It is becoming increasingly difficult to find common ground with “the other side,” but sports and sustainability offer a unique opportunity to bring people together. The Green Sports Alliance Summit and the Pac-12 Sustainability Conference brought together athletic business and environmental professionals for inspiring conversations on how to use sports and sustainability to tackle the greatest challenge of our generation. Here’s what we learned from the beset and brightest in sports sustainability.
Committing to Carbon Neutrality
Carbon neutrality took center stage at the Green Sports Alliance as the next step for sports teams and organizations. The Seattle Sounders FC won the Green Sports Alliance 2019 Environmental Innovator of the Year Award for becoming the first major league sports team to commit to carbon neutrality. As Aileen McManamon of 5T Sports Group argued, “Every venue in 5 major sports should be completely carbon neutral. After all, they are iconic symbols in all cities, and should be more than just beautiful and impressive!”
Advocating for Equity and Justice
Especially throughout the Pac-12 Summit, organizations realize that while we cheer our diverse athletes on the field, more needs to be done to address corporate responsibility programs that aren’t inclusive. You can’t have sustainability without the underlying issues of equality and justice off the field. There was rousing conversation and a clear need for improved allyship to promote diversity and inclusion. Sports can be a conduit for this conversation, as it was for Jackie Robinson, Billie Jean King, Robbie Rogers, and more because everyone has teammates. In the corporate sector, it’s time to once again be better teammates and captains.
Gender discrimination in sports was also highlighted, as well as the fight for equal pay on and off the field by the US Women’s Soccer team, and it was clear that if we’re not fighting for gender equality, our corporate responsibility isn’t fully realized. Sustainability initiatives that don’t work for everyone don’t work for anyone.
Reducing plastic emerged as a high-impact option that could be rapidly adopted through collaboration. A recent study showed that 80% of US consumers wouldn’t use single-use plastic packaging if given the option, and we’ve seen impressive action from sports teams already. Recycling is a great step, and CenturyLink Field diverted 97% of its waste last year, but focusing on the root cause and reducing plastic is much more effective. Brad Molotsky of Duane Morris explained how the Phillies, Sixers, Eagles, and the Flyers teamed up to cut down on plastic packaging and help reduce wasted food by working together, showing that by working together, sports teams and stadiums can accomplish much more. Beyond recycling, purchasing merchandise, t-shirts, and bags made of recycled plastic through Repreve, new adidas MLS Parley Jerseys made of ocean plastic.