Green-Sports Startups, Part 5: Mark Cleveland and Hytch; Rewarding Friends Who Share Rides to Sports Events

Well-known global corporations, from Anheuser-Busch to Nike, have waded into the Green-Sports waters. While it makes sense for them to do so from PR and mission points of view, Green-Sports, for now, represents a small aspect of these companies’ businesses.

Then again, there are startups for which Green-Sports is a significant part of their raison d’être. Last year, GreenSportsBlog launched an occasional series, Green Sports Startups that focuses on small (for now) companies and nonprofits that see the greening of sports as essential to their prospects for success.

We’ve featured Nube 9, a Seattle-based company committed to making recyclable sports uniforms in the U.S.A from American fabrics; Underdogs United, which sells renewable energy credits to sports teams in the developed world generated by vital greening projects in the developing world; Phononic, a tech company that views sports venues as important testing grounds for its ambition to disrupt the refrigeration market, leading to a meaningful reduction in carbon emissions, and Play Fresh, a nonprofit that uses American football as a catalyst to help build environmental awareness among at-risk kids and teens.

Today, we feature Hytch, a Nashville-based startup that uses a state-of-the-art ride sharing app and financial rewards from corporate sponsors like Nissan to encourage ride sharing to Nashville Predators games and elsewhere. Hytch’s co-founder and CEO is the irrepressible Mark Cleveland. 

 

If GreenSportsPreneur was a word in the dictionary, the definition could well look like this:

GreenSportsPreneur (n)Mark Cleveland, CEO and co-founder, Hytch.

 

MAC_headshot - credit Eric England

Mark Cleveland, co-founder and CEO of Hytch (Photo credit: Eric England)

 

Cleveland has the sports side covered: He recently completed a half ironman.

He’s got the entrepreneur part down, too: “I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my life,” Cleveland told GreenSportsBlog. “I’ve started companies, acquired them. I’ve run startups for other organizations. My businesses have been in the transportation, information systems, and business processing sectors.”

And Cleveland’s entrepreneurial career has, at times, been tinted deep green. He launched:

  • Carbon Angel, a carbon trading company. Per Cleveland, “Even though I lost money, I learned a ton about the inefficiencies of the carbon markets.”
  • SeaBridge Freight, a short sea shipping company that was named a SmartWay Partner by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Swiftwick, an environmentally friendly, long-lasting (Cleveland: “it never wears out!”), Made in the USA athletic sock – including a cut-resistant hockey sock first worn by the 2014 US Olympic team in Sochi.

Yet it could be that Hytch will be Cleveland’s sustainability startup piece de resistance. 

And, if that comes to pass, sports will play a key role.

 

HYTCH: HELPING TO SOLVE NASHVILLE’S TRAFFIC MESS

Traffic congestion is a huge problem in Nashville.

The metro area is growing rapidly and existing roads just can’t handle it. A recent referendum to build a 26-mile light rail system went down in a 2-to-1 defeat.

Meanwhile, Cleveland and telecom visionary Robert Hartline have been working on a different, much less costly solution.

“Robert and I wanted to bring a solution to the table that could help reduce traffic congestion in the Nashville area,” offered Cleveland. “There are so many cars on the highways with only one person in them. So we thought, ‘if we can put two and three people in those cars, that will mean far fewer cars on the road.’ And we wanted to do it in a way that was politically palatable across the board and in a way that would democratize (with a small ‘d’) transit.”

And so Hytch was born.

 

MC at Hytch Launch Nissan

Mark Cleveland, rockin’ and rollin’ at the Hytch launch event at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans (Photo credit: Hytch)

 

The essence of Hytch is the free app for iPhone and Android that helps members who have GPS capability track shared rides with their contacts, earning them “Trees Saved” points. Which is nice, as far as that goes.

But what makes Hytch a potential ride sharing market disruptor of the first order is its corporate sponsorship model.

Sponsor funds are passed along to Hytch drivers and riders. That’s right: Nashville Hytch members, no matter whether they are the driver or passenger, get cash for hitching up  — or, shall I say, Hytching up — on a shared car trip.

 

NISSAN SPONSORS HYTCH TO REDUCE EMPLOYEES’ TRAVEL TIME TO-FROM WORK

Nissan North America is headquartered in Franklin, TN, a 21-mile drive from downtown Nashville along I-65.

And they have a parking lot problem.

That’s where Hytch has come in.

“Nissan was looking to relieve parking lot stress,” said Cleveland. “They don’t have enough spaces for the number of employees’ cars. HR was actually looking to build an app to connect employees for ride sharing when someone told them ‘Hytch is already doing that.’ So we talked with them. Our key insight? Matching people to share rides is not the thing. Getting them excited about it is the thing!”

Nissan North America got so excited about the potential for their employees to get excited about getting paid to share rides, that they quickly became an early Hytch sponsor.

