The GSB Interview: Matt Ellis, CEO of Measurabl — Helping Sports Teams Benchmark Their Environmental Impacts

Sports stadiums and arenas have been in the greening business for almost a decade, which is a great thing. But do venues and teams know how much energy they’re saving, how much waste they’re diverting from landfill, and more? You would think so but measurement of greening lagged actual greening. Until Matt Ellis and Measurabl came along. GreenSportsBlog talked with Matt, the company’s founder and CEO, to understand how he got into the sustainability measurement business, where sports fits in and…what happened to the last “e” at the end of Measurabl.

 

GreenSportsBlog: When thinking about Measurabl, this adage comes to mind: “What gets measured gets managed. And what gets managed matters.” How did you get into the sustainability measurement space and why the big move into sports?

Matt Ellis: Well, Lew, we have to go back to 2008 to get to the beginning of the story. I was working in real estate in the San Diego area — I’m a San Diego guy, went to UC San Diego undergrad and San Diego State for grad school, my family was in the real estate business. I was working for CBRE at the time…

GSB: …When the “econ-o-pocalpyse” hit…

ME: Exactly! My business was not that strong, to say the least. I had plenty of time on my hands, walking around town, looking for deals. I saw plenty of decals on buildings, decals like “LEED ” and “ENERGY STAR.” I started to ask “why?” I found out sustainability drives higher occupancy rates, higher quality tenants, and higher rents, among other positive outcomes. Not long after that, CBRE management asked me to start and run a sustainability practice group.

 

Ellis Matt 1 Headshot

Matt Ellis, founder and CEO of Measurabl (Photo credit: Measurabl)

 

GSB: Was that in the San Diego area or national? How did it go?

ME: National. Despite the economic collapse, we were getting calls consistently from our clients who were interested in how they could leverage sustainability in their real estate portfolios. By 2010-11, we had started to offer RECs, offsets, and the first carbon neutral leases. Eventually I became CBRE’s Director of Sustainability Solutions. As all this was happening, I noticed our sustainability efforts lacked one key thing: data. We needed better measurement tools so we could learn what worked and what didn’t, sustainability-wise. We needed to be able to benchmark on a number of metrics so we could measure progress over time. Every time we looked at measurement, we were told it was too hard, too costly.

GSB: Did you accept that?

ME: Not at all. In fact, I started to ask this question: “Can we provide meaningful sustainability measurement tools?” That would be a big deal. As I investigated this question, I realized that a software solution is what was was needed. We needed to gather environmental, social and governance (ESG) data, create benchmarks for buildings and then be able to sort all of this data. The goal is to know how buildings perform in terms of energy usage, carbon footprint, materials, waste, environmental certifications and more. Convinced that an environmental benchmarking and measurement software platform was indeed doable and valuable, I left CBRE and incorporated Measurabl in 2013.

GSB: How did Measurabl do out of the gate?

ME: We’ve done well the last couple of years, providing environmental benchmarking and measurement software to real estate investment trusts (REITS), asset managers like Black Rock, property managers like CBRE, and corporations like VMware, among others. They’ve found great value in it.

 

Measurabl Early Days

Matt Ellis at the whiteboard during the early days of Measurabl (Photo credit: Measurabl)

 

GSB: Congratulations! What is the Measurabl business model? What is a reasonable ROI for a client?

ME: We provide three Software as a Service aka “SaaS” plans: Basic, Pro, and Premium starting at no cost for the “Basic” plan and going to over $100/building/month for the most feature rich plan. Each provides for data management, benchmarking, and reporting and, depending on the level you sign up for, the client can achieve different ROIs which include cost savings from resource management and efficiency through to Investment Grade reporting which helps them secure lower interest rates on their loans and preferred access to capital from investors.

GSB: That sounds like a great deal for a property manager or building owner. What made you think of sports as a vertical for Measurabl?

ME: Sports makes sense for a couple of reasons for Measurabl. One is that over half of our workforce are athletes, mostly from the world of water polo, which I played at UCSD. And benchmarking sustainability metrics is kind of like how sports uses statistics: data stokes the competitive fire in athletes as well as in building or venue management. So we get sports culturally and from a data perspective. So it fits that Chase Cockerill from our business development team, an athlete himself, made a call to Jason Kobeda at Major League Baseball and Jason said “we get it, this is cool, this can help us take the game to the next level, literally” We established the relationship with MLB in April, right around Opening Day.

