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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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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Allen Hershkowitz Urges US Pro Sports Leagues to Measure, Reduce Carbon Footprint

When Dr. Allen Hershkowitz talks, people across the sports world, green and otherwise, listen. Having created the greening programs at MLB, NBA, NHL, the USTA, and co-founded and served as President of the Green Sports Alliance, it is no exaggeration to say that Hershkowitz is the most consequential environmentalist in the history of North American sports. Hershkowitz is now globalizing his scope of influence as he helps develop Sustainability and Sports International (SandSI). So his recent column that ran Monday, March 20th in Sports Business Journal (SBJ), urging stronger sustainability leadership from the North American professional sports world, and urging the leadership of pro-sports leagues to begin accounting for their carbon footprint, well, to quote Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, “attention must be paid.” GreenSportsBlog spoke with Hershkowitz about the story, its timing and where we go from here.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Allen, congratulations on your important column for Sports Business Journal (to read it, click HERE). Since you have helped create the Green-Sports movement from the beginning, both at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and at the Green Sports Alliance, and given your leadership role in helping to create the greening programs at MLB, NHL, NASCAR, NBA and the USTA, going public to urge the major sports leagues in North America to measure their carbon footprints in your SBJ column is big. Of course, the NHL has measured its carbon footprint since 2014, so I take it your statement is meant for everyone else. What made you go public now?

Allen Hershkowitz: Well, Lew, I don’t want to be melodramatic, but as a scientist who has devoted his career to studying resource consumption, pollution and sustainability for more than 35 years, I have no choice but to conclude that our planet is facing greater environmental threats than at any time in modern history…

Allen Hershkowitz J. Henry Fair

Allen Hershkowitz (Photo credit: J. Henry Fair)

 

GSB: …But certainly the climate crisis and other environmental calamities aren’t new. So why now? Is this a reaction to the Trump Administration’s rabidly anti-environment, anti-climate initiatives and proposals?

AH:  No, not really. I would’ve written this now even had Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election. The main reason for the timing is that the most recent available information, from global surface temperature—the highest in recorded history—to ocean temperature to ocean acidification to polar ice loss to species loss, clearly shows that the climate crisis and its effects are worsening at an accelerating pace. Projections are such that, if present trends continue, more than one billion people will become climate refugees by 2050…

GSB: …And there are perhaps millions of climate refugees right now. There is peer-reviewed data that ascribes some portion of the severe Syrian drought to climate change. That drought forced many rural Syrians, who could no longer work in agriculture, into the cities, and thus helped ignite the civil war and subsequent refugee tragedy.

AH: Weather extremes are certainly threatening water availability, and food production and that leads to mass dislocations and conflict, as in Syria. And this crisis goes far beyond humans. Species continue to disappear at unprecedented rates, including many that are sports team mascots. Our grandchildren may never get a chance to see tigers or polar bears, except in photographs and documentaries. These problems are happening, and, as I said before, now we know they’re happening at a faster, downright scarier pace than we thought. The climate change-caused death of the Great Barrier Reef off of Australia was expected to happen 30 years from now. It’s happening now. This is what prompted my column now, regardless of who is in the White House.

“Drought, Water, War and Climate Change,” a 5 minute 42 second video from the Yale Climate Connections group, connects the Syrian refugee crisis to climate change.

 

GSB: I get that. But I gotta believe that the utter disregard President Trump, EPA Administrator Pruitt and their team are showing to climate change and the environment more broadly added a bit of urgency. Heck, the second paragraph of your piece goes right after the President’s plans for the EPA:

“If President Trump’s proposed budget is enacted, EPA funding will be reduced by 20% (amended to 31%), to about $6 billion, distinguishing the United States in 2017 as the only industrialized nation on Earth with a national policy committed to reducing the financial and scientific resources needed to address worsening climate change.”

 

AH: Look, I know that what is happening and what is likely to happen in Washington DC in the months to come threatens to undermine so much of the progress we have made collectively on climate and the broader sustainability agenda over the last few decades. It is profoundly disheartening. And I don’t say this as a partisan. I say this as a scientist and as someone who is grounded in reality. And the reality is this: Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of the EPA, has publicly rejected the broad scientific consensus on the human causality of climate change. When he was Attorney General in Oklahoma, Pruitt sued the very agency he is now charged with running on more than a dozen occasions.  His appointment could well undermine the agency’s core air and water protection programs‎, which have enjoyed bipartisan support over the years.

