U.S. confectionary, food and pet care giant Mars claims to have eliminated deforestation from its palm oil supply chain after shrinking the number of mills it works with from 1,500 to a few hundred, it announced this week.
While the sport sector’s environmental impact is not fully understood, it has a social platform and reach to influence a significant number of people worldwide to choose more sustainable behaviors. Brian McCullough, associate professor of sport management at Texas A&M University, says that sport organizations should be proactive in becoming more sustainable to increase business performance, deepen connections with fans and attract new ones.
How are sports being affected by climate change? And how might they be affected in the future?
To use a sports analogy, there will be winners and losers as a result of climate change. Certain sports, like outdoor winter sports and even surfing, are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. For example, decreased winter months will make it more challenging to host the Winter Olympics due to fewer eligible cities; changes in ocean tides, and thus waves, could impact surfing competitions and force them to relocate.
Increased rainfall and subsequent flooding has already impacted cricket in England and India. Meanwhile, the intense wildfires and subsequent air quality impacted the Australian Open in January 2020 and resulted in the cancellation of baseball games in Seattle. The examples extend to the increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes in the Gulf and Eastern Seaboard. This trend of event disruption is expected to continue.
Granted, sports being canceled during these natural disasters is a small consequence to ensure the safety of human life, but it does impact the business of sport and has tremendous financial consequences. After Hurricane Harvey, the Houston sports market was displaced, and teams had to play extended road games because it was not feasible to host games or have fans safely travel to the stadiums.
Lastly, sport stadiums in some coastal cities, such as Miami or New York, are threatened by rising ocean sea levels. Thus, urban planners and sport teams need to seriously consider the likelihood of their sport facilities flooding.
These examples, among many others, show that the business of sport is threatened. They also demonstrate how weather events can impact the ways in which we participate in sports and recreation. Extreme heat will require sport participants to be cognizant of when and to what extent they exercise outdoors. Anglers and hunters will have to adapt to changes in migration or populations of their desired game. All this is to say that sport, whether as spectators or participants, may be vulnerable to the effects of climate change and should be ready to respond and adapt to these changes.
What have you found in your research around sports and the environment?
What I have found in my research is that sport organizations often miss certain aspects in their environmental impact assessments. These organizations typically have a narrow view focused on the facility or event itself. This limited focus overlooks externalities which have a sizable environmental impact such as the carbon-producing transportation of teams and fans, food consumption and waste production.
My research colleagues and I have also found that sport practitioners can be constrained within their organizations to engage in environmental initiatives. This can be because of a lack of support from upper management and ownership and uncertainty on how their fans will respond, among other perceived constraints.
We found that fans are receptive to these initiatives and will even partake in the efforts to reduce the events’ and their individual environmental footprints when attending sporting events. We designed campaigns with sporting events and evaluated the successes of these campaigns. We found that targeted environmental sustainability campaigns can educate sport spectators and participants to increase the use of mass transit, increase waste recovery and purchase carbon offsets to mitigate personal impacts when attending a sporting event.
Pre- and post-event surveys helped design and assess the social and financial returns on investment of the campaigns. Not only are there behavioral changes at the event; I found that sport fans change their everyday behaviors and even advocate for sustainable policy changes in their local communities to mimic what they experienced at certain sporting events.
Teams can benefit financially from these types of investments, I found. Sport events that feature environmental initiatives will deepen their connections among certain segments of fans. This is true for both politically conservative and liberal fans and old or young fans. This speaks to the universality of sport through the collective identity of being a sport fan of a specific team. This social identity can be leveraged by teams to promote social norms and influence fans to change their behaviors, whether that be in Washington or Louisiana. Additionally, corporate sponsors that support these initiatives also see increased brand perceptions and intentions to purchase their products or services.
What can be done by sporting bodies and teams to make their operations more sustainable?
Sport governing bodies and teams should first assess their environmental impacts and then take small steps to realize the financial and social returns on their efforts.
The Seattle Mariners conducted energy audits and facility upgrades and realized substantial energy and cost savings. The Ohio State University Athletics Department implemented comprehensive waste management that not only works closely in the stadium but in the surrounding community to achieve zero waste in Ohio Stadium. Other organizations like the Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Sounders offset their teams’ carbon emission through carbon offsetting programs including facility operations, team travel and fan travel.
Sport organizations and facilities are using renewable energy by featuring solar panels like at Levi Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers. The Johan Cruijff Arena, home to the AFC Ajax, in Amsterdam features battery arrays that can store enough energy to meet the demands of the entire event.
Other notable organizations are the Seattle Kraken, the new NHL expansion team, and the Forrest Green Rovers, a soccer club in England. The Seattle Kraken organization has leveraged its arena naming rights with Amazon to focus on environmental sustainability by naming the facility Climate Pledge Arena.
