The Undeniable Convening Power of Sport and Communications for Sustainable Development

A UN resolution at the Climate Summit (COP24) in Katowice last week recognised the importance of sport as an enabler of sustainable development.

Amy Munro - Sustainability Manager
11th December

The Super Group; Sports and Communications
A UN resolution at the Climate Summit (COP24) in Katowice last week recognised the importance of sport as an enabler of sustainable development. Today, the International Olympic Committee are launching a sport climate change framework and carbon guide with UNFCCC and are calling for sports to take action. As an agency working in sports and communications, this is a topic close to our hearts. 65-70% of people follow sports (GSB, 2018) and communications will make sustainable development a reality (UNEP, 2005), so we feel we are in a really exciting position to facilitate some rapid and measurable change. 

The challenge; A cultural shift
“I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.”
Gus Speth, US Advisor on Climate Change

And this is where we come in. Sport is inherently inclusive, it has the ability to cross barriers in cases where business and government may not be able to move so quickly, it can set benchmarks, inspire change and unite. Look at Forest Green Rovers, the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Rolland Garros, and the British Challenge for the 35th America’s Cup to name just a few great examples of how sports teams and venues use their captive audiences, high footfalls and reach to show leadership and foster change on critical topics of food security, water conservation, green energy and regenerative design.

The choice; Lip Service or Authenticity?
Sports teams must not just use their voice to accelerate the conversation, but their actions too. As sporting events, sponsors and teams try to appeal to a new wave of conscious citizens, the temptation to greenwash is far easier than taking time and resource to fully understand their activity footprints and supply chains. With 34% of 16-24 year olds willing to pay 20% more for an ethical product (EY, 2018) and 59% of employees citing an organisation's purpose as ‘very important’ (EY, 2017), teams, sponsors and companies are acutely aware of what they must deliver If they are to remain relevant in this rapidly evolving arena.

Once sports stakeholders have their own house in order, they can then begin using their own marketing insights and strategy to encourage a systemic and cultural shift in supporters, tapping into the peer influences that are so critical for transforming public awareness and behaviour change.

Taking action isn’t as hard as it sounds
It might seem daunting; to set up a robust sustainability strategy, make sure you are aligned with issues important to stakeholders, know how to monitor, measure and communicate it powerfully. 

The IOC have put together the first in a series of useful guides that set out a framework for just that. A straightforward 10 key steps have been outlined as below. To follow the process download the guide Here.

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It's a pivotal time. Many sports teams and governing bodies are already showing incredible leadership, putting together authentic and ambitious sustainability programmes that showcase the part that sport has to play if we are to thrive and create a low carbon future. Join the movement. 

References

Green Sports Blog. (2018). Allen Hershkowitz. Accessed on 5 Dec 2018. Retrieved from https://greensportsblog.com/ta...

UNEP & Futerra (2005). Communicating Sustainability: How to produce effective public campaigns. United Nations Environment Programme.

IOC (2018). Sport as an enabler of sustainable development. Accessed on 4 Dec 2018. Retrieved from

Polman, P. (2015) Unilever sees sustainability supporting growth. Accessed 15.11.2018. Retrieved from https://www.unilever.com/news/...
Ernst & Young. (2018). What is your reputation worth at the check out?

Ernst & Young (2017). Beacon Institute.

Peattie. (2018). Changing behaviour through marketing and mitigating social risks. Accessed 27.11.18. Retrieved from CISL BSM Course.
IOC (2018). Sustainability Essentials. A series of practical guides for the Olympic movement. Introduction to Sustainability. Retrieved from
https://stillmed.olympic.org/m...