Sport’s role in tackling the climate crisis

“The argument is being made for us… greater sustainability is being demanded by stakeholders across the industry, who want to know what they can do to improve.”

Turning the tide on the climate crisis is the pressing issue of our time; an inescapable and unavoidable challenge that needs addressing. So, what can sport do to drive the sustainability agenda forward, and what is the key to achieving tangible results?

That was the question at the heart of our latest webinar ‘Sustainability: Safeguarding the Future of Our Planet’, hosted by CSM Live’s Stacey Knight and featuring Formula E’s Julia Pallé, Lise Van Long from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Tim Cross, CEO of Project Plan B and CSM Live’s Giles Stanford.

Below we have lifted out four key takeaways from the session. Alternatively, if you would like to watch a recording of the webinar in full, you can sign up here.

1.) Sport is uniquely placed to affect change. Few industries possess the ability to influence opinion and behaviours in the same way sport and entertainment can, a point touched upon by Julia Pallé. As she noted: “The UN realised that sport could inspire people, which is why they launched the Sport for Climate Action plan. That level of inspiration can only be generated through sport and our athletes.”

2.) Improving sustainable practices requires a holistic approach, which starts with product design. Tim Cross, who has created a circular textile solution through Project Plan B, explained: ‘The problem is design. Currently, we design for single use and not for recycling. When we start designing products with end-of-life in mind, then we will be more sustainable.”

And that is not limited to textiles alone. As Lise and Julia attested, both Formula E and the IOC are constantly looking at ways to ensure branding and signage at their respective events is designed to be reused.

3.) Building long-term partnerships between suppliers and organisations is key to improving sustainability efforts. As Julia touched on, this allows for greater trust, communication, investment and collaboration: “It begins with education – why it is important and how our partners can help increase our sustainability credentials? Later, we raise the bar together in a real collaborative process.”

It was a point echoed by CSM Live’s Giles Stanford, who sees this type of relationship building as fundamental to the work at hand: “If all parties take a longer-term view – at how we can do this better, or how we can work better together – then everybody wins, and it is to the benefit of the sustainable challenges we all face.”

4.) To avoid accusations of “Greenwashing”, brands need to start taking sustainability seriously. As argued persuasively by Tim Cross, there needs to be less posturing from global brands about their green initiatives – which often look good but fail to make a meaningful difference in tackling sustainable issues.

One example crops up regularly: “You often hear brands talk about making clothes from recycled plastic bottles… but what they are really doing here is taking a product that is nearly 100% recyclable, combining it with polyester and creating a shirt that is not recyclable, nor reusable, at all. Brands have to start taking it seriously… bring the right support in, get under the skin of it and properly understand the issue.”

The session ended on a more positive note, as the panel discussed the latest developments that are helping make the fan experience as environmentally friendly as possible. From subsidised train travel for spectators, to plastic-free events, educational content on site and vegan menus provided by local food suppliers, these are just some of the micro-initiatives that Formula E, the IOC and other rights holders are implementing to take fans on a greener, more sustainable journey.

And that, perhaps, was the most fitting place to end – with a resolute commitment to continue innovating in order to deliver a more sustainable future for us all.