According to an article by Doug Newcomb in the February 5 issue of PC Magazine, “Nissan North America pays Hytch users 1¢ per mile anywhere in Tennessee and 5¢ per mile within the 10-county Middle Tennessee area. With other sponsors^ adding their own rewards to Nissan’s, Hytch said users can earn up to 12¢ or more per mile in some areas. If [a driver or a passenger has] a 20-mile roundtrip commute and drives 100 miles a week, this means he/she can earn $12 a week by using Hytch.”

 

 

Screenshot - Lets+Hytch App

The Hytch app, featuring early sponsor Nissan, along with other partner logos (Photo credit: Hytch)

 

Cleveland says the impact on the environment of the Nissan-Hytch partnership, along with other Nashville area Hytch sponsors not affiliated with the auto maker, was immediate and significant: “In our first six months of existence, Hytch helped to track and reward over 3 million miles of shared rides.”

 

Hytching NissanTour3

Nashville-area Hytch members registering their ride (Photo credit: Hytch)

 

PREDATORS PILOT HYTCH CARPOOL PROGRAM DURING PLAYOFFS 

Delmar Smith, a 12-year veteran of the Nashville Predators front office and the NHL club’s VP of corporate partnerships since 2013, expressed interest when Mark Cleveland approached the team in February about a partnership with Hytch.

“Traffic is the biggest issue in Nashville and parking at our games is tight,” recalled Smith. “So, when our CEO, Sean Henry and I met with Mark in March, the Nissan-Hytch relationship got our attention. With Nissan being one of our top two corporate partners, that really intrigued us and we thought about doing something during the Stanley Cup playoffs.”

The main hitch (sorry!) was timing: Nissan-Hytch discussions took place in March, only a month before the playoffs would begin. Smith was understandably concerned about rushing into a promotional program and it not going smoothly. Then he called Nissan.

More Smith: “Nissan gave me such positive feedback about Hytch and the employee program that it changed my thinking. We actually had the time to construct a ride sharing pilot program during the playoffs that would work logistically and be a benefit to our fans and the environment.”

When the Stanley Cup playoffs started in April, Hytch members who carpooled to Predators home games received 5¢ per mile, funded by Nissan. The team promoted the Hytch partnership on the Bridgestone Arena scoreboard, via social media and through street teams.

 

Hytch at Bridgestone Arena

The Hytch-Predators ride-sharing partnership was promoted on the Bridgestone Arena scoreboard during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs (Photo credit: Hytch)

 

“Hundreds of Preds fans participated in the pilot,” reported Cleveland. “Their reactions were very positive.”

“While results were hard to measure with such a small sample of games, we felt good about the test,” added Smith.

The Predators, Hytch and Nissan intend to expand the program during the 2018-19 regular season.*

 

GREENSPORTSBLOG’S TAKE: HYTCH CAN BE A FORCE FOR GREEN IN THE SPORTS WORLD

With the company already expanding beyond its Nashville home base (it embarked on a partnership with the Vans Warped nationwide cross-country concert tour this summer), it is easy to envision a wide swath of pro and college sports teams using the Hytch platform. Hytch Green-Sports partnerships:

  • May encourage fans to attend games they’d ordinarily watch on TV
  • Can be a source of additional sponsorship revenue
  • Will enhance the team’s reputation with its fans and the broader community

It seems appropriate to let Mark Cleveland provide one last reason why Hytch makes sense for sports teams (and more), and to close to this story: “Every shared mile with Hytch is a zero-emissions mile. Together we save the planet, one shared ride at a time.”

 

 

 


 

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Mascots of NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Teams are Threatened By Climate Change: Report

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that Villanova won its second men’s NCAA basketball championship in three years on Monday, taking out the University of Michigan 79-62. According to a report by the National Wildlife Foundation, highlighted in a recent story in Yale Climate Connections, the Wildcats of Villanova and Michigan’s Wolverines are just two of a number of college sports’ iconic mascots to be under threat from the effects of climate change.

 

Mascots are integral to the color and pageantry that is college sports.

While some mascots take human form (like the Scarlet Knights of my alma mater, Rutgers), some are colors (like the Violets of NYU, where I went to grad school), and some are quirky (what, exactly is an Eph, the mascot of Williams College# in the Berkshire hills of Western Massachusetts?), many are animals and many of those animal mascots are facing climate change-related threats to their existence.

Samantha Harrington delved into that topic in “These March Madness Mascots are in Danger from Climate Change,” which ran in the March 13 issue of Yale Climate Connectionsthe newsletter of the terrific Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Harrington quoted Tara Losoff of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), which issued a Mascot Madness report, as saying that “Many of the animals that inspired [college] team names, these mascots, are at risk of being impacted by climate change.”

While Villanova’s Wildcats were dominant during this year’s run to the NCAA championship — they won all six of their games by 12 points or more — the report points out that wildcats are enduring existential challenges due to climate change:

“North America is home to wildcats like the Canada lynx, ocelot, and Florida panther (the mascot of Pitt, Northern Iowa and Florida International — not to mention the NHL’s team in South Florida)…Climate change is causing a decrease in lynx and could lead to disappearance from the lower 48 states in the next 50 years. The lynx depends on deep snow cover and as the climate warms, it could be unable to field a full roster. As sea levels continue to rise, the Florida panther may be run out of bounds. Just three feet of sea level rise, expected by the end of the century, would flood 30 percent of panther habitat. Droughts driven by climate change are already threatening the reproductive health of ocelots and sea level rise is expected to wipe out some of [their] coastal habitat.”

