ESG in sport: sporting clubs influencing the public on climate change awareness
The impacts of climate change are being witnessed more frequently through extreme weather events and sporting events are increasingly bearing the brunt. In February 2022 scores of football matches across the UK were cancelled due to flooding.
Sporting events globally have also been disrupted due to climate change. In 2019, the Rugby World Cup was disrupted by unprecedented pacific typhoons and early 2020, the Australian Tennis Open was disrupted by the smoke from the country’s bush fires.
It has been estimated that within the next three decades a quarter of English football grounds (including Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge, Fulham’s Craven Cottage and West Ham’s London Stadium) will be at risk of annual flooding; while rising temperatures are likely to make the holding of summer tournaments difficult in the near future.
Importantly, research shows that efforts to reduce climate change will reduce the most severe weather impacts on the UK in future, and sport has shown that it can have a pivotal role in influencing climate awareness.
Andrew Simms, coordinator of the Rapid Transition Alliance has stated that:
“Sport provides some of society’s most influential role models. If sport can change how it operates to act at the speed and scale necessary to halt the climate emergency, others will follow. If its’ players also speak out and say they believe clean air and a stable climate matter, millions more will see the possibilities for change’’.
The United Nations also believes in this strategy of utilising the platform sporting clubs provide to influence public awareness on climate change and have set up the United Nations Sports for Climate Action Framework. This framework aids sports organisations to display climate leadership, build brand reputation and engage their sports personnel, employees and members on environmental issues by taking responsibility for their climate footprint and incentivising action beyond sports.
Forest Green Rovers are leading by example, using their platform to influence fans; with FIFA describing them as the greenest football club in the world. This League Two team have had success by implementing the following initiatives:
- 100 % Green Energy: the club is powered by Ecotricity and solar panels on the stadium roof.
- Organic pitch: the grass is sustainable, free from pesticides and weed killers.
- Electric ‘mow-bot’: the pitch grass is cut with a GPS-directed, solar-powered lawnmower.
- Rainwater capture: rainwater is collected and used to irrigate the pitch.
- EV charge points: electric car charge points are available at the stadium.
- Proposed new stadium: the building fabric, site design and energy use will be centred around sustainability.
Where a sporting club uses their platform to influence a wider audience on environment, sustainability and climate change issues, this has also shown additional benefits to the club itself. One way to manage the potential impact to the climate from a businesses’ operations is to implement an ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) strategy. Companies with a strong ESG strategy have shown higher financial returns and less risk.
SLR are also involved in this space, currently working alongside a Premier League football club implementing an ESG strategy to increase sustainability; lower their environmental impact and increasing efficiency and business performance.
We work in collaboration with our clients to identify where ESG and sustainability opportunities exist and design a strategy around recognising and capturing the ESG value already within an organisation as a starting point. Having gained the insight into where a business is now, that business will be in a much stronger position to establish a clear pathway to achieving a strategy with objectives and priorities for the future.
If you have any questions on ESG strategies, or would like to discuss specific requirements, our team would be happy to hear from you.
 Rapid Transition Alliance. Playing Against the Clock: David Goldblatt 2020.
 Report on Playing against the clock | Rapid Transition Alliance dated 20 June 2020.