The AISTS SSE Open Module came to a completion last week after two days of presentations, lectures and panel discussions from the leading experts in sustainability. 

The 11th edition of the AISTS SSE Open Module, along with the AISTS MAS class, had various participants from International Federations, the World Economic Forum and event organisers from the Gay Games, that will take place in Paris in 2018, to name a few.  Geert Hendriks, the AISTS Head of Projects, commenced the two day open module providing participants with a current overview on the topic of sustainability in the sports world. In an engaging discussion with the participants, he helped the group exploring how sustainability has progressed from “doing something good” to adding value and reducing risks.

Julia Pallé, Sustainability Manager from the Formula E, then provided an overview on ‘The Electric Street Racing Series’ which occurs on city streets all over the world.  She focused on the concept of the Formula E and how the event merries innovation and sustainability.  The second session for the morning was led by Thierry Borra. Thierry is the founder of Sport Matters Consulting and prior to this, led The Coca-Cola Company’s global partnership with the Olympic Movement. He took the class through the past 20 years of development with Coca Cola, the Olympics and sustainability.

The afternoon session featured Bartel Berkhout who started his career as a lawyer along with being an international field hockey coach in South Africa and India. His session focused on ‘Sustainable Leadership in Sport’, helping the participants to understand how sustainable leadership drives the long-term performance of organisations. The example of the All-Blacks rugby team was used to illustrate how leadership, dedication and attitude of both the leadership as well as the (star) players in a sports team make the difference.

Omar Mitchel, NHL

The case study of the NHL was then presented by Omar Mitchell, the Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility with National Hockey League (NHL). He oversees the NHL Green – the environmental sustainability initiative of the NHL, the NHL Foundation -the philanthropic arm of the League; and management of the Stanley Cup, the most celebrated trophy in professional sports. He gave a thorough overview on the North American sports leagues, in particular the NHL with 30 franchised clubs, and gave insights into how to engage athletes and the community on the topic of sustainability. The newest challenge for the NHL will be to play ice hockey in the desert, with a new Las Vegas team entering the league next year. 

Day 2 of the module kicked off with Dr Allen Hershkowitz who brought a wealth of experience and knowledge with him. Dr Hershkowitz is a sustainability advisor to numerous environmental organizations, corporations, professional sports federations, leagues and teams including the NBA, the USTA, the NHL, NASCAR and MLB.  He was recently added to the list of “50 Most Influential People in Sports Business”.  Dr Hershkowitz’s focus for the morning session was on the financial benefits of sustainability initiatives at sports organisations and events. Examples included the reduced energy use for the Orlando Magic basketball team, the New York Yankees – saving 1 million USD last season by changing their lighting and the Miami Heat upgrading their arena-wide energy efficiency saving them over 1.5 million USD in one season.

Dr Allen Hershkowitz, Sport and Sustainability International

Irina Schlossarek, from FIFA, followed on and spoke about her role working in the Sustainability and Diversity Department of FIFA as the Football for Hope Programme Manager. In her role, Irina manages FIFA’s Football for Hope global programme, an initiative launched in 2005 to support NGOs worldwide that use football as a tool for social development. She provided insight in how an International Federation manages social sustainability programmes and worked with the participants to a concrete request for support from a small NGO. This taught the participants a method to objectively evaluate the (many) requests that the FIFA Sustainability & Diversity department receives.

Following FIFA, a case study of a much smaller sport event was presented. Geert Hendriks showed how the ISMF (International Ski Mountaineering Federation) implemented a sustainability strategy using the AISTS Sustainable Sport & Events Toolkit. The participants were engaged in a discussion about how to implement sustainability in a multi-stakeholder context and with very limited resources. By focusing on the long-term goals of the sport and prioritising specific initiatives, the ISMF was able to set an example of a sustainable sport event.

The final presentation for the AISTS SSE Open Module came from Michelle Lemaître, IOC Head of Sustainability, who presented the newly approved IOC Sustainability Strategy. The IOC Sustainability Strategy is based on a framework of three areas of responsibility – the IOC as an administration, the IOC as owner of the Olympic Games, and the IOC as leader of the Olympic Movement. Five focus areas are identified to structure sustainability initiatives – Infrastructure & natural sites, sourcing & resource management, mobility, workforce, and climate.

Day 2 Panel Discussion led by Geert Hendriks, AISTS

To finish the SSE for 2017, a unique panel session with Formula E, the NHL, FIFA, the IOC and Sport and Sustainability International occurred.  This was an exciting opportunity, as it is quite rare to have such highly skilled and experienced professionals, on the topic of sustainability, in the one room at the same time.  In an engaging discussion with the class, the different panellists challenged the current state-of-art highlighted some of the levers and barriers that will direct the future of sustainability in sport.   

“Sustainability is simply doing the right thing” and “looking at all options and their impacts in order to be able to make well-informed decisions” says Michelle Lemaître from the IOC. Irina Schlossarek from FIFA states that “in last 5-10 years, the approach and attitude to Sustainability has changed and now federations understand that they have a responsibility towards stakeholders”.  “Sustainability in motorsport was unthinkable. I had to fight hard but slowly the mindset started changing. There is hope”, says Julia Pallé from Formula E.

Julia Pallé, Formula E

Talking about the challenges, “we have to get off fossil fuels in next 25 years as Science is telling about its impact being much faster than we was predicted earlier”, says Dr Allen Hershkowitz. For Formula E, “pushing electric vehicles on road is the biggest challenge” while for Omar Mitchell from the NHL, it is “getting athletes engaged in the initiatives in relation to Sustainability is key as it helps to get more drive and impact”.  While talking about contributions from the federations in the field of sustainability, Dr Allen Hershkowitz also appreciated the efforts of the AISTS in this direction, “AISTS has mobilised (…) and has contributed immensely and played the same role as a federation, by creating sustainability as a course for sports managers.

Ways to advance sustainability, says Michelle Lemaître, are “through legislation – subventions, the implementation of the Paris Agreement, and supporting the International Federations, national federations, and clubs to get on board.”  The clamour for green sports revolution has been growing. “Need to do more and don’t be afraid” was the advice from Julia Pallé to sports federations while Dr Allen Hershkowitz praised the IOC for its progressive environment strategy and advised North American sports organisations to learn from Europe.

Day 2 Panel Discussion – Irina Schlossarek, FIFA and Michelle Lemaître, IOC

In an environment that is continually evolving and changing, the AISTS SSE Open Module will return next year, March 2018, to challenge and provide up to date knowledge to its industry members.  For more information on this event please go to or contact AISTS office