 

Villanova Wildcat

Villanova’s wildcat. According to a National Wildlife Foundation report, wildcats are one of many mascot species under threat from the effects of climate change (Photo credit: Mark Konezny, USA TODAY sports)

 

On the court in San Antonio Monday night, Michigan’s Wolverines did not fare well against Villanova’s relentless rebounding, championship level defense, and the three point shooting of Final Four Most Outstanding Player Donte DiVincenzo. In the wild, per the NWF report, the wolverine is having a much tougher time:

“The cold-weather wolverine is rapidly vanishing from continental America as climate change continues to warm the planet. The deep snowpack, so essential for denning and raising their young, is harder and harder to find. The wolverine population in the lower 48 states is struggling to hold on and now numbers only 250 to 300. Unless we act soon, climate change could turn this losing battle into a blowout. The rapidly disappearing wolverine may soon be declared a threatened species as the climate warms even more.”

 

 

Wolverine Daniel J. Cox

A wolverine in the Bridger Mountains north of Bozeman, MT (Photo credit: Daniel J. Cox, naturalexposures.com)

 

Other mascot species under threat from climate change go beyond the Wizard of Oz trio of Lions (Columbia, Loyola Marymount), Tigers (Clemson, LSU, Memphis, Missouri) and Bears (Baylor, Cal-Berkeley) to include Bison/Buffaloes (Bucknell, Colorado, North Dakota State), Rams (Colorado State, Fordham, VCU), Ducks (Oregon), Falcons (Air Force Academy, Bowling Green) and Turtles (Maryland Terrapins).

 

clemson tiger

The Clemson Tiger (Photo credit: Dawson Powers)

 

The NWF report makes clear that the harmful effects of climate change go beyond animal mascots to include crops like Buckeyes (Ohio State), Corn (Nebraska Cornhuskers), and Oranges (Syracuse Orangemen). These impacts include more intense bouts of extreme weather like Cyclones (Iowa State), Hurricanes (Miami) and Storms (St. John’s Red Storm).

Losoff told Harrington that making a connection between mascots and climate change can help get people thinking and talking about global warming: “Talking about a beloved animal mascot being impacted by climate change could be a way to engage friends and family members who might not otherwise be interested or engaged in talking about climate.”

I agree and would go even further.

It seems to me that the “Mascots Being Threatened by Climate Change” story angle provides a big marketing opportunity — and a chance to do some real good — to two key players in the college sports ecosystem: Colleges and university athletics departments and the corporations that sponsor and/or advertise on them. Especially those corporations and brands that promote their greenness.

Think about it.

Some companies and brands embracing (the very neutral-sounding) sustainability still don’t want to deal with climate change — seen by many as too controversial and political — head on in their marketing messages.

This is a faulty strategy, in my humble opinion. Corporations, as well as sports teams — pro and college alike — are falling all over themselves to figure out how to appeal to millennials and Generation Z. These cohorts, far more than their predecessors, see climate change not as an if, but rather as a what are we going to do about it question.

Gun violence is a much more immediate, high profile issue than climate change, but the reaction of many Generation Zers and millennials since the Parkland High School tragedy is instructive. It shows that a significant cadre of these young people seem to run towards controversies and politics. Brands, it says here, will start to take note. Which means that the climate is likely safer than it’s ever been for corporations/brands — including college sports advertisers like General Motors and Nike — to promote their climate change fighting efforts, like generating renewable energy at and/or purchasing renewable energy for their factories.

But if companies — concerned about being called out by climate change skeptics and deniers on the one hand or for greenwashing, for not being perfect on the other — are still not ready to make the jump into the climate change waters, the NWF report provides the perfect way to wade in.

You see, almost everyone loves animals and animal conservation. And almost every college sports fan loves their team’s mascot. Corporations/brands and their college sports partners can wrap themselves in mascot preservation as a way to engage on climate change.

Watch this space.

 

# The Williams College Ephs (pronounced “Eephs”) are named for the school’s founder, Ephraim Williams

 

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Green Leaders Talk Green Sports, Part 9: Mindy Lubber, CEO of Ceres

For the ninth installment of our “Green Leaders Talk Green Sports”^ series — where we talk with luminaries from outside the Green-Sports world about its potential to impact the climate change fight — we bring you our discussion with Mindy Lubber, CEO of Ceres.

Ceres, a Boston-based sustainability nonprofit, works with the world’s most influential companies and investors to build leadership on climate change and drive climate solutions throughout the economy. Among other things, we talked about how sports can influence the increasingly busy intersection of Green & Business & Finance.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Mindy, thank you for talking with us; I’ve wanted to get your perspective on the potential power of sports to influence sustainable business for a long time. To start, what does Ceres do?

