How partnerships between sport and science can accelerate a low-carbon future

How partnerships between sport and science can accelerate a low-carbon future

The mass-market appeal of sport can drive partnerships focused on low-carbon technology, sustainable innovation and societal good

Sport is a dynamic and fast-growing market. At the same time, sport has been gaining an increasing role in influencing key global challenges. Nelson Mandela’s assertion that “sport has the power to change the world” is often quoted to demonstrate sport’s almost unique ability to have a positive impact on society. Sport has been used to stimulate social inclusion, to create educational opportunities, and to facilitate cultural exchanges.

Some of the progress that has been made in the world as the result of sport’s intervention has been less obvious – but if we’re creative, there’s no limit to the positive impact we can leverage by giving sport a seat at the table.

It is a well-known fact that mega sports events can have a significant environmental impact on host cities and countries. Sports organisations and event hosts have placed a heavy emphasis on sustainability in recent times to address these challenges, however, they need to partner with industry experts and sponsors to help execute their plans.

Dow has a longstanding history in the world of sport. Sustainability is also the cornerstone of our business and underpins every decision we make. What’s good for society and the environment is also good for business, and over the last 30 years, our sustainability journey has evolved from focusing on operational efficiency (our footprint) to accelerating positive impact through strong collaborations (blueprint thinking).

The sustainable future that we’re all striving for will not be built by one company alone. It will take a network of like-minded and forward-thinking partners to develop and implement the low-carbon and efficient technologies we need to move away from the current unsustainable system.

Dow has a very special place within this dynamic; as a material science company, we work with our customers and value chain partners across various industries around the world and help them make their products and processes more economically and environmentally efficient. Sport is a medium we’ve identified as a significant opportunity to drive sustainability. Through sport’s high-profile platform and the ability of science to provide solutions, we can catalyse action on climate change and help build a more sustainable future.

Driving adoption

On 17 September, we will celebrate the three-year anniversary of our Carbon Partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). This partnership is an example of such transformative collaboration, where the platform of sport and the power of science unite to drive adoption of state-of-the-art technologies for a positive climate legacy.

The objective of our Carbon Partnership with the IOC is to balance the organisation’s unavoidable emissions from its operations between 2017 and 2020. What does that mean in practice? Well, in addition to offsetting the IOC’s carbon footprint in the traditional sense, we develop a portfolio of mitigation projects alongside our customers and value chain partners that drive the adoption of existing low-carbon technologies and solutions.

As a company, Dow has been one of the leaders in its sector for several decades. Our partners – and potential partners – know that when they work with us, they’re collaborating with an organisation that puts innovation, inclusivity, sustainability and a sharp focus on the customer at the heart of all we do.

But the fact that we’re so closely aligned with the IOC adds a little bit more to our offering. It adds increased visibility. It adds stardust . People, generally, love sport. It  inspires us to push boundaries and go beyond business as usual like many of the Olympic athletes we admire. And when partners find out that they can drive sustainable innovation while supporting a big sports brand, it makes it even more compelling.

To give you an example, in support of our carbon partnership with the IOC, in April 2019 Dow announced the first carbon project with its customer PETRONAS Chemicals Glycols. The joint team is working together to quantify the impact of a high-performance Dow proprietary Ethylene Oxide catalyst and obtain third-party verification of the resulting climate benefits from the operations of PETRONAS Chemicals Glycols EO plant. 

Another example is our reforestation carbon project with Restore the Earth Foundation, a US-based non-profit organisation. It is also the first project of this kind to be registered under the Climate Forward initiative by Climate Action Reserve (CAR) and promotes innovation in carbon accounting to incentivise investments in nature-based carbon solutions.

Find out about these projects during our next webinar.

We have developed similar carbon mitigation projects in the built environment and packaging sectors under our partnership with the IOC and our combined objective to reduce its operational carbon impact and generate a positive climate legacy.

While we believe that this is a unique program that gives us a huge sense of pride and achievement, we hope (and expect) that this will soon become the go-to model for sport partnerships. Even before the Covid-19 crisis rocked sport’s business models (with around $17bn of sponsorship money lost as a result, according to Two Circles), there were already questions being asked about the way sports properties and commercial partners will engage going forward.

It’s widely acknowledged that the traditional ‘pay-to-play’ model – where sponsors exchange money for exposure – is becoming more redundant as the years pass. Sponsors now want to work with sports partners on activations with purpose. Activations that benefit society. This ‘triple-win’ model – in which the sponsor wins, the sports property wins, and society at large wins – is becoming the new norm. 

During the pandemic, Nielsen released a research report revealing that 75% of sports fans have an increased interest in brands that have shown to be socially responsible versus before Covid-19. While indeed sport might aspire to change the world, it’s becoming clearer that it can undoubtedly be a force for good if properly supported by its partners.

In our next webinar, we’ll explore how technology and partnerships of this type can unlock value and carbon reductions. Join Faye Miller (Dow Industrial Solutions), Simon Phillips (NatureBank), P.J. Marshall (Restore the Earth Foundation) and myself to discover:

●  What technologies the industrial sector is leveraging to reduce its carbon footprint

●  Why organisations are investing in nature – and what the business case is

●  How sports marketing partnerships can accelerate sustainable innovation across a number of sector

Register for the 17 September webinar here.

Svetlana Oglobina is the strategic marketing manager for Dow Olympic & Sports Solutions

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