GSB: So how have the commissioners and other high level executives at the leagues—folks with whom you’ve worked for years, whose trust you’ve earned, reacted to your article and to your concerns about the direction of the Administration?

AH: I have always spoken respectfully and factually to my good friends at the leagues. As I didn’t want there to be any surprises, I showed my league contacts an early draft of the SBJ piece.

GSB: What did they think?

AH: Overall, they were positive, and although there were some suggestions to “tone it down,” the basic thrust of the final product was the same as the first draft. Let me put it to you this way: None of my friends at the leagues told me not to publish this.

GSB: That’s good to hear. And what about your thoughts on the Administration? I know you’ve strived hard to stay out of partisan politics and I am sure the leagues appreciate that. But how do you stay neutral on the politics with them?

AH: The leaders of these leagues understand there is just no denying that the current White House and EPA statements on climate change and related subjects have ‎caused consternation in many quarters of the nation, in the scientific community and in capitals around the world. They also understand that this President has started the process of rolling back important fuel efficiency standards and repealing or significantly weakening the Endangered Species Act, which has over the years been a force for rescuing dozens of critters from extinction, including many of the animals that serve as sports team mascots. I am certain the sustainability leaders at all the leagues understand he is misleading the American public on this issue, divisibly and dangerously so.

GSB: That’s good to hear. So how are the leagues reacting to your appeal for carbon footprint accounting?

AH: It’s a process. One reason the leagues, aside from the NHL and Gary Bettman, haven’t been as aggressive on carbon accounting as I would’ve hoped is that the environmental priorities in the US, from a governmental perspective, are relatively weak as compared to, say, Europe. And this was the case before Trump, and even despite the positive strides made by his predecessor.

GSB: That’s interesting…I know that there is a much broader acceptance of climate change in Europe than there is here, and that European governments, in most cases, have stronger, clearer rules on environmental issues than does the US. But do those rules affect sports in Europe?

AH: Absolutely. In many European countries, government agencies regulate sports more aggressively than in the US or Canada. Carbon accounting is an accepted practice there. Thus, the European sports world is already working in an environment, pun intended, where the rules, the norms are clearly more eco-friendly than here in the US. The French Ministry of Sport has been very keen on pushing its Federations (i.e. basketball, swimming, tennis, etc.) to measure their carbon footprint. In fact, 22 sports federations France came together to work towards science-based carbon reduction targets. And some of the major French sports events, starting back in 2007 with the Rugby World Cup and, more recently, the French Open at Roland-Garros and the UEFA EURO 2016, measure their carbon footprint and work towards reductions. France has implemented a platform, Auto Diagnostic Environnemental pour les Responsables d’Evénements,” or ADERE, that allows each organizer to measure roughly their environmental impact and self-discipline themselves to improve from year to year.

GSB: We need to be modeling what the French are doing…

AH: Exactly. And that’s what I am telling the leagues. And, as has been the case for the last decade or more, they listen. Step 1 for the leagues was to acknowledge the reality of human-caused climate change. The NHL, MLB, the NBA all submitted comments to Congress on this issue a number of years ago.

potus

Gary Bettman (l), commissioner of the NHL, the first league to issue a sustainability report. Commissioner Bettman and other sports commissioners have publicly acknowledged climate change.  (Photo credit: TMZ)

 

GSB: What about Roger Goodell and the NFL? They’ve been very quiet on this issue.

AH: They have, but Goodell did state publicly at a Beyond Sport United conference at Yankee Stadium a couple years ago that climate change is real. And Brian France at NASCAR has also publicly acknowledged the importance of this issue. Step 2 was to get sports to measure its energy use. This happened gradually across most North American sports leagues starting in around 2010, taking about 5-6 years. Now is the time for Step 3: to speak about climate change and to measure carbon…

GSB: Because what gets measured gets managed. And what gets managed matters.

AH: Yes! And the leagues are actually in a strong position to speak up and take action. The Scott Pruitts of the world, the James Inhofes of the world…

GSB: …Inhofe being the climate change denying senator from Oklahoma who famously brought a snowball into the senate chamber to demonstrate that climate change isn’t happening. Nice.

