The first Sport Positive Summit, which takes place March 17-18 at Wembley Stadium in London, promises to be unique among Green-Sports conferences with its laser-like focus on climate change.
GSB spoke with Claire Poole, the event’s organizer and guiding spirit, about what attendees can expect to experience.
GreenSportsBlog: Where did the germ for the idea that became Sport Positive Summit come from?
Claire Poole: Well Lew, as you know I was a consultant to the U.N. on the effort that would become the Sports for Climate Action framework back in October 2017. Then, when we saw the success of the framework when it launched in December 2018, I thought that, for sport and climate to really move forward, we needed to catalyze the global interest and momentum. Having worked in events for nearly 15 years, a Summit sounded like something I could make happen to support the movement. So that’s where it started and, here we are!
GreenSportsBlog: It sounds so easy when you say it but pulling off a Summit that will draw people from the UK, Europe and far beyond is a heavy lift. So, kudos! How will the Sport Positive Summit differentiate itself versus Green Sports Alliance Summits and other Green-Sports events?
Claire: We’re a global Summit, we’re aligned with UNFCCC Sport for Climate Action Framework and want the momentum we are working to build to support the other green sports events out there. As you can see when you visit our website, all of the global green, sustainable sports alliances and associations are supporters of Sport Positive Summit, and their voices all are on the agenda.
Although many of us have worked within the climate change movement for a long time, over the last 18 months or so, there seems to have been a step-change in awareness all over the world. From Greta Thunberg and the Youth Climate Strikes, Extinction Rebellion and the David Attenborough affect in regard to single use plastic. Within sport we’re now used to seeing cricket teams wearing masks in India, football pitches flooding here the UK and have super-hot temperatures affecting locations of the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games events and more.
With this as backdrop, our agenda will align with the five principles of the Sport for Climate Action framework:
- Undertake systematic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility;
- Reduce overall climate impact;
- Educate for climate action;
- Promote sustainable and responsible consumption;
- Advocate for climate action through communication.
This agenda is really an industry-wide sports effort, “for us, by us”; we are very pleased with the way it has come together.
GSB: The emphasis on climate is music to my ears. One thing I’m concerned about — and this is the case with most Summits, Green-Sports or otherwise, that I attend — is that there aren’t enough tangible, concrete action items that result. What is Sports Positive Summit doing to guard against what I call “Kumbaya”, “everything’s great-ism”?
Claire: Great question, Lew.
We want people to leave the Summit empowered by what they’ve heard so they can work to implement real change when they get back home. Speakers are being briefed to ensure content is not just focused on what they’re doing, but why and how others can do the same. Every session will have specific next steps — and we will keep score with a post-event report.
I want our attendees to come to the Summit with concrete goals in mind; knowing what they want to leave the Summit with and what success looks like. Do you want new info to start or upgrade your sustainability plan, do you want to benchmark where you sit within the industry progress, or something super specific for you. Think about it. Write it down. Tell us what it is, and we’ll make sure we help you get there.
GSB: I am ready to push the low-carbon, Green-Sports accelerator with you! To me, while all five of the Sport for Climate Action principles are important, number five — advocate for climate action through communication — is the most crucial. How can we best engage millions of sports fans climate? How will Sport Positive Summit handle communications?
Claire: Communications will be a key focus for the Summit’s second day, along with principle three — Educate for Climate Action.
Communications with fans on climate change isn’t something widespread yet, so it needs to be managed authentically. We have lots of different engagements planned, including perspectives on how and when to communicate about climate, what role should sports broadcasters play in that communication, and listening to youth voices on how their passion both for sport and the natural world are intertwined.
Athletes will be crucial to communicating climate action, so I’m delighted to moderate our athlete panel, which will include Charlie Enright, skipper of 11th Hour Racing; Julien Pierre, a member of the French national rugby team; and Katie Rood, a professional footballer from New Zealand and Amy Steel, a former Australian national netball player. Chris Smalling of the English National football (soccer) team and AS Roma will talk about the rise of plant-based eating by athletes.
GSB: And those athletes are of course covered by the sports media. Climate as it relates to sports has not gotten much attention from the media. What role will media play at Sport Positive Summit?
Claire: Sports and mainstream media are crucial and will be well-represented at the Summit. Press from the likes of BBC, ESPN, Al Jazeera and The Guardian have confirmed to join us. Representatives from sports broadcasters will participate on the Sport Positive Summit stage. And we will delve into what the sports media are doing to reduce their own carbon footprints.
GSB: That’s great to hear. Let’s pivot to football/soccer. It is of course the #1 sport in England; in fact, the Sport Positive Summit published the first English Premier League sustainability scorecard in 2019. What kind of presence will the EPL have at the Summit?
Claire: Arsenal and Manchester City are presenting and representatives from several other clubs will be in attendance. Clubs from the Bundesliga, the top league in Germany, will be there also, and Dale Vince, the Chairman of Forest Green Rovers…
GSB: …The Greenest Football Club in the World…
Claire: Indeed! Dale will talk to us about how and why they’ve got to where they are and driving change from the top down.
GSB: How many people do you expect to attend? And what happens for Sport Positive Summit after everybody goes home?
Claire: Well I was just looking at the numbers and it looks like we’ll have over 250 people, which is terrific.
As for next steps, we will produce a post-event report that, among other things, will detail all of the commitments that were made at the Summit. We work year round to support industry anyway, so it won’t be a case of ‘see you next’ year, we’ll continue to support UNFCCC on Sports for Climate Action and make progress on other initiatives, too. All of that will help us program the 2021 Sport Positive Summit.
GSB: I’m glad to hear there will be a 2021 Sport Positive Summit but first, I look forward to the inaugural version in two months. See you in London, Claire!
Click here to register to attend the Sport Positive Summit in London March 17-18, 2020. Use this code — GSB2020 — to receive a discount.
GreenSportsBlog is a media partner of the 2020 Sport Positive Summit. I will be moderating a roundtable on fan and athlete engagement at the event.