Mindy Lubber: Ceres works with influential corporations and investors to drive sustainable change in the economy. We advocate for the integration of climate risk, water scarcity and pollution, and human rights abuses from company supply chains to the board room. And our ethos is to Think Big! Many of the large companies we work with are changing and are moving the sustainability discussion forward — not necessarily fast enough or bold enough, but we are working on that — and we need to be having the discussion with a wider audience of folks. And who are more compelling than athletes — admired by many — to lend their powerful voices in support of addressing the future of our planet? (Editor’s Note: Emphasis is mine)

 

MindyLubber_Headshot

Mindy Lubber, CEO of Ceres (Photo credit: Karen Rivera, Ceres)

 

GSB: I like it all, especially that last bit! So how did you get to lead big thinking, big acting Ceres?

ML: Well, despite the admonition of my parents not to follow my MBA and Law degrees with a public interest/nonprofit career, I made that jump and, 35 years later; have not looked back. My question to myself always has been: How can I maximize my impact? So I started a long road in which I worked as a lawyer — a tortured litigator, in fact —  regulator, researcher, and in politics, always looking to see how I can affect change. I worked for 10 years with the Public Interest Research Groups. In 1988, I was a senior staffer on the Dukakis for President campaign. Then, after we didn’t quite end up in the White House…

GSB:…[SIGH]…

ML:…I founded and launched an environmental investment firm — this was very new at the time — focusing on investing in environmentally sustainable companies. The firm continues to this day — 17 years later — as does an entire industry around responsible investing. Years later, I found myself back in government, working for the Clinton Administration under Carol Browner as Regional Administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency. When I left the Administration, I took some time to think about what strategies and tactics I could employ that would have the most impact on climate change and environmental sustainability. My conclusion? Capital markets have to be involved in solving climate and environmental problems, especially companies in the Fortune 500. In fact, companies and investors are key to solving these problems – problems and challenges which are about the future of our families as well as our economy.

Much has changed in the world of corporate sustainability. When I got here in 2003, Ceres had a staff of eight. Now, we’re 107 people — because it is clear capital market leaders need to be and are becoming increasingly involved. Ceres works with hundreds of companies and investors to limit their carbon footprint, reduce water and other resource use, commit to clean energy and electric vehicles, support the Paris Climate Agreement and other environmental and social policies.

GSB: What drives Ceres’ success in helping move corporations to more sustainable behaviors?

ML: The best way to say it is we work as advocates to move the largest companies, as well as major investors, to integrate sustainability more quickly and more deeply, because it is a driver of shareholder value. Right now, 90 large companies and 140 large investors are Ceres members, along with the rating agencies and stock exchanges with whom we engage regularly. And, the truth is, leadership at these big organizations get climate change for the most part. They see the increased intensity of storms, wildfires, and other extreme weather and they know that it matters and has a direct impact on their businesses. The largest companies really get it. Apple, Citicorp, Dell and PepsiCo are all Ceres members. Now, not all of our members are doing everything well, sustainability-wise, but they’re moving in the right direction.

GSB: Are any companies in the sports industry Ceres members?

ML: Nike is an important partner of Ceres; they’ve been a leader on sustainable innovation in product design and materials, while also decreasing their environmental footprint. Disney, of which ESPN is a part, is a member, as is Time-Warner, with sports cable-casters TBS and TNT on their roster.

 

Nike Flyleather

Ceres member Nike’s recently launched Flyleather shoe — a sustainable material made with 50 percent recycled leather fibers (Photo credit: Nike)

 

GSB: What are some of the major initiatives Ceres is working on with its members?

ML: We just launched a new initiative with our global investor partners– the Climate Action 100+. It is designed to engage the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters to curb emissions, strengthen climate-related financial disclosures and improve governance on climate change. Betty Yee, California State Controller and board member of CalPERS, CalSTRS and Ceres, announced the initiative at the One Planet Summit hosted by the French Government in December. Launching on the second anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement, Climate Action 100+ aims to realize the goals of that agreement by bringing together the world’s most influential institutional investors with a clear and coordinated agenda to get the biggest emitters to act more ambitiously on climate. We are tremendously excited about this initiative and the unprecedented global collaboration among investors that it represents.

 

One Planet Summit

 

We are also doing exciting work on water through Feeding Ourselves Thirsty, an analysis and ranking of the largest food sector companies on how they are responding to water risks and, in our most recent report, how performance has shifted since the first round of benchmarking in 2015. Feeding Ourselves Thirsty also serves as a resource to companies by offering insights on the water and climate risks food sector companies are exposed to and how these risks impact current and future profitability.

GSB: This is very important work, Mindy, but I always wonder, how big, really, is the awareness of corporate sustainability initiatives among the general public? My sense is that a very small percentage of the public, of small investors, are aware of any of this. Is my sense nonsensical?

ML: We are seeing extraordinary changes regarding sustainability within companies and investment firms, within cities and states, and, yes, with consumers and small investors. The world is changing – the reality of climate change is becoming ever more clear. Millennials, a larger demographic cohort than the baby boomers, are starting to act in big numbers — as are other groups.

