Sports are more than just recreational activities. They can inspire global action toward sustainability and promote the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The United Nations developed 17 SDGs in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which its member states have adopted since 2015.
The goals provide a blueprint for strategies in the global partnership for peace and prosperity on our planet Earth. Whether mega or community-based, sporting events can serve as a unique platform to raise awareness and encourage sustainable practices aligned with the environment-related SDGs.
As a result, sports organizations and stakeholders have multiple opportunities to contribute towards a more sustainable future.
Sustainable practices in sports organizations and events
Sports organizations and event committees can adopt sustainable practices in competitions and venues or even initiate educational programs. These initiatives can send a powerful message to fans and participants, demonstrating their commitment to environmental stewardship and inspiring others to adopt similar behaviors.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) is committed to promoting environmental sustainability through the NBA Green initiative. The program includes a range of strategies, such as encouraging recycling in its arenas, installing energy-efficient lighting to conserve energy, encouraging fans and players to use public
transportation to games, and developing environmental education activities.
The efforts of sports teams and event organizers can significantly reduce the ecological footprint and promote environmental responsibility among fans, players, sponsors, and teams. Sports teams and events are influential, given the massive number of fans worldwide. Leveraging the popularity of sports teams and events can efficiently raise people’s awareness.
Sustainable technologies in sports facilities
Sports facilities significantly impact the environment due to high energy consumption, water usage, and waste production. However, by adopting green initiatives and implementing eco-friendly designs, sports venues can act as pioneers in promoting sustainability with innovative technologies. For example, the Johan Cruijff ArenA, Amsterdam’s main stadium, and the home base of Ajax and the Dutch national team utilize many sustainability measures to reduce its carbon footprint.
More than 4,000 solar panels on the roof supply energy to the venue. It also collects rainwater from the roof to water the grass field, thus significantly reducing freshwater consumption. In addition, to keep the turf frost-free, it uses residual heat from the Amsterdam heating network so that it does not require additional energy. Sports facilities with green initiatives can achieve SDGs of clean energy and combating climate change.
Raising awareness through fan engagement
Sports create a powerful platform for education and awareness raising on environmental issues. Some ways for this purpose include athlete advocacy, fan engagement, and sustainability campaigns. Athlete advocacy is when athletes use social media, public appearances, and influence to raise awareness about environmental sustainability.
Sports fans are passionate and loyal and often look up to their favorite teams and athletes as role models. As a result, athletes’ advocacy can significantly impact the public’s perception of these issues. The American tennis icon Serena Williams supports the cause of ecosystem sustainability through her vegan clothing brand, ‘Serena’. She is committed to a low-carbon lifestyle and invested in a US plant-based protein meat producer and other sustainable start-ups.
Athletes play an essential role in leading by example and inspiring fans to take action to protect the planet. When athletes engage in sustainable campaigns and partner with sustainable organizations, they can raise awareness among sports fans and encourage fans to make more environmentally conscious lifestyle choices.
Global sports partnerships
International cooperation by major sports organizations can coordinate sustainability efforts across countries and continents to amplify the impact. The global sports industry can unite diverse stakeholders with the same sustainability vision. By collaborating with businesses, athletes, and event organizers, they can work together to drive global change. For example, P&G partnered with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee to collect recycled plastic.
Through the global partnership, they created 98 medal podiums with recycled plastic for the Games while engaging the Japanese residents to advocate for responsible consumption and sustainable production. By joining hands, they can set an example for other industries and demonstrate the feasibility of sustainable practices through sports. Partnerships through sports are a valuable tool for promoting environmental sustainability.
Sports are powerful in driving positive change for the environment and achieving SDGs. Sports organizations can reduce their environmental footprint and set an example for other industries through green initiatives in events and venues. Athletes can use their influence to raise awareness about environmental issues and inspire fans to act.
Furthermore, through global collaboration with sports stakeholders and other industries, sports organizations can amplify the impacts of their sustainability efforts. The potential of sports to promote environmental sustainability is immense. We can build a more sustainable world for future generations by harnessing this potential.