I was able to work with other GSA members and obtain the relevant, sensitive data the crew in Baltimore needed for their LEED application, and they were able to attain Gold status a year or two later.

mt-bank-stadium-balt-sun

M&T Bank Stadium, now the LEED Gold certified home of the Baltimore Ravens, thanks in part to the work of David Muller and the Green Sports Alliance. (Photo credit: Baltimore Sun)

 

GSB: That’s a great story; one that the NFL should’ve told. Turning to the annual GSA Summit; that must also have been part of your responsibilities, no?

DM: Absolutely. The GSA was a very a small team the first few years, so everyone had to pitch in. We only had about three or four months of planning time for the first summit in Portland in 2011. Despite the short lead-time it turned out to be a big success—and we surprisingly turned a meaningful profit, mainly through getting the sports supply chain as sponsors/exhibitors–the Aramarks and Waste Managements of the world.

GSB: Did you manage that as well?

DM: No, sponsorships were mainly the responsibility of Martin Tull at the time, while I handled the memberships and communications.

GSB: As the Summit grew over time, with 700-800 attendees, the responsibilities must’ve grown with it.

DM: No doubt about it. I played a central role in designing the program, securing speakers, writing up session descriptions, coordinating volunteers, that sort of thing. And everyone else on the GSA team was multi-tasking as well. It was lots of work but it was also a lot of fun as we were all mission-driven and riding this rapidly-rising wave of engagement and activity.

muller-chicago-gsa

David Muller (l) presenting University of California, Berkeley with the Pac-12 Zero-Waste Award, at the 2015 Green Sports Alliance Summit in Chicago. (Photo credit: David Muller)

 

GSB: I can imagine. Why did you end up leaving GSA?

DM: Well, over time, in large part because of how many members we brought in while still maintaining a very small staff, the GSA became more focused on PR and storytelling—which they’re good at and is important—while moving away from the consulting, advisory, and operations support work. We simply didn’t have the capacity to continue the same level of service to individual members.

GSB: …Like what you did with the Ravens?

DM: Yes. And that’s what I was most interested in doing. Plus, I was also interested in the health and wellness aspects of sustainability and seeing how sports venues, and everyone who spends time in them, could benefit by focusing on people’s health and wellness within their operations, be it that of staff, fans, the active roster, etc. So, I left GSA last summer and became a sustainability-focused consultant. I’ve worked with small-to-medium sized health and wellness organizations including Green Seal, Delos/International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), and AtmosAir—to help them with market research and also how to compellingly present what they offer to sports venues.

GSB: I gotta believe sports venues and teams want to keep their athletes healthy—and their fans, for that matter. Good niche. Talk about your involvement in Sport and Sustainability International or SandSI.

DM: SandSI is an outgrowth of work I did in Europe in the spring of 2015 with Allen Hershkowitz…

GSB: Then the President of GSA.

DM: Yes. Allen, as well as Alice Henly, who also worked with Allen at the NRDC before coming to the GSA. I had connected in late 2014 with Neil Beecroft, who was the Sustainability Manager of UEFA at the time.

GSB: And, shameless plug, Neil’s a GreenSportsBlog interviewee.

DM: Yes. So in conversation with Neil, we kind of realized that while Europe is ahead of the U.S. in terms of environmental concern and government action, it was behind in Green-Sports. So, we accepted Neil’s invitation to meet with him and other leaders of the European Green-Sports Movement in Lausanne, Switzerland, as well as in Paris and London.

GSB: Lausanne is the capital of European sports, home of the IOC, FIFA and UEFA.

DM: The European sports entities, to a person, said “we need help” with greening. We were excited about sharing the knowledge we had gained over the previous few years, and making the GSA a truly global organization. But the GSA felt, at the time, that there was still a lot more to do in North America, and didn’t see an immediate ROI, so the European work was put on the back burner.

GSB: And, Allen, having left GSA, became one of the prime movers of SandSI.

DM: Yes. It’s still early days but things have really heated up over the past six months or so. I am an Organizing Committee member, and am helping develop the membership program for sports entities as well as corporations and NGOs.

GSB: Aside from the geographic differences, what do you see as the main distinctions between SandSI and GSA?

DM: I’d say the main differentiator is that SandSI takes a broader view of sustainability than the GSA. SandSI takes a “Triple Bottom Line” approach, considering social sustainability and ethics on an equal level with environmental and economic sustainability. The GSA made a strategic decision very early to become experts on the environmental side only, which made good sense at the time as a start-up trying to gain relevance. But I think an environmental-only approach puts a ceiling on what you can accomplish, because legitimate sustainability is comprehensive at its core, and the best environmental policies are always at risk of backsliding or discontinuation if the people responsible for carrying them out aren’t well-taken care of themselves.

GSB: I think that’s smart overall but my fear is that environment, and in particular, climate change, could be de-emphasized—just when the opposite is necessary.

DM: Oh don’t worry, SandSI places great priority on taking on climate change! But I think people often forgot that environmentalism is still ultimately about people, about keeping the environment clean and stable in order for humans to thrive. It’s not about saving the Earth for Earth’s sake (in the geologic timeframe, all of human history is but a blip), it’s about keeping the Earth livable so that our children, grandchildren, and grandchildren’s grandchildren have the opportunity to lead healthy, happy, meaningful lives as well. It is for them, as well as those already suffering from its impacts right now, that we confront climate change with all our resolve and ingenuity.

GSB: Amen!