GSB: In this case, I’m glad my instincts were off! Ceres must have a very full plate…

ML: No doubt about it. Every company is on its own journey — some doing a little and some doing a lot. Our job is to increase the pace and the size of the impact if we are going to successfully address the sustainability issues of our time. A good number of corporations are moving in the right direction and are doing so forcefully. What we are seeing is over 100 corporations committing to 100 percent renewables. Mars not long ago pledged $1 billion to fight climate change; Morgan Stanley committed to get all its energy from renewables by 2022; Bank of America pledged $125 billion dollars for a clean energy future; and dozens of companies have showed their support for the US commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement by joining Ceres at November’s COP23 in Bonn, Germany.

 

Mars

Mars climate change-themed promotional piece (Image credit: Mars)

 

GSB: Sounds like Ceres had a great 2017; what’s ahead for 2018 and beyond?

ML: Two big areas we’ll be focusing on are 1) Scaling the adoption of electric vehicles, and 2) Expanding finance to a renewable energy future.

GSB: Speaking of finance, how does Ceres work with investors?

ML: Investor engagement has been at the core of Ceres’ work since our founding. We work with investors on environmental, social, and governance issues to drive sustainable investment leadership and action through every level of the capital markets and government. In 2003, we launched the Investor Network on Climate Risk and Sustainability (originally referred to as INCR), which now numbers over 130 institutional investors, collectively managing about $15 trillion in assets. Facilitated by Ceres staff, network members participate in working groups, webinars, and more to advance leading investment practices, corporate engagement strategies and policy solutions. And by pressuring exchanges and capital market regulators to improve climate and sustainability risk disclosure, our Investor Network members are able to serve as advocates for stronger climate, clean energy and water policies.

Sustainability-related shareholder resolutions are also a big aspect of our work with large investors. Five years ago, we reached the 50 percent voting threshold on about 10 percent of our resolutions; now we’re at 66 percent. This past May, our investors had an historic win at ExxonMobil’s annual meeting with a 62 percent majority vote in favor of a shareholder proposal calling on the oil and gas giant to assess and disclose how it is preparing its business for the transition to a low-carbon future. We are expecting to see a lot more of that.

GSB: That’s a big deal! But, to me, this highlights a gap between what companies and large investors are doing sustainability-wise and the relative absence of consumers. What can be done? And can sports be part of the solution?

ML: Consumers certainly need information on what companies are doing on sustainability and what sustainable investment opportunities are available to them, in a clear, digestible fashion. There is no time to waste on this if the world is going to make the Paris Agreement’s 2°C target — buy in from consumers is a must. Sustainability messaging and messengers for consumers in many cases need to be different than for those involved with the capital markets. This is where popular culture and sports needs to play their roles as parts of the solution. Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si, was an extraordinary message of change.

Sports stars and leaders can play an important role in our work as so much of humanity follows and is passionate about sports…

GSB: Well, as Allen Hershkowitz, former President of the Green Sports Alliance often says, “13 percent of people care about science; 70 percent care about sports.”

ML: Allen is probably right. Thing is, even though athletes are often not seen as left leaning — a challenge the climate movement faces — I was heartened to see some sports stars get involved with the Flint (MI) water crisis. They were largely apolitical — they were there to get things done, to win. And, even when sports gets political, as in the Colin Kaepernick case, the conversation gets outsized attention because it is sports. For the world to make the 2°C target, climate change needs much more attention from consumers, from business and from government. Sports can provide a big platform.

GSB: My contention is the Green-Sports movement’s impact on climate will scale as it moves from Version 1.0 — the greening of stadia and arenas — to a more expansive 2.0 — engaging fans at the games and as well as the much bigger audience watching on TV and/or other devices. In the meantime, the world needs Ceres to continue to engage the sports industry where possible to help corporations and investors win their 2°C battles…

 

^ Here are links to the first eight installments of “Green Leaders Talk Green Sports”: 1. Joel Makower, executive editor of GreenBiz Group; 2. Jerry Taylor, leading libertarian DC lobbyist who was climate denier/skeptic, “switched teams” and is now a climate change fighter; 3. Dr. Michael Mann, one of the world’s foremost climate scientists and author of “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars”; 4. Caryl Stern, President and CEO of US Fund for UNICEF;  5. Paul Polizzotto, President and Founder of CBS EcoMedia; 6. David Crane, former CEO of NRG, who, in addition to moving one of the largest electricity generators in the US away from coal and towards renewables, also oversaw the “solar-ization” of six NFL stadia; 7. Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist and the best climate change communicator I’ve ever seen/heard; 8. Freya Williams, author of “Green Giants” and CEO of sustainability consulting firm Futerra USA.