 

Measurabl Chase Matt

Measurabl’s CEO Matt Ellis (l) and business development executive Chase Cockerill at June’s Green Sports Alliance Summit in Atlanta (Photo credit: Measurabl)

 

GSB: WOW! That was super quick! Did all 30 teams buy in?

ME: Yes, the relationship is at the league level so all clubs and venues can access the software. So far about two thirds of the clubs are on board and the rest are ramping up. We’re providing them with data management and benchmarking on energy usage, water usage, carbon footprint, waste diversion, environmental impacts of upgrade projects, certifications and reports.

GSB: What kind of reports?

ME: For example, our software can generate a CDP report for the League. CDP is a well-known global standard for reporting carbon performance. We can also provide stadium level reports specific to each venue.

GSB: That has to be a huge time saver for the clubs.

ME: Absolutely. It is also a way to improve the accuracy of the data and therefore make more informed decisions. At the same time we talked to the Green Sports Alliance (GSA). GSA’s Erik Distler said “all of our members share a common set of needs around data management” so we then went on to form an exclusive, worldwide partnership with GSA to be their data management and benchmarking partner and platform.

GSB: That is terrific. How is the stadium or arena environment different from a high-rise office building in terms of benchmarking and measurement?

ME: The sports venue environment is generally more complex than a typical commercial building. Think of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. There’s the retail components, the exterior parking areas, the solar panels the field, boxes… Right now, we’re able to compare a venue’s performance, year-over-year by breaking the space down to its constituent parts and comparing that performance across like-kind spaces to create benchmarks.

GSB: What about comparing stadium vs. stadium, arena vs. arena?

ME: That’s the next step, and a big part of MLB and the Alliance’s leadership, which is to create a global benchmark for sports facilities. Comparing stadiums to each other, when all of them are unique, is tough. But that’s what we love about the sports world — whether it’s MLB, the NHL, NASCAR or the Alliance — they don’t accept “it’s too tough” to compare, and neither do we. Eventually, we hope to put all venues in a given sport on the platform and to create an “apples-to-apples” comparison that is meaningful. The more data, the more facilities, the more accurate the benchmark. It’s a “team effort” so to speak! The good news is the momentum is strong and roll out well underway.

GSB: I have no doubts. Does the Measurabl platform measure fan engagement and interest?

ME: We do reporting really well. The reports can be easily understood by fans. It’s up to the clubs to decide to tell the sustainability stories but we certainly advocate that they do so on a consistent basis.

GSB: We will check back with you after this season to see how the teams are doing on the fan engagement piece. Meanwhile, I have one last question: What happened to the last “e” in Measurabl?

ME: Ha! “Measurable” was too traditional – not “startup” enough, so drop the “e” and it was a home run.

 


 

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MLB, MLS and NFL Step Up During Earth Fortnight

Late April is a great time of year to be a sports fan. The NBA and NHL playoffs are in the early days of their two month championship/Stanley Cup marathons. The NFL Draft, Christmas in April for football fans—especially those who root for perennial also rans like my New York Jets—starts on Thursday night. Major League Baseball’s and Major League Soccer’s regular seasons are in full swing.

And we are in the midst of Earth Fortnight (Earth Day was Saturday, April 22; related celebrations were held during the week prior and are continuing this week), a great time for sports leagues to highlight their sustainability bona fides to their fans and other stakeholders. 

GreenSportsBlog will have two Earth Fortnight-Green Sports columns for you: An in-depth feature on the NBA’s greening activities is upcoming. And today, we review the Earth Day/Earth Fortnight activities of MLB, MLS, and the NFL. What about the NHL? They’re in the process of completing their third consecutive carbon-neutral season so one could say every day is Earth Day over there.

 

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: 5TH ANNUAL CARBON NEUTRAL GAME AT FENWAY; HELPING TREES GROW IN BROOKLYN

The third Monday in April is tradition-laden in Boston. It’s Patriots’s Day (thankfully, named not in honor of the football team, but for John Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, etc. Those Pats). The Boston Marathon snaked its way for 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston. At the early but traditional 11 AM start time, the Red Sox took the field against the Tampa Bay Rays as the marathon passed close by Fenway Park.

And, in a newer tradition, for the fifth consecutive year, the BoSox observed Earth Day by offsetting all carbon emissions from that day’s game and sorting waste to recover recyclables and food waste. The offsets were made in the form of renewable energy credits (RECs) purchased from several Massachusetts-based solar installations: Morra Brook Farm in Rehoboth, Westford Stony Brook School in Westford, and the firehouse and library in Wellfleet.

Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, on Earth Day itself, approximately 35 front office employees at MLB, MLB Network and MLB Advanced Media volunteered at Lincoln Terrace Park for New York Cares Day (Spring). New York Cares is an amazing organization that serves as a platform for New Yorkers who want to volunteer with seniors, youth, on environmental cleanup, etc. They manage over 400 such projects per month. I have been a New York Cares volunteer for over 20 years and can attest to its phenomenal work.

New York Cares Day is a massive, five borough-wide environmental cleanup and beautification initiative, pooling the efforts of over 4,000 volunteers at 40 public spaces. In the case of Lincoln Terrace Park, volunteers were tasked with composting, removing invasive seedlings, planting ground covers and clearing the park of debris.

mlb volunteers ny cares day

 

Volunteers from MLB, MLB Network and MLB Advanced Media at Earth Day cleanup in Lincoln Terrace Park in Brooklyn, NY (Photo credit: MLB)

 

MLS’ LA GALAXY AND STUBHUB CENTER “PROTECT THE PITCH” IN EARTH WEEK INITIATIVE

StubHub Center and the LA Galaxy hosted a variety of environmentally-focused community events last week in the run up to Protect the Pitch Day, their Earth Day-themed, nationally-televised home game vs. the Seattle Sounders on Sunday.

The week featured school tours of Stub Hub Center, featuring the stadium’s initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint of its operations. These range from the high-tech (on-site advanced battery storage units from Tesla) to the not-so-high-tech (four bee hives that will produce over 800 pounds of honey annually, produce grown from the LA Galaxy Greenhouse; both will be used for healthy food preparation for players, coaches and staff)

Galaxy

LA area elementary school students explore StubHub Center’s sustainability projects, such as its greenhouse which produces numerous types of vegetables to provide food for players and staff. (Photo credit: LA Galaxy)

 

And the club brought its greenness out to the community when it visited Griffith Park to assist TreePeople^ with their tree care efforts.

The Galaxy’s carbon footprint-reducing efforts, showcased to the 24,931 fans during Protect the Pitch Day, were more successful than their on-field results, as they dropped a 3-0 decision to the Sounders. In fact, the club’s greenness harkened back to happier days, as they sold tote bags from Relan, made from recycled materials from the club’s 2014 MLS Cup Championship banner, which had previously hung inside StubHub Center.

 

NFL AND PHILADELPHIA TEAM UP TO GREEN UP NFL DRAFT

200,000 diehards are expected to descend on Philadelphia as the 2017 NFL Draft comes to The City of Brotherly Love from Thursday’s first round through Saturday’s seventh stanza. According to an April 21 Philly.com story by Frank Kummer, the NFL and city officials, the latter using “what it learned from the Philadelphia Marathon, are aiming for ‘zero waste’ – meaning that at least 90 percent of trash and leftover food does not end up in a landfill.” An army of volunteers are stepping up to bring the plans to fruition at the free NFL Draft Experience festival along a half-mile stretch of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Philly

Volunteers, like those shown here at the 2016 Philadelphia Marathon, will help make the 2017 NFL Draft in Philadelphia a Zero-Waste event. (Photo credit: Green Works Philadelphia)

 

“There is going to be an impact on the City of Philadelphia and its environment,” said Jack Groh, director of the NFL’s environmental program. “So we need to step up and do something about it.”

According to Groh, 16 stations with trash, recycling, and composting bins, staffed by volunteers from Keep Philadelphia Beautiful, the Sierra Club, and other groups, will be placed along the Parkway. And all building materials, including carpeting and wood, will be dismantled and donated for reuse.  Extra or leftover food will go to soup kitchens and shelters throughout the area, or it will end up at a compost facility in Fairmount Park. Food donations could exceed the 11,000 pounds given out during the Democratic National Convention in July, officials estimated.

Additional highlights include:

  • The league’s purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) equal to the amount  of electricity used to power activities in the Draft Experience site along the Parkway.
  • Signs, decorations, lumber, and carpeting will be donated to organizations including Habitat for Humanity and Resource Exchange.  The materials will be remade into such things as whiteboards for classrooms.
  • Water bottle refilling stations along the Parkway.
  • The NFL and Verizon are putting up $10,000 for urban forestry as part of a matching grant. Eventually, 10 trees will be planted for each of the 253 players drafted in 2017.

The NFL Draft’s sustainability effort is poised to be a winning one. If the Jets picks prove to be as successful, I will be one happy man.

 

^ TreePeople is a two-year LA Galaxy partner that inspires the people of Los Angeles to take personal responsibility for the urban forest.

 


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