Erb Perspective Blog

By Phel Meyer, Jenna Agins, Catherine Dyson, and Leah Zimmerman (all Erb MBA/MS students)

This is the first in a three-part series on Sustainability in Sports

Anyone who has recently been to a large-scale sporting event knows that sustainability hasn’t hit the mainstream sports world just yet. Several developments over the past few years, however, suggest that this trend may be changing.

Let’s start with professional sports. The National Basketball Association recently held its third annual Green Week, intended to “generate awareness and funds for protecting the environment,” with the help of the Natural Resources Defense Council. The Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League recently announced an innovative partnership with NRG Energy to supply renewable energy at the Eagles’ stadium. And The Green Sports Alliance, a non-profit devoted to “helping sports teams, venues, and leagues enhance their environmental performance,” has put together an impressive list of teams, venues, and partners after just two years in existence.

A few college athletics programs are also paving the way for big changes in the future, which is particularly exciting to those of us who would love to see something similar at Michigan Stadium. The University of Colorado Boulder — and Ralphie’s Green Stampede, a sustainability-relayed play on the university’s mascot — was the first major college football program to go zero-waste, beginning a composting program at Folsom Field in 2008. Ohio State — yes, that’s right, Michigan’s biggest rival! — successfully implemented its own zero-waste program at Ohio Stadium in 2011 and shows no signs of slowing down. And UC Berkeley, slated to re-open its spectacular hilltop football stadium this fall after a multi-year renovation project, has stated its intentions of going zero-waste for all games during the 2012 football season as well.

But perhaps most impressive — and potentially impactful – move is the recent announcement by FIFA, the international governing body for soccer, to invest $20 million in a sustainability strategy for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Given the global presence of this event (FIFA estimated that each match during the 2010 event in South Africa attracted an average of 400 million television viewers), this will be an incredible opportunity to put sustainability front and center in a relatively new context. The next World Cup will serve as a showcase for everything from the obvious — improved waste and energy management practices — to more behind-the-scenes initiatives, including sustainable procurement policies and social measures such as community development.

Ensuring that stadium operations, teams, leagues, and sporting events follow sustainable practices is a daunting task. But as we will see in the next blog on Sustainability in Sports, these types of initiatives are becoming more and more plausible, while the business case can no longer be ignored.

Posted in Book Review | 4 Comments

4 Responses to FIFA’s Sustainability Goals Another Step in the Right Direction

  1. Daniel Gonzalez-Kreisberg says:

    FIFA is doing some things right, but it still awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. The event will be held during the Middle Eastern summer, when temperatures in Doha and around the (small) country average more than 120 degrees! They promise some serious solar installations (in an attempt to claim that the stadiums, which need to have some serious AC, are “carbon neutral) but it is hard to imagine this event as being truly sustainable…. See:

    • Jenna Agins says:

      Dan you raise a very good point about the overall event’s sustainability given it’s location and time of year. While the stadiums may be carbon neutral/offset with solar, that doesn’t say anything about the development/businesses/Cup related events that will accompany the games. I’m hoping that by 2022 there will be some new developments that might move the totality of the event towards being more sustainable.

      • Charlie Schwarze says:

        I agree wholeheartedly with Dan that Qatar 2022, from a sustainability perspective, is laughable. The fact that a country of just under 2M people will need to build nine stadiums, expand hotels, and fill in the supporting infrastructure, then figure out what to do with it afterward, is inconceivable to me! Granted, there are 12 pro soccer teams in the country, and Qatar has a history of buying whatever it wants (like FIFA 2022), but the amount of money, energy, and ultimately GHG-output will never be fully repaid.

        To put the Qatari summer in perspective, you can’t BE outside there and actually move without air conditioning. They don’t have sidewalks in half the places because people don’t walk around in the daytime. This is a classic example of man’s attempt to “pull-a-Vegas” on nature.

        I think it would be an amazing project for a group to actually allocate, per fan attending, the amount of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere from this undertaking. This was a huge FIFA fail and I think you’ll only hear more grumbling about it the closer we get to 2022.

  2. Mallory says:

    Another stride in college sports, while not zero-waste, University of North Texas just had it’s first season in the US’s first LEED Platinum certified stadium. The stadium has a variety of sustainable strategies including wind-turbines to supply power to the stadium and surrounding athletic area.