AEG Pushes Its Venues to Reduce Emissions in Line with Paris Climate Agreement

Los Angeles-based AEG is the largest sports and entertainment venue operator in the world, entertaining over 100 million guests annually. On the sports side, AEG is both a venue owner-operator — marquee properties like LA’s Staples Center, London’s O₂ Arena and T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas headline its portfolio — as well as a team owner, with LA’s Galaxy, Kings and Lakers among its leading lights.

An early driver of the sports greening movement, the company has accelerated the pace of its sustainability efforts over the past three years, committing to science-based targets in 2016 and to the UN’s Sports for Climate Action Framework earlier this year.

GreenSportsBlog first spoke with John Marler, the company’s VP of Energy and Environment and newly announced Green Sports Alliance board member, three years ago. We caught up with him recently to delve into AEG’s recent sustainability advances and to get his take on how hard sports can push on climate going forward.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Hi John, it’s great to talk again. AEG adopted “science-based targets” regarding its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reductions goals in 2016. What are science-based targets in general and how has the company progressed in the first three years since making the commitment?

John Marler: GHG reductions targets adopted by companies are considered science-based if they are aligned with the level of decarbonization necessary to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C as compared to preindustrial levels.

While AEG was not the first company to commit to science-based targets, we were an early adopter back in 2016.

GSB: Why did AEG go all in on science-based targets?

John: We realized that, while the planet doesn’t care if we get things right on GHG emissions reductions, humanity and other life forms certainly will care. Progress has been slow but steady. In 2018, we were able to move closer towards our goal by purchasing additional renewable energy. This allowed us to keep up, emissions-reductions-wise, with the growth in emissions from adding new venues to our roster. Many other companies are in the same boat and are taking a similar approach.

 

MarlerJ2019

John Marler (Photo credit: AEG)

 

GSB: What specific targets are AEG moving towards?

John: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report says humanity has until 2030 to reduce GHG emissions by 45 percent versus a 2010 baseline. We’re working towards that goal and also towards being carbon neutral by 2050.

GSB: How far along is AEG in terms of emissions reductions and how have you gotten there?

John: We reduced GHG emissions by 18 percent from 2017 to 2018 and are very close to being on pace to get to the 33 percent reduction level by 2020, putting us on track to get to the “45 percent by 2030” threshold. Our approach for our venues has been to focus on energy efficiency wherever possible and to purchase renewable energy credits (RECs).

We’ve been encouraged by the quality and quantity of the RECs that have become available as more renewable energy generation capacity is being built out. One somewhat paradoxical challenge for us has been our growth. Meaning that the more properties we acquire or build, those added emissions get assigned to our ledger versus our 2010 baseline.

GSB: So that means you’re actually performing better on a per venue basis if total AEG emissions are down vs. 2010 as your portfolio has grown, right? How do on-site renewables fit into this?

John: Solar and wind at sports or entertainment venues are great in that they serve as high profile advertisements for renewable energy. But the amount of emissions reduction we see from on-site renewables at stadiums and arenas is quite small. The truth is, only about 25 percent of venue roofs can even accommodate solar. So on-site renewables alone will not get us close to where we need to get in terms of GHG emissions.

Again, for us, getting to our targets will come from improvements on energy efficiency plus funding new off-site renewable energy by the purchase of RECs. We’re pleased by the technological advancements and thus the price reductions in solar and wind as well as on energy storage. The question is, when we’re talking about climate change globally rather than just in the sports industry, will these advances be fast enough?

 

STAPLES Center solar January 2019

Solar panels atop the roof of the Staples Center in Los Angeles (Photo credit: John Marler)

 

GSB: And will there be the will, from the grassroots and political levels, to make the policy changes necessary to accelerate the adoption of these technologies fast enough? Back to sports for a minute. I think Green-Sports 1.0 — the greening of the games themselves — has largely been a success over the past decade or more. LEED certified stadiums and arenas have become the norm. But the sports world cannot rest on those laurels. What do you think the sports greening movement needs to do going forward to maximize GHG reduction impacts?

John: The good thing is that most people in the sports greening movement realize that Green-Sports 1.0 is not nearly enough to get us where we need to be. The real opportunity is for sports venue management — and that means companies like ours — as well as teams, leagues and athletes is to inspire fans to care about climate. For this to happen, sports organizations need to be more public about their greening efforts and encouraging fans to do the same in their own lives. Maybe fans get interested via the plastic ocean waste issue, maybe by trying a plant-based diet. The important thing is they get there.

GSB: How is AEG going about communicating its greening initiatives to its fans?

John: MLS’ LA Galaxy’s Protect The Pitch initiative engages fans at Dignity Health Sports Park and on its website. All of our California venues committed to the state’s Clean Air Day. Our AEG #GoGreen site has a carbon calculator, powered by Conservation International, which allows the visitor to determine his/her annual carbon footprint. They can also offset their carbon.

 

Galaxy Protect Pitch

Signage promoting LA Galaxy’s decision to phase out plastic straws as part of its Protect the Pitch initiative (Credit: LA Galaxy)

 

GSB: How does AEG promote #GoGreen to its guests? How is traffic to the site?

John: Sustainability is increasingly informing consumers’ purchasing habits and behaviors. Because everyone plays a role in sustainability, we encourage employees and fans through our social channels to visit AEGGoGreen.com, learn how to lessen their environmental impact and ask others to join the movement by sharing a #GOGREEN Pledge via Facebook and Twitter.

Conserving our planet’s resources is a shared endeavor that not only touches all levels of our organization, but all people in all corners of the globe. Only by working together can we improve the health of our planet.

The program underscores AEG’s belief that it has an opportunity to use the power of sports and music to create significant, positive change in the world.

 

GSB: Finally, AEG’s energy efficiency initiatives, its renewable energy purchases and its communications efforts fit well with the five pillars of the UN’s new Sports For Climate Action framework, something to which the company committed. What is AEG looking for from the framework?

John: One of the underlying principles behind the creation of the Green Sports Alliance is that people care deeply about sports and it’s a great platform to engage with people about a variety of issues. We see the Framework as one of these opportunities – to use the most popular and iconic sports brands in the world to help address climate change.

GSB: Speaking of the Alliance, congratulations John on being named to its Board. You will bring a deep well of venue management and technical experience to the Alliance. As for the Framework, it’s off to a strong start with high profile commitments, including AEG’s. I look forward to talking with you down the road to see how compliance and awareness of the Framework develops.

 

 


 

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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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