Get to know our Sustainability Manager

To mark Earth Day 2023, we sat down with Dominique Santini, CSM’s Sustainability Manager, to explore the intersection of sport, partnerships and environmental sustainability, and why attitudes need to shift within our industry to make a meaningful difference in tackling the climate crisis. 

Describe your career in five words.

Relentless optimism and constant juggling!

You joined CSM last year as our Sustainability Manager. Tell us a little bit about your journey to where you are today…. what drove you to pursue a career in sustainability, and why sport specifically?

It’s definitely been a series of key moments throughout my life that have led me here.

Growing up mainly in South America and Scotland with French-Australian parents, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had quite a multi-cultural upbringing. In spite of moving around, sport was one of the few constants in my life. No matter which country we went to, or the language people spoke, I always knew there would be a sports club or team where I could make friends and find my place in the community.

When it later came to choosing a career, I always had a fascination with working in the creative industry. However, given the devastation wrought by the climate crisis in so many of the places I used to call home, I felt compelled to pursue a different path.

I decided to do an MSc in Global Sustainability Solutions and my dissertation ended up being about sport. Suddenly there was this big lightbulb moment which opened a door to a career path I’d never considered, combining all of my passions into one: working in the creative industry, whilst accelerating climate action within sport. So voila, here I am!

Until quite recently, you could argue that environmental sustainability was perceived within our industry as a bit of a ‘bolt-on’. Now, as the climate crisis worsens, stakeholders are belatedly taking it more seriously… but there remains a gap in terms of understanding and acknowledging what it will take to make a meaningful difference in this space. What needs to change in our industry in order to shift attitudes, habits, perceptions and make a real impact around sustainability?

Firstly, everyone needs to recognise that every job is a climate job.

Whether you’re an account exec ordering hospitality uniforms, a director-level rightsholder deciding who you should partner with next, a creative coming up with activation ideas, or a brand manager approving budget for a campaign – every day each one of us has the chance to ask ‘does this task/project I am working on bring us closer to or further away from accelerating climate action?’

If the answer is further away, then it is your responsibility to voice it. Speak to your colleagues, manager, team leaders and ask to brainstorm ideas on how to move the needle the other way. Find out who the environmental sustainability expert in your organisation is and talk to them about it.

The industry as a whole needs to recognise climate action in sport for what it is – a space rife with untapped opportunity and innovation. We just need people to be curious and courageous enough to explore what that could look like.

Sport and entertainment provides a powerful platform to advocate for change, be that through events or partnerships. If we were to fast forward to 2030, give us a few key things you hope will have changed by then, and how you think the industry we are in can help achieve that.

In addition to staying well away from the global 1.5C target, I hope that by 2030 the industry has embraced alternative business models across both partnerships and activation strategies. Business models embedded in the circular economy, for instance, have been proven time and time again to be commercially-viable but have been completely overlooked. I’m excited to see our industry play a vital role in scaling these businesses up and bringing them into the mainstream.

For example, there’s a takeaway food packaging recycling company in Sweden that operates through an app as a loyalty programme. If you get a takeaway from one restaurant and take the packaging to a specified recycling point, you get credit back to spend at any other hospitality business registered with the app.

Hopefully by 2030 we’ll have also moved away from activation strategies rooted in ‘infinite’ consumerism and instead adopt initiatives that shift public behaviour from ownership to the rental economy. For example, the Library of Things, where instead of buying your own drill or pasta maker or steam cleaner which you’ll end up using only once or twice a year – you can rent it for the day for a fraction of the price.

By 2030 I hope that every stakeholder in the industry has adopted and is actively pursuing the Sport Ecology Group’s vision:

‘Imagine if all people understood and supported the environment with the same interest and passion they showed their favourite sports teams.’

When not at work, what would we find you doing?

Upcycling skateboards, learning new languages or playing ultimate frisbee!