The Forrest Green Rovers have designed and will build a stadium completely made out of sustainably sourced wood. Currently, the team’s facilities are powered completely by renewable energy, and their concessionaires feature only plant-based food items, dramatically decreasing the environmental impact of the organization. Environmental sustainability should be viewed as innovation. This is an innovative journey and not simply a destination.
Sofia Crespo describes her work as the “natural history book that never was.” The Berlin-based artist uses artificial neural networks to generate illustrations that at first glance, resemble Louis Renard’s 18th Century renderings or the exotic specimens of Albertus Seba’s compendium. Upon closer inspection, though, the colorful renderings reveal unsettling combinations: two fish are conjoined with a shared fin, flower petals appear feather-like, and a study of butterflies features insects with missing wings and bizarrely formed bodies.
Titled Artificial Natural History, the ongoing project merges the desire to categorize organisms with “the very renaissance project of humanism,” Crespo says, forming a distorted series of creatures with imagined features that require a new set of biological classifications. “The specimens of the artificial natural history both celebrate and play with the seemingly endless diversity of the natural world, one that we still have very limited comprehension and awareness of,” she writes.
The Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary Government Data Act of 2018 (OPEN Government Data Act) codifies and expands open data policy and generally requires agencies to publish information as open data by default, as well as develop and maintain comprehensive data inventories.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has not issued statutorily-required guidance for agencies to implement comprehensive data inventories, which could limit agencies’ progress in implementing their requirements under the act. OMB also has not met requirements to publicly report on agencies’ performance and compliance with the act. Access to this information could inform Congress and the public about agencies’ open data progress and statutory compliance.
Implementation Status of Selected OPEN Government Data Act Requirements
Legend: ✓Requirement fully met I ✖ Requirement not met
Federal data catalogue: By July 2019, the General Services Administration (GSA) must maintain a point of entry dedicated to sharing agency data assets with the public, known as the “Federal data catalogue”. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and GSA must ensure agencies can publish data assets or links on the website.
Online repository: By July 2019, OMB, GSA, and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) must collaborate to develop and maintain an online repository of tools, best practices, and schema standards to facilitate the adoption of open data practices across the federal government.
Implementation guidance: By July 2019, OMB must issue guidance for agencies to implement comprehensive inventories.
Biennial report: By January 2020, and biennially thereafter, OMB must electronically publish a report on agency performance and compliance with this act.
Source: GAO analysis of Pub. L. No. 115-435, 132 Stat. 5529(Jan. 14, 2019), resources.data.gov, www.data.gov , and an interview with OMB staff. | GAO-21-29.
GAO found that all 24 Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act agencies display their data inventories on their websites, as well as on an online catalogue of federal data assets. Agencies took a variety of approaches to providing public access to individual data assets such as using Data.gov as the human-readable public interface, hosting searchable inventories on their own agency websites and providing lists of data or downloadable files on their websites.
Information on the extent to which agencies regularly update their data inventories is limited. OMB and GSA do not have a policy to ensure the routine identification and correction of errors in electronically published information. The absence of such a policy limits publicly available information on agency progress.
As of September 2020, seven of the 24 CFO Act agencies had also publicly released COVID-19 related datasets or linked to related information from their open data web pages as required by the Federal Data Strategy. These datasets provide data on a range of COVID-19 related topics including data on disease transmission and loans provided to businesses.
Why GAO Did This Study
Federal agencies create and collect large amounts of data in support of fulfilling their missions. Public access to open data—data that are free to use, modify, and share—holds great promise for promoting government transparency and engendering public trust. Access to open data is particularly important in the current pandemic environment as government agencies, scientists, and the public work to understand and respond to COVID-19 using data-focused approaches.
The OPEN Government Data Act includes a provision for GAO to report on federal agencies’ comprehensive data inventories. This report examines the extent to which 1) OMB, GSA, and NARA met their statutory requirements to facilitate the establishment of federal agencies’ comprehensive data inventories; and 2) CFO Act agencies developed data inventories in accordance with OMB guidance.
GAO reviewed agencies’ websites and related documentation, and interviewed OMB staff and GSA and NARA officials.
What GAO Recommends
GAO is making two recommendations to OMB to issue required implementation guidance and report on agency performance. GAO also recommends that OMB and GSA establish policy to ensure the routine identification and correction of errors in agency data. GSA concurred with GAO’s recommendation and OMB did not comment on the report.
UK company Carbon8 Systems will run its first energy-from-waste (EfW) pilot project at an AVR site in the Netherlands that will use captured carbon dioxide (CO2) and waste to create material for the construction industry.
Food waste has proven to be an intractable problem. According to the United Nations, about 30 percent of all food produced gets lost along the supply chain, dragging a heavy chain of carbon emissions and other impacts along with it. That data point rings with irony as the global numbers on malnourishment remain stubbornly high. Now it appears that the business community has finally connected the dots between food waste and the hunger crisis and is in position to take concrete action.