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: 50 Biggest Solar Systems at Stadiums and Arenas; Nike Steps Up Its Green Game Through “Science Based Targets”

It’s “Techno-forward Tuesday” in GSB News & Notes column. First, we take a dive into a new global list of the 50 biggest solar systems at stadiums and arenas. Then we look at Nike and its commitment to reduce its carbon emissions, and those of its supply chain, via the tenets of the Science Based Targets initiative. Adhering to those tenets means the Beaverton, OR company would be doing its part to keep global carbon emissions at levels that will keep the world below a 2°C increase vs. pre-industrial levels.

 

INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY LEADS THE LIST OF 50 BIGGEST SOLAR SYSTEMS AT STADIUMS AND ARENAS

Szabolc Magyari, writing in the September 5th issue of SolarPlaza, a Rotterdam, Netherlands-based newsletter about all things solar, compiled a list of the 50 biggest solar systems at stadiums and arenas, with “biggest” defined as the amount of power generated per system. Click here for the list.

Three nuggets stood out to me.

1. Auto Racing Leading on Big Solar Installations: Auto racing venues’ prominence at the top of the list — three of the four biggest solar installations at stadiums/arenas are in the motor sports world — may be surprising to many at first glance. After all, burning copious amounts of fossil fuels is an essential part of the sport itself (save for the notable exception of the all electric vehicle Formula-E circuit) and, in the United States at least, the perception — if not the reality — is that the epicenter of auto racing fandom is in states where climate change denial is highest. So why are auto racing venues going solar so…bigly?

 

Solarplaza

Indianapolis Motor Speedway, TT Circuit Assen (Netherlands) and Pocono Speedway have three of the four biggest solar installations in the sports world (Source: Solarplaza, September 2017)

 

When you realize that the footprint (size, not carbon) of a raceway or speedway is 3-4X that of the biggest stadium, then it makes sense that their solar arrays would be much bigger, too. And the fact that the cost curve is decreasing rapidly makes solar an economically wise choice. And it may well be that the motor sports industry is ahead of a portion of its fan base on climate change, at least as of now. Hopefully, these solar installations, in at least a small way, will help bring some of those fans around.

 

2. The Netherlands Punches Way Above Its Weight, Solar Stadium/Arena-Wise. The USA leads the way on the Solar Top 50 list with 21 stadiums/arenas or 42 percent, an impressive showing, especially considering the US only represents 4.4 percent of the world’s population of 7.5 billion.

Even more impressive is the Netherlands’ solar-stadium performance: It has seven stadiums/arenas on the list which represents 14 percent of the total. But at 17 million and change, the Netherlands represents only 0.2 percent of the world’s population. Thus, it has 85 times more solar-topped stadiums and arenas than its population would indicate. Hartelijk gefeliciteerd*, Netherlands!

 

Cruyff Arena Holland

Solar panels top Johann Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam, home of Dutch soccer powerhouse Ajax. (Photo credit: Holland.com)

 

TT Circuit Solar ABN Amro

Solar panels line the race track and a field adjacent to the TT Circuit in Assen, The Netherlands (Photo credit: ABN Amro)

 

3. How Great Is It That There Is a Top 50 Solar Stadium/Arenas List At All?! If there’s a Top 50 list of solar stadiums and arenas, that means there must be many more such buildings who didn’t make the list. Which is a great thing, indeed.

 

NIKE STEPS UP ITS GREEN GAME: JOINS SCIENCE BASED TARGETS INITIATIVES; LAUNCHES ‘SUSTAINABLE LEATHER’ SHOE

Nike, a leader in the sustainable athletic apparel world, recently committed to set corporate emission reduction targets through the Science Based Targets (SBT) initiative, pushing the number of companies pledged to the scheme beyond 300.

The SBT initiative, a partnership between CDP, WRI, WWF and the UN Global Compact, judges a corporation’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets to qualify as “science-based” if they are in line with the level of decarbonization required to keep the global temperature increase below 2°C compared to preindustrial temperatures, as described in the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

All firms looking for the SBT initiative stamp of approval will need to take the necessary steps to embed science-based targets amongst their suppliers. This is particularly acute for the apparel world in general and the athletic apparel segment in particular as more than 90 percent of apparel brand emissions are located in the supply chain.

In 2017 alone, more than 90 companies have joined the initiative. Aside from Nike, that list includes global corporate heavyweights Colgate-Palmolive, HP, Mars^, Nestlé, and SAP.

Conspicuous by its absence to this point in the SBT initiative is adidas, Nike’s chief global competitor, and a true Green-Sports leader. Puma, an early Green-Sports adapter, is part of the initiative.

According to Matt Mace, writing in the September 18 edition of edie.net, companies that have joined the Science Based Targets initiative represent around “$6.5 trillion in market value and are responsible for 0.750 metric gigatonnes of CO2 emissions annually” — or 7.8 percent of the 9.74 metric gigatonnes# of CO2 that were emitted globally in 2015.

“As more and more companies see the advantages of setting science-based targets, the transition towards a low-carbon economy is becoming a reality,” said Lila Karbassi, UN Global Compact’s chief of programmes. “This is becoming the new ‘normal’ in the business world, proving that a low-carbon economy is not only vital for consumers and the planet, but also for future-proofing growth.”