 

 


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Paris 2024 Promises Greenest Games Ever

Paris 2024, the committee managing the city’s Olympic bid, is promising to host the Greenest Games Ever. The centerpiece of the plan is to slash carbon emissions dramatically vs. the benchmarks of London 2012 and Rio 2016. But before this happens, Paris must win the 2024 Olympics sweepstakes against Budapest and Los Angeles.

 

The Paris 2024 Olympics bid committee promises to host the “Greenest Games Ever” by slashing carbon emissions by more than half compared to London 2012 and Rio 2016. To have the opportunity to make good on that guarantee, The City of Lights first has to win its competition with Budapest and Los Angeles to host the 2024 Summer Games—that decision will be made in September at the IOC meeting in Lima, Peru—and both of those cities have put forth very strong sustainability plans of their own. 

With the bid process coming into its home stretch—the Paris team submitted the third and final version of its “Bid Book” to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on February 2nd—leaders of each of the three remaining bid committees are aggressively making their cases. Paris bid co-president and three-time Olympic canoeing gold medalist Tony Estanguet said in an interview with South China Morning Post on January 30th, that, for his committee, sustainability is at the top of its priority list. 

“For us it is quite simple. Our vision is the most sustainable Games ever,” Estanguet said, adding that the bid was in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gases.

estanguet

Tony Estanguet, head of Paris 2024 Bid Committee (Photo credit: Paris 2024)

There seems to be substance behind Estanguet’s “Greenest Ever” claim, at least if the comparison is between Paris 2024 and its predecessors, London 2012 and Rio 2016, and not its rivals for the 2024 Games or, for that matter, Tokyo 2020. Should Paris 2024 become a reality, the bid committee says it would produce an estimated 1.56 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, down 55 per cent from the roughly 3.4 million tonnes created by the Rio and the London Games. Here are some of the key ways Paris plans to meet those aggressive targets:

  • Rely on existing venues and temporary structures. The only major new venue scheduled to be constructed is an aquatics center. 

stade-de-france

Stade de France, site of the Opening Ceremonies of Paris 2024 should that city win the right to host the Olympics. It is one of many already-existing structures, the use of which will keep carbon emissions low. (Photo credit: Stade de France)

 

  • Build the aquatics center as well as the temporary facilities with low carbon materials.
  • Following in the footsteps of EURO 2016 (hosted by France), greatly restrict private car parking at the Olympic venues. This will lead 100 percent of fans to use public or shared transit. You read that right: 100 percent of spectators will take public or shared transit. Metro, commuter rail, bus transit, bicycles and car sharing will predominate.
  • House 85 per cent of athletes  within 30 minutes of their competition venues, limiting their travel-related footprint.
  • Use existing infrastructure. According to Estanguet, “We have all the infrastructure – roads, hotels, airports – already in place. That allows us to claim we will be the most sustainable Games ever.”

To the Paris 2024 committee, embedding the notion of a sustainable Olympics in the minds of Parisians and people across France will be critical. Thus, the greenness of the bid will be promoted widely, and in a variety of ways, should The City of Lights be selected.  “During the seven years [between bid selection and the Opening Ceremonies], we want to educate people on sustainability,” said Estanguet.

While it is clear Estanguet’s “Greenest Games Ever” claim will be valid vs. London or Rio, we don’t know if Paris will have a lower carbon footprint than Budapest or Los Angeles.

LA24, in its third bid book, proclaims that it will be the first Energy Positive Olympics ever “by generating more energy through renewable sources and energy efficiency efforts than the energy needed to power the Games.” Take that one in. Who knew? And, as with Paris, the vast majority of venues and athletes’ villages already in place, and minimal construction required. Heck, the Zero-Waste LA Coliseum would be used for its third Olympics (1932 and 1984 were the first two).

As of this writing, Budapest’s third bid book has not been made available. In its first two iterations, the Hungarian capital city had proposed a scaled down, medium-sized city Olympics model, relying on boat transportation along the Danube and bike share to keep emissions down. 

According to Olympics bid experts, Paris is the favorite at this point.

  • Budapest is a first-time bid city with a growing Olympics opposition movement pressing for a late-in-the-bid-game referendum to exit the process. Needing 138,000 signatures within a month to force the referendum, organizers garnered 100,000 in the first two weeks. This cannot be helpful for Budapest’s chances.
  • Trying to bring an Olympics back to the Americas only eight years after Rio does not help LA.

Some also fear that the IOC, with a strong anti-American streak, will shy away from awarding the Olympic Torch to an “America First” President Trump. Of course, by the time of the vote, France, which has its presidential election on April 23rd, may well be led by Marine Le Pen of the far right Front National, “France First” party; well known for trafficking in Holocaust denial and xenophobia. Ms. Le Pen has disavowed herself of those positions. And, with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán often called a “Putinist,” the strong-man (woman) leader issue may be a wash.

Regardless of what city is chosen, this much is clear: A smaller environmental footprint logically will lead to reduced costs.

These are the keystones of Agenda 2020, a process instituted by the IOC three years ago for bids starting with the 2024 cycle. The IOC is convinced, and I concur, that the Olympics simply have to get simpler, greener, and leaner so they remain an attractive proposition for future hosts. This is especially the case after a slew of candidate cities for the 2022 Winter Games (Krakow, Oslo and Stockholm) and 2024 Summer Games (Boston, Hamburg and Rome) withdrew due to the sheer size and costs of organizing and putting on such an ambitious, sprawling event. 

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