Published June 6, 2016
When I was added to SBJ’s “50 Most Influential in Sports Business” list last December, I viewed that as much more than a personal accomplishment. Most importantly, I saw it as an affirmation that responsible environmental stewardship was now a mainstream feature of the sports industry, embraced by league officials, team owners, venue managers, athletes and sponsors alike.
The growth of the sports greening movement has evolved not a moment too soon. Global temperatures continue to climb: every month this year has been the hottest on record. The temperature in India exceeded 123 degrees in May, and the heat index in Bandar Mahshahr, Iran — near the northern coast of the Persian Gulf — rose to a deadly 163 degrees. Climate change is creating environmental refugees throughout the world, with entire communities being displaced in regions as diverse as Alaska and Louisiana. Species extinction is accelerating, water scarcity afflicts almost 3 billion people, and the destruction of rare high-conservation-value forests and savannahs grows daily.
The response to these ecological threats by the sports industry has been meaningful: Golf, tennis, surfers, sailors, NASCAR, MLB, the NBA, NHL, MLS, NFL, USTA, collegiate sports and even ESPN are now all substantially engaged in greening their game. The NHL’s first league sustainability report is being updated and other pro leagues are planning to follow with their own reports, as are teams, including the Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees. Food donations, recycling, composting, energy efficiency and water conservation programs are expanding throughout the sports sector, and sports management programs in colleges are increasingly integrating information about more sustainable operations into their curriculum.
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