Inhofe

US Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) gets ready to throw a snowball fastball in the senate chamber in February, 2015. He brought a snowball into the senate to somehow cast doubt on the reality of climate change. No words. (Photo credit: Huffington Post)

 

AH: Those people can attack science but they can’t attack Major League Baseball, they can’t attack the NHL, they can’t attack NASCAR, whose Chairman of the Board Brian France, has publicly acknowledged the importance of addressing climate change. So now is the time, as I say in the article, for the leagues to calculate carbon emissions, develop a multiyear action plan to reduce carbon emissions, set meaningful, “science-based carbon reduction targets” (at least a 20 percent reduction in the next five to eight years) and aim for net zero carbon emissions from league and team operations, travel, and procurement within the next 20 years, and finally, communicate and inspire fans to do the same.

GSB: Amen! This is exactly what I’ve been urging all along, why I write GreenSportsBlog: To get the powers that be in sports to use their incredible megaphone to drive action on climate among all stakeholders. And that sports, with its ethos of overcoming obstacles, is uniquely well-positioned to do this.

AH: I agree, Lew. And, taking a look back over the last decade or so, the American professional sports world has come a long way. The leagues and many teams have cut energy usage substantially, made their supply chains more sustainable by purchasing recycled products, and they have taken important steps to educate millions of fans. I can’t tell you how proud I am of what we have undertaken together and what the leagues have accomplished in recent years to begin shifting the entire sports culture in a more sustainable, sensible direction. And showing courage by speaking out on what might be a controversial topic today is something sports has done for the last 75+ years. From Jackie Robinson and baseball’s color barrier, to Billie Jean King and equal rights and homophobia, sports has often led culture and politics in the US. It can do so on climate by taking the next step: Measuring carbon and speaking out for positive climate action.


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The Clay Is Red, But How Green Is Roland Garros?

The French Open, tennis’ 2nd major championship of the 2014 season, begins at Roland Garros Stadium in Paris this Sunday. GreenSportsBlog’s 2nd post in as many weeks on the greening of French sports (Elyssa Emrich’s report on the “energy-positive” Alliance Riviera Stadium in Nice was the first) takes a look at the French Open’s sustainability efforts.

 

The French Tennis Federation, or Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT), proclaimed sustainability a core value in 2008. Working with Keneo Sport Solutions, a Paris-based consultancy dedicated to the greening of major sports events, the FFT started the following year to implement a series of greening measures for its signature event, the French Open. By the 2013 tournament:

  • 70% of fans who traveled from the Greater Paris Area took “low-impact” transport, including Metro (2 lines stop there), Bus (8 routes) and Bike. Other Grand Slams are following FFT’s lead: Approximately 60% of fans took mass transit to the 2013 US Open in Queens; more than 50% of fans do the same at the Australian Open in Melbourne this January. Similar data for Wimbledon is not readily available.
  • 62% of the 124-vehicle “official fleet” are low-emission (hybrid and electric cars).
  • A carpooling system had been established

 

Roland Garros

Roland Garros, the epicenter of the French Open. The 2nd major of the tennis season, which starts on Sunday, has made a significant commitment to sustainability. (Photo Credit: Tennis Ticket News)

 

This greening helped the FFT sign GDF Suez as the “Energy and Sustainable Development” partner of the 2014 French Open. As a green-sports sponsorship sales guy, I am largely excited about this deal:

PROS

  • Selling a green sponsorship (the “Sustainable Development” part) to a major sports event is a big deal–it validates the growing “greening is good for business” notion.
  • By signing a high-profile green sponsor, the FFT is talking the green talk. This means it will have to walk the green walk or face a massive PR disaster.
  • 64% of GDF Suez‘ production is from renewables (mainly hydro and wind)
  • CO2 intensity of its production has dropped 17% since 2002.

 

CON

  • GDF Suez is, despite its commitment to renewables, also a big player in the fossil fuels business (coal included). That the FTT and GDF Suez designated the sponsorship category as “Energy and Sustainable Development” (my emphasis) rather than, say, “Clean Energy” indicates both parties don’t want to over-promise. Which is a good thing. But it does beg the question: Should the FTT have a company with a big stake in fossil fuels as its Sustainable Development partner? Or, put another way, wouldn’t it be better to have a partner that could legitimately own the “Clean Energy” designation? Some greenwashing charges have been lobbed (in French here; use Google Translate to get a sense of it in English).

 

Despite my skepticism about GDF Suez it does appear that they will be, in the main, a worthy partner (especially if their production from renewables increases) and that the FFT is squarely on the green track at Roland Garros .

 


 

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