Sport and Sustainability
Updated: Apr 21
Sports & Entertainment can help achieve a sustainable future.
By Tom Huston & Ray Browning, GAMEPLAN:IMPACT
The world is facing significant environmental and human challenges that will certainly impact our future. We need engaged citizens and innovative approaches that will lead to resource security, healthy ecosystems and a stable climate. As importantly, we need to provide the basic needs (food, shelter, education), ensure the well-being and provide opportunities for decent work for everyone. While there is much to lament in our current trajectory, there is also massive opportunity. According to the United Nations Climate Council (IPCC), we have about ten (10) years to change our course and create circular economies and ways of living and doing business that minimize our negative impact on our environment. Thus, pursuing and achieving global sustainable development is not a next generation problem, there is significant demand for sustainable solutions right now. Fortunately, there is increasing awareness (thanks in large part to our youth) and progress is being made to create a sustainable future where all humans will thrive. The challenge is momentous, and the stakes could not be greater – it’s a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the unlimited potential of the human race.
The solutions and approaches that have fueled human growth and innovation for the last 200 years were based on this short-sided principle that the earth’s natural resources were infinite. The linear economy model (produce, use, discard) that we still use today is putting tremendous stress on our resources, ecosystems and climate. In addition, the focus on short term gain has led to increasing inequalities in access to basic needs, well-being and work opportunities. According to The United Nations, it will require approximately $2.5 Trillion of annual investment to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (World Investment Forum, UNCTAD) that are linked to a more sustainable future. While this is certainly a significant investment, it is ~3.5% of global GDP and ~1.1% of global wealth. Perhaps more importantly, the market for sustainable products and services is predicted to be worth $15 Trillion by 2030. This suggests there is sufficient capital and opportunity to pursue sustainable products and services.
Fortunately, many of the solutions that are needed to achieve sustainable economic growth, prosperity and quality of life for all people, already exist (e.g. waste to energy, alternative green energy, sustainable agriculture, clean water, CO2 reclamation). However, in order to accelerate the adoption of sustainable development (and achieve the SDG’s), two things need to happen: 1) Sustainable approaches need to be framed as a benefit or a gain, not a cost or a loss. The benefits of sustainable development are hard to argue (cleaner air and water, better work, equality, good education) but sustainable approaches are too often framed as a cost (increased transportation cost, localized job loss), limiting their appeal. 2) Sustainable development needs to become the greatest grassroots movement in history, with every person on earth being actively aware and engaged. Generation Z is more aware and more engaged than anyone, and their frustration with the lack of urgency is growing. If only there was a good way to connect with people’s passions and get their attention…
Enter sports and entertainment events. Humans are social beings, we thrive on being around others and there is no better medium than sports and entertainment to bring people together, connect with their passions and inspire action. As mentioned above, we need to frame the benefits of sustainability in a positive way and sports and entertainment can help do that. However, the sport/entertainment has yet to fully embrace the opportunity to capitalize on the power of sport/entertainment to increase awareness and engagement around sustainable development. While there have been high-profile examples (e.g. UNICEF logo on FC Barcelona jerseys and LiveAid concerts) and an increase in the number of events associated with causes (e.g. Breast Cancer, AIDS, food insecurity), there is muchmore opportunity to align sports and entertainment events with sustainability. This includes development of innovative, sustainable venues, working to solve local socioeconomic issues (hunger, shelter, education) and innovating to create new events that attract a diverse audience. It also includes developing partnerships around shared sustainability goals. For example, we recently had the opportunity to work with the professional football (soccer) club Bodø Glimpt in Northern Norway to develop a bold vision to align their events to specific SDGs (news story) and this has led to new and enhanced commercial and community partner relationships that will ensure the financial success of the business while it becomes more sustainable. This outcome is “triple bottom line” where returns are generated financially, socially and environmentally.
Achieving truly circular economies and sustainable practices that deliver equal opportunity and quality of life for all people on earth is this generation’s moonshot. Humanity shines when presented with seemingly insurmountable challenges – and then conquering them. This time, the stakes for humanity have never been higher and time is running out – let’s rise to the challenge once again and define this moment as the time when we “got it right” and changed the course of civilization for the benefit of all future generations.
About the Sustainable Development Goals
The UN has given the world the ultimate tool for “act local, think global” communication with the introduction of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. For the first time in human history, sustainability has a global language that we can all rally around regardless of where we come from, our language or our culture. Sustainability as an industry has not matured and developed as fast as other industries precisely because it has not had a common baseline for global understanding that was sufficiently detailed, yet flexible enough, so that standards could be created. Today, 3 years into the SDG movement, we see the emergence of data-science, standardized reporting of non-financial information, tools for independent analysis and verification of program effectiveness and of significant importance global social networks emerging around SDG themes and topics.
We’ve spent the last 7 years learning, becoming experts and implementing successful Sustainable Marketing strategies that deliver increased fan & customer engagement, revenue growth and brand value recognition. Our proprietary impact mapping approach uses the Sustainable Development goals to discover new opportunities that are hiding in plain sight, and we don’t stop there. We will help you activate the strategy, find the right partners, negotiate the deals and teach your people how to be experts at our approach so that your organization can become experts that achieve social, environmental and economic (Triple Bottom Line) success independently over the long term.
We want to partner with innovative organizations that are looking to be more sustainable AND drive more revenue. We don't pretend to have all of the answers but are confident in our experience and ability to help find the right solutions on this topic for virtually any type of organization.
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