When considering sustainability strategy, sporting events are often not considered the biggest driving factor. However, the amount of transportation required, energy used, and waste produced at a typical sporting event has large environmental costs
Georgina Grenon, director of sustainability organizing committee for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and Roger McClendon, executive director of the Green Sports Alliance spoke with Sarah Kwak, senior sports editor at Insider during the virtual event, presented by Deloitte “For a Better Future: Bridging Culture, Business, and Climate” about the nexus between sports and sustainability.
During the session, “The Race for Sustainability,” Grenon said, “We have set for ourselves an objective to reduce emissions by 50% compared to previous games,” when asked about the organizations sustainability goals. She said, “We are serving 13 million meals and we are doing that in a sustainable way, so again, working all through the depth and breadth of the different activities needed to deliver the games.”
In terms of making sports and sporting events more sustainable McClendon said, “At the center of this whole discussion around the broader scope of sustainability is the human side, it’s the human being. It’s our respect for the planet and how we live together in harmony. I think sport is a great representation of that.”
When tasked with delivering 13 million meals with half the usual carbon footprint, Grenon said this posed a challenge. After two years her team found a solution. Grenon said, “to attain that level, which is by the way what the Paris Agreement is asking, we need to source ingredients more locally, use seasonal ingredients. We also need to reduce the amount of single-use plastic and double up the amount of vegetable proteins, plant-based foods.”
McClendon understands that “food is fuel” in sports. A sustainable solution to food waste from these events Mclendon said is, “Instead of that food waste going into a landfill, there’s ways to compost that food and turn it into valuable nutrients for farms and gardens.” This, he thinks, melds the social and enviornmental impact solutions.
The sustainability effort in sports is growing. Grenon noted, “When we launched, for example, Sports for Climate Action in 2018, there were not a lot. We were 10 I think, the first signatories. Now there are like 250.”
When asked why he thinks sports are a good mechanism for driving sustainability, McClendon said he believes sports bring people together regardless of race, class, or socioeconomic background.
McClendon said, “It really brings people together in this way to focus in on a common goal and on a common team or a common objective. And I think that’s not only how the fans and people interact, but I also think it’s about the workings of the team itself.”
Grenon echoed these sentiments, “Sports generates emotions. Sports reach people’s heart, and somehow, especially athletes, more than sports in general, athletes can be much more efficient than many of us in growing awareness.”
Grenon shared how to bring sustainability in sporting to the Olympics. As opposed to using diesel generators like in past Olympics, she said, “For the games, we are sourcing a hundred percent renewable electricity. So for us, it was a no-brainer to try to secure the grid utilization as opposed to using diesel generators.”
For sports “Being more sustainable does not necessarily mean being more expensive or cost more, and this is something we need to explain more and more and more so that all those who are servicing the sports industry, they understand the value of being more sustainable as well,” Grenon said.