 

Flyleather will help Nike move towards its Science Based Targets

Nike, while on the right path emissions reduction-wise, has a long way to go (as do practically all companies) to actually achieve its target for a 2°C or less world. Its latest eco-sartorial innovation, the recently launched Flyleather — a sustainable leather material made with 50 percent recycled leather fibers — is a step in the right direction.

While the product looks and feels just like premium leather, the process used to produce it is 180 degrees different than the traditional curing, soaking and tanning approach.

During a typical leather manufacturing process, up to 30 percent of a cow’s hide is discarded. To make Flyleather shoes, Nike collects the discarded leather scrap from the floors of tanneries and turns them into fibers. The recycled fibers are then combined with synthetic fibers and fabric through a hydro process with a force so strong it fuses everything into one material.

Nike partnered with E-Leather, which pioneered the process, to develop the new material, which they claim is 40 percent lighter and five times as durable as traditional leather due to its innate structural strength and stability. The process to produce Flyleather also uses 90 percent less water and has an 80 percent lower carbon footprint than traditional leather manufacturing. And because Nike Flyleather is produced on a roll, it improves cutting efficiency and creates less waste than traditional cut-and-sew methods for full-grain leather.

The first product to feature Nike Flyleather is the Nike Flyleather Tennis Classic, an all-white version of the premium court shoe.

 

Nike Flyleather Tennis

Nike’s Flyleather Tennis Classic (Photo credit: Nike)

 

“One of our greatest opportunities is to create breakthrough products while protecting our planet,” said Hannah Jones, Chief Sustainability Officer and VP of the Innovation Accelerator at Nike. “Nike Flyleather is an important step toward ensuring athletes always have a place to enjoy sport.”

 


Hartelijk gefeliciteerd = congratulations in Dutch
^ Mars recently committed to pledge $1 billion to fight climate change (Source: Fortune, September 6, 2017)
# Source: Global Carbon Project, 2015.

 


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Tesla and Nike: Promote Your Greenness to Sports Audiences

Precious few companies with sustainable product/service lines have used sports as a platform on which to market their greenness to fans. Fear of consumer backlash could be a reason for the reticence. 

Sure, some aspects of those fears could be well founded. But, it says here that the marketing climate, even despite the results of November 8, is more favorable than not for Green Giants (companies with sustainability as a core value and a market cap of at least $1 billion as detailed in the book of the same name by recent GSB interviewee Freya Williams) who are also influential, trend-shapers to market their sustainability bona fides.

Companies like Tesla and Nike.

In case these two Green Giants are not quite ready to advertise a sustainability-focused and/or climate change-fighting message, GreenSportsBlog is here to offer rationale—and even some free creative concepts—to nudge them in the green direction.

 

 

BASF and White Wave are two companies with strong sustainability track records who successfully market their greenness through sports. They both get that, in an ever more fragmented media landscape, sports is still the best way to reach a mass audience. And they obviously believe that promoting their greenness through sports will enhance their image and build their business.

But BASF, a global chemical conglomerate that is aggressively shifting to greener processes and products, is mainly in the Business-to-Business (B-to-B) space. White Wave is a small-but-growing, purpose driven food company. Neither are major, Green Giant consumer brands with the ability, spending-wise and image-wise, to use sports to influence a wide swath of the population.

Is it time for Green Giants to build upon what BASF and White Wave have started to market to fans of the New York Giants—and those of many other teams? 

Yes, it is.

But what about those consumer backlash fears?

Perhaps the election of climate change skeptic Donald Trump validates the notion that companies should shy away from promoting their greenness as an important feature through sports or any other advertising platform. 

But other data from 2016 point in a very different direction:

  • Several polls show that up to 70% of Americans think climate change is real (Monmouth University, January), with about half citing human activity as the main cause (Pew, October). 
  • Concern about climate change was at an 8 year high as of March (Gallup).
  • And, post-election, a majority of US adults say stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost (Pew, December).
  • More broadly, a global research study sponsored by Green Giant Unilever revealed that 78 percent of US shoppers feel better when they buy sustainably produced products. (Europanel and Flamingo, December)

Our take? The winds seem more at the backs of the Green Giants in terms of marketing their greenness than not. But even if there are some headwinds, GGs like Tesla and Nike have made their reputations in part by going against the grain. 

So here are some ways Tesla and Nike can go about using sports to communicate their green bona fides.

 

TESLA

Tesla, synonymous with the small but fast-growing electric vehicles (EV) market, is one of the coolest brands of this era. It launched in 2008 with the ultra-high end, ultra-high profile, ultra-hip $110,000 Roadster. That many, including company founder Elon Musk, judged the Roadster to be a technical failure was of little import; Tesla’s ultra cool brand image was born.

