How can we reduce carbon emissions from major sporting events?

How can we reduce carbon emissions from major sporting events?

Sustainability integration in sports can boost engagement, lower carbon emissions and build trust.

Integrating sustainability into every sector is crucial, and the world of sports is no exception. For sports teams, where brand identity and fan engagement are paramount, adopting sustainability practices can act as powerful engagement levers, increasing loyalty, building stronger connections, and creating a shared sense of values. This, in turn, leads to higher fan satisfaction and engagement.

The Paris Olympics has set an ambitious climate pledge for 2024, aiming to halve its carbon footprint relative to previous Summer Games. For comparison, the 2012 London Olympics and the 2016 Rio Olympics emitted 3.3 million tonnes and 3.6 million tonnes of CO2, respectively. Even the Tokyo Olympics, which had no spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic, generated 1.96 million tonnes of carbon.

To meet its emission target, Paris 2024 has employed an “ARO” approach—Avoid and Reduce emissions, and Offset the rest. The organisers have developed a pioneering tool to anticipate emissions, guiding decisions such as whether to use existing buildings or construct new ones.

Sustainability integration in sports can boost engagement, lower carbon emissions and build trust.

How can we address travel carbon emissions in sports?

The largest carbon footprint of sporting events tends to come from air and road travel by contestants, officials, and spectators. For example, the absence of spectators from the Tokyo Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in significantly lower carbon emissions, demonstrating the substantial impact of travel on overall carbon footprints. Similarly, at the Beijing Winter Olympics, the exclusion of foreign spectators reduced the event’s carbon footprint by avoiding emissions associated with international travel.

Travel emissions in sports are not limited to mega-events like the Olympics. They also significantly impact regular season games, tournaments, and championships across various sports. Teams, staff, media personnel, and fans often travel long distances by air or road, contributing to high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. In professional leagues like the NFL, NBA, and UEFA Champions League, the frequent travel for games, especially international fixtures, adds up quickly.

With travel recovering and spectators returning to sports arenas, the challenge of addressing travel-related carbon emissions becomes more pressing. UEFA expects more than 80% of the carbon footprint for Euro 2024 to be attributable to fan transportation, according to data from the German environment ministry. This underscores the need for innovative solutions and strategies to mitigate travel emissions in sports.

Potential measures to tackle this major contributor to the environmental impact of large sporting events include:

Promoting Public Transportation: Encouraging the use of public transport by providing discounted or free travel passes for event ticket holders, as Germany plans for Euro 2024.

Carpooling Initiatives: Developing carpooling programs for fans, players, and staff to reduce the number of vehicles travelling to events.

Sustainable Travel Incentives: Offering incentives for fans who choose low-emission travel options, such as cycling or electric vehicles.

Remote Engagement: Enhancing the virtual fan experience to reduce the need for travel, such as through improved live-streaming services and virtual reality experiences.

Scheduling Adjustments: Reducing the frequency of long-distance travel by scheduling regional matches or tournaments in clusters to minimise travel distances.

Carbon Offsetting Programs: Implementing carbon offsetting programs for unavoidable travel emissions, where fans and teams can contribute to reforestation projects or renewable energy initiatives.

Electric and Hybrid Team Transport: Transitioning team buses and vehicles to electric or hybrid models to lower carbon emissions for team and staff travel.

5 Strategies for integrating sustainability in sports

In the quest to empower sports teams to embrace sustainability, here are several innovative solutions that can integrate sustainable practices across operations and brands. 

1/ Green Tickets: Carbon-Neutral Events

One of the initiatives we offer is the concept of Green Tickets. By calculating the carbon footprint of a sports event, such as a football match, teams can offer carbon-neutral tickets to their audience. This initiative involves determining the impact per attendee and forecasting emissions for future events. With this data, teams can include an extra “Sustainability Fee” to offset the carbon footprint of each individual. Attendees receive a nominative certificate, providing proof and transparency of real climate action.

2/ Sustainable Merchandising

Teams can also calculate the carbon footprint of their brand’s merchandise and give buyers the option to offset this amount, thereby purchasing carbon-neutral items. By selecting mitigation projects related to reforestation, biodiversity conservation, ocean cleanup, etc., fans can actively participate in supporting these initiatives. Displaying the carbon footprint on labels and websites further educates and engages the audience in sustainability practices.

3/ Impact-Guaranteed Rewards and Gift Cards

Our Climate SaaS initiative includes features for impact-guaranteed vouchers or gift cards. Teams can reward supporters with climate gift cards for activities such as enrolling in marketing programs or performing carbon reduction activities. Embedding sustainability into loyalty programs, cash-backs, and registration processes differentiates brands and demonstrates a clear commitment to addressing the climate crisis. Every gift card redemption, even if unredeemed, contributes to sustainable projects dedicated to tackling climate change.

4/ Specific Day Promotions and Carbon Neutral Events

Sports teams can amplify their marketing campaigns by weaving sustainability into their narratives, particularly on special dates dedicated to environmental causes. For instance, leveraging Earth Day, World Oceans Day, and Biodiversity Day to generate awareness and funds for specific mitigation projects.

5/ Sustainable Facility Management

Managing sports facilities sustainably can significantly reduce the environmental impact. This includes implementing energy-efficient systems, using renewable energy sources, and optimising water usage. Incorporating green building practices, such as using sustainable materials and reducing waste, can also make a significant difference. By maintaining eco-friendly venues, sports teams can minimise their carbon footprint and serve as role models for sustainability in the community.

How can we reduce carbon emissions from major sporting events?

How can we tackle greenwashing carbon emissions in sports events?

Grenwashing, the practice of misleading consumers about the environmental benefits of a product or service, has become a notable issue in the world of sporting events. As organisations increasingly promote their sustainability initiatives, there is a risk of overstating their impact or failing to provide transparent evidence of their efforts. To combat this, technologies such as blockchain can offer a solution for ensuring trustworthiness and transparency. At ClimateTrade, we utilise blockchain for all transactions in our marketplace, making them immutable and verifiable. Once an online offsetting transaction is completed, the client instantly receives a nominal certificate via email. This certificate includes detailed information about the funded project, the amount of carbon emissions offset, and the blockchain transaction number, which guarantees that the credits have been cancelled in the registry. By leveraging blockchain technology, sporting events can provide clear, indisputable evidence of their sustainability actions, thereby reducing the risk of greenwashing and building genuine trust with their audiences.

Key takeaway:

When sporting events integrate sustainability into their operations, teams can not only reduce their environmental impact but also enhance fan engagement and brand loyalty. Initiatives such as carbon-neutral tickets, sustainable merchandising, and impact-guaranteed gift cards provide tangible ways for fans to participate in climate action. With the right tools and commitment, sports can play a significant role in promoting sustainability and addressing the global climate crisis.

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