Providing a better fan experience while limiting operational cost, reducing waste, and leveraging local and veteran-owned businesses to do it: The Washington Nationals (the ‘Nats’) have hit a ‘triple’ — as in a triple-bottom-line partnership that is environmentally, socially and economically more responsible.
The ‘It just makes sense’ partnership
When the pandemic hit and bars closed, Sestra Systems — based in nearby Virginia — expanded from beverage dispensing into an any-liquid serving technology. In the last year, Sestra’s no-touch, smart dispensing technology has been used for coffee, hand sanitizer and now for condiments — which means an automatic ketchup, BBQ sauce, and hot sauce dispenser without concern for potential COVID transmission.
Pre-pandemic, Nats Park was already serving local beer and wine through Sestra’s taps. Leveraging the opportunity to rethink operations in concessions, Sestra and the Nats explored other no-touch solutions; during that COVID-response process, Sestra contacted no-sugar-added condiment company True Made Foods to partner on a new condiment solution. That was the start of the magic triple-bottom-line partnership.
All of a sudden, the Nationals had a turnkey solution that was not only COVID-safe — reducing the need for any shared touchpoint between staff or fans — but also provided a solution to avoid single-use ketchup packets and minimize added sugar intake for fans, just in time for Opening Day. In fact, this Sestra X True Made Foods partnership is already eliminating approximately 16,000 single-use ketchup packets per game, which is reducing approximately 96,000 grams of sugar per game — and that’s with a 25 percent stadium capacity limit.
In full capacity at Nats Park, the partnership is projected to avoid over 5,000,000 ketchup packets per season, equating to the elimination of the amount of sugar in almost 800,000 sodas.
“When people think of sports teams, they think of traditional corporate partnerships. We’re starting to rethink that at the Nationals,” said Jonathan Stahl, Washington Nationals’ VP of Experience & Hospitality. “Why wouldn’t we leverage two local brands that complement each other to help us respond to COVID while also reducing waste and promoting healthy options?”
The Nats are already using compostable or recyclable food containers; so, this simple solution mitigates another huge waste stream — since single-use condiment packets are not easily recycled and almost always end up in the landfill, even if they’re still full.
Sustainability is not new to the Nats: “We’ve moved to compostable and recyclable containers, shifted as much print signage and office material as possible to digital, and recently installed other touchless features that minimize overuse,” Stahl says.
Additionally, Nats Park was the first LEED-certified MLB park; and the operations team continues to integrate new solutions that reduce water consumption, energy use and food waste. Even before COVID, Sestra had already helped to reduce the park’s wine bottle consumption by almost 200 per game. This year, the Nats won the NL East Green Glove Award for their efforts and continue to seek new solutions to lead in sustainability.
The partnership between Sestra, True Made Foods and the Nationals is a prime example of how sports organizations can leverage partnerships to showcase their values and engage with fans through innovative, sustainable actions. The response to COVID begs a rethink of operations, providing an opportunity for the team to reconsider ways to engage with fans, leverage partnerships, or inspire more efficient processes.
All around the world, professional sports venues are planning for the return to full occupancy. Other professional teams can replicate these triple-bottom-line solutions in their clubs — whether plugging in the Sestra+True Made Foods solution directly; or by tapping into other solutions that not only tackle COVID concerns, but also solve for environmental and social challenges.
This case study should serve as a call to action for other pro teams to think: How can we plug in partners and solutions that make us say, “That just made too much sense not to do it?”