How to make Sport and Sustainability Compatible

Sport, with its global reach and unparalleled influence, has the power to not only entertain and inspire but also to drive meaningful progress in a variety of aspects, including the increasingly important issue of sustainability. As the global focus on sustainability intensifies, sports organizations are increasingly recognizing the importance of incorporating sustainable management practices into their operations.

We have earlier written about the importance of addressing and strategically planning the impacts of sporting events from an environmental, social, and economic perspective. Taking a step back, we now want to look at the wider field of sport management. Beyond simply reducing environmental impact, integrating sustainability into sport management can lead to cost savings, positive societal impact, and enhanced reputation. Whether through the staging of major events or the everyday operations of sporting federations, organizations have a unique opportunity to leverage their platform for favourable impact.

Following the concepts taught in AISTS’ Short Programme Managing Sport Sustainability, we explore here how sports organizations can champion sustainability through a three-step approach which encompasses:

  1. Assessing the Current sustainability of a Sport organization
  2. Designing a sustainability plan
  3. Managing the rollout of the sustainability plan
  4. Accounting for carbon emission and measuring sustainability performance

Importance of Incorporating Sustainable Management Practices

By minimizing resource consumption, embracing renewable energy solutions, and reducing waste, sports organizations can not only reduce their environmental footprint, but also lower operational costs and enhance long-term viability.

Next, championing social and environmental responsibility can significantly enhance a sports organization’s brand reputation, attracting environmentally conscious sponsors and partners, and further inspiring fans and stakeholders to adopt sustainable behaviours.

Not least important, seeking the path of sustainability can be a driver for innovation and growth. Whether it’s adopting cutting-edge technologies, exploring alternative materials, or redesigning business models, organizations must embrace innovation to drive progress towards sustainability goals.

Aerial view of the FNB Stadium in Cape Town
FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, also known as Soccer City

Assessing the Current Sustainability of a Sport Organization

Before deciding on implementing more widely known and popular sustainability initiatives or exploring innovative experimental methods, sports organizations should conduct a comprehensive sustainability audit of their current operations. This involves:

  • Evaluating sustainability practices and gathering data on current environmental footprint, including parameters like CO2 footprint, energy and water consumption, and waste management.
  • Gathering financial data on the current cost of energy and resources consumption, including both regular day-to-day operations and the organisation of any special initiatives and events.
  • Assessing social responsibility impact, including community engagement efforts, gender equality and diversity topics.

Designing a Sustainability Plan

Only upon gaining a clear understanding of current practices, sports organizations can design a tailored sustainability plan that aligns with their goals and values. As with every planning process, this involves:

  • Setting clear objectives, i.e. establishing specific, actionable, measurable, and time-bound goals that reflect the organization’s commitment to sustainability.
  • Identifying key areas for improvement, which will inform the future dynamics of concrete initiatives. Prioritizing sustainability initiatives based on their potential impact and feasibility, should also consider factors such as resource availability and regulatory requirements.
  • Developing actionable strategies: Outlining concrete steps to achieve each sustainability goal, including timelines, responsible parties, and performance metrics.
  • Addressing sustainability challenges can require collaboration among stakeholders across the sport industry. By partnering with local communities, governments, NGOs, and other organizations, sports organizations can leverage collective expertise and resources to implement impactful sustainability initiatives.

Managing the Rollout of the Sustainability Plan

Once a sustainability plan is in place, effective management is crucial to ensure successful implementation. This involves:

  • Building a cross-functional team: Assembling a diverse team with representatives from different departments to ensure buy-in and collaboration throughout the implementation process.
  • Communicating effectively: Developing a communication plan to inform stakeholders about the organization’s sustainability initiatives, progress, and achievements.
  • Monitoring and adjusting: Establishing monitoring mechanisms to track the implementation of sustainability strategies and evaluate their effectiveness. Being prepared to adapt the plan based on feedback and changing circumstances.
Aerial view of the Siu Sai Wan Sports Ground multi-purpose stadium in Siu Sai Wan, Hong Kong.
Siu Sai Wan Sports Ground multi-purpose stadium in Siu Sai Wan, Hong Kong

Accounting for Carbon Emission and Measuring Sustainability Performance

Different emissions affect the extent to which our atmosphere traps heat from sunlight, absorbs its energy, and prevents it from escaping back into space. This trapped heat causes changes in the planet’s radiative balance which alter both global and regional climate and weather patterns. Greenhouse gases (GHGs) and carbon emissions are the most responsible for these changes. As we globally become increasingly more aware of the need to prevent and mitigate these effects, many organizations have started calculating their carbon footprints, establishing emission reduction targets, and investing in offsetting initiatives.

Computing carbon footprint has become a crucial aspect of organizations’ efforts towards addressing climate change. The GHG Protocol provides comprehensive, globally standardized frameworks for measuring and managing GHG emissions across various sectors, including private and public operations, value chains, and mitigation strategies. Through the Managing Sport Sustainability Programme, participants gain access to practical tools designed to:

  • Assess an organization’s GHG emissions
  • Determine GHG emissions associated with specific products

Managing Sport Sustainability Short Programme

Incorporating sustainable management practices is no longer optional for sports organizations—it’s essential for long-term success and relevance. By following a structured approach, the Managing Sport Sustainability (MSS) Short Programme offered by AISTS equips participants with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the complexities of sustainable sport management. The programme provides a comprehensive review of sustainability issues within sports organizations, encompassing the environmental, economic, and social dimensions of sustainable sport management, enabling future sport leaders to make informed decisions that balance competing priorities. Through interactive lectures, case studies, and practical exercises, participants learn how to develop and implement sustainability strategies within their organizations. From setting measurable sustainability goals to identifying and engaging key stakeholders, the programme equips participants with the tools they need to drive meaningful change across departments, from procurement and logistics to marketing and sponsorship.

Experience the world of sport in the Olympic Capital

Participants attend several full-day workshops throughout the programme to experience sport. These sessions are delivered by the sport organisations and federations themselves and provide a unique hands-on experience and well as an ideal opportunity to connect to our alumni and experts working in the industry.