The company broadened its potential audience in 2014 by moving down to merely the high end market with the $70,000 Model S sedan, seen by most observers as a clear technical and commercial success. And, by the end of 2017, although Tesla is notoriously late on actual launch dates, its Model 3 is expected for delivery. Expected to be priced at $35,000—while, according to the company, not making any compromise on range and performance—the Model 3 will be Tesla’s first EV offering targeted to a mass audience. 

tesla-model-3

Premarket version of the Tesla Model 3. (Photo credit: Tesla Motors)

 

To reach that mass audience, Tesla would do well to reach sports audiences.

The Super Bowl is always the most watched television show of any year by a wide margin. The number one rated series in 2016? Sunday Night Football on NBC, despite the NFL’s well publicized ratings drop. The Olympics, Final Four and World Series all easily out-rate most other non-sports shows.

One could imagine the Model 3 being advertised on NFL games, especially since its mass audience (even despite this season’s ratings drop) will be a great fit for the leader in the fast growing/scaling EV market—according to a study by Navigant Research, EV sales are expected to almost triple between 2015 and 2024.

With a $35,000 price point, the Model 3 should also consider the NBA with, compared to the NFL, its hipper, younger, more urban, above-average-but-not-other-worldly income viewer base. If Tesla could get an NBA star or two to drive a Model 3, look out! Add a sprinkle of tennis and/or golf to get higher end viewers who still weren’t able to afford the Roadster and Model S and you have a smart, sports oriented TV plan for the Tesla Model 3.

But we’re not suggesting Tesla only use TV. Upscale millennials will be a key target and many of them have cut the cable cord (ESPN had 99 million subscribers in 2013; that number is down to 89 million in 2016). But, according to Beth Egan, Associate Professor of Advertising at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications, Tesla can reach a good chunk of those cord cutters “where they get sports, via their mobile devices, streaming services, on social media and ‘over-the-(TV set) top’ offerings like Roku and Apple TV.”

This sounds like a great start to a sports-focused media plan for Tesla, except for one tiny problem.

Tesla does not advertise.

Or, at least it hasn’t done so yet.

This can work when you’re a boutique brand, trading on word-of-mouth and Elon Musk’s élan.

But will that ad-free strategy carry the day as Tesla looks to compete with the EVs that are/will soon be on offer from the BMWs, Mercedes Benzes and Acuras of the world, not to mention their internal combustion engine cousins?

Nope.

Tesla will have to advertise if it’s going to  maintain and build its EV leadership status as the category grows and gets more crowded and competitive. Sports will be the perfect venue, both in terms of audience size and demographics, as well as the powerful creative messaging potential.

On the latter point, GSB is happy to provide Tesla with two creative approaches:

  • Testimonial: Tesla would sign athletes who drive Model 3s as spokespeople (future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and punt returner Jordan Norwood of the Denver Broncos are among the athletes who drive Model S.) Some will talk about how cool the car is, how well it performs, how it goes from zero to sixty in less than three seconds. Others will talk about how it will help save the planet for their kids—to go from zero to sixty in less than three seconds
  • Hate-Love: Find players who are loathed by most fans (think Christian Laettner, Kobe Bryant or Tom Brady). Show scenes of fans expressing their venom. Then show the hated stars with their Model 3s, talking about how the car’s greenness is their gift to their fans and the planet. Voilà, the haters turn into devoted fans.

 

NIKE

Per GreenSportsBlog’s interview with Freya Williams, the super-fast Flyknit shoe “cuts waste by 80 percent and makes the shoe 20 percent lighter…it symbolizes the future of sustainable business at scale. “Despite having a strong environmental story to tell, Nike has, to date, chosen not to tell it. 

flyknit

Flyknit by Nike (Photo credit: Nike, Inc.)

 

Ads for Flyknit have, like most Nike ads over the past 45 years, emphasized performance and a cool look. This makes perfect sense as it is Nike’s business to help people to run faster. One 30 second ad hints at the “natural” aspects of the shoe, but Flyknit’s sustainability/climate change-fighting benefits are not spelled out. 

 

30 second ad for Nike’s Flyknit shoe

 

Should Nike add a “Just Green It” spot with a climate change message to its Flyknit ad portfolio?

Absolutely, and here’s why.

  1. Nike can mention Flyknit’s greenness and its strong performance in one 30 second spot. There is enough time (Miller Lite was able to promote “tastes great” and “less filling”) and the two are not mutually exclusive.
  2. A good chunk of potential Flyknit customers should also be in favor of Nike taking positive environmental action. Data from a 2013 Running USA survey indicates that runners are more highly educated and have higher incomes than the average American. The high education/income cohort, in the main, supports action on climate change. And it’s not a stretch to imagine that the Flyknit target audience is more highly educated and has a higher income than the average runner.
  3. Nike ads have taken on social issues (e.g. “If You Let Me Play” campaign which promoted the benefits of access to sports for girls)
  4. Nike has not shied away from controversy (e.g “I’m Not a Role Model” with Charles Barkley).

Taking a stand on climate would break the mold, spark some dialogue about the issue, and generate more sales from sustainability-minded athletes. All of this is perfect for Nike.

What might the ads look like? You know, Wieden + Kennedy and Nike’s other agencies do a phenomenal job. I will leave it to them. 

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