Inspiring the public to become nature-positive through sport

Inspiring the public to become nature-positive through sport

Only through making a connection with people can we drive transformational change, says Anne-Cécile Turner

Belatedly, the world is acknowledging that nature is in crisis. At December’s landmark UN Biodiversity Summit in Montreal, almost 200 countries committed to protecting at least 30% of the planet’s land and sea by 2030. While government-level commitment is welcome (a million species are at risk of extinction), we must not place all our hopes in policy-makers. 

A real shift in how humans impact nature can come about only if a wide general public is engaged, inspired and united to care for their environment. Sails of Change, a foundation dedicated to the protection and regeneration of biodiversity, was created by Dona Bertarelli, her husband Yann Guichard and her children was established to promote nature-positive solutions to inspire action and behavioural change. Connecting with a wide public through education, sports and art, Sails of Change seeks to drive transformative change on the ground, at speed and at scale. 

In October 2022, Sails of Change and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced a partnership to help sports organisations mitigate their negative impacts on biodiversity and climate, and encourage them to take concrete steps to protect nature.

Under the partnership, Sails of Change will be supporting the implementation of a new Sports for Nature Framework, which IUCN developed with the UN Environment Programme, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the International Olympic Committee. The framework provides clear targets for sports organisations committed to taking action for nature, and requires them to report on their progress.

“Sports organisers, administrators, clubs, participants, sponsors and fans are increasingly looking for sport to become a net contributor to the protection and restoration of nature,” explains Dona Bertarelli. “The Sports for Nature Framework will help sports not just to mitigate their negative impacts on biodiversity, but to become nature-positive.”

Sports organisations signing up to the Framework, which is informed by the UN’s existing Sport for Climate Action framework, will receive practical assistance to:

– Protect nature and avoid damaging natural habitats and species

– Restore and enhance nature

– Integrate nature into their business practices and supply chain

– Inspire positive behaviour change

Sails of Change and IUCN will develop training programs and toolkits to support Framework signatories. In parallel, the partners plan to inspire and engage a broader public involved in sports on nature conservation topics, whether sports events participants, athletes, associations, fans, sponsors or communities. They will also support promising pilot projects with the potential to be scaled up, and create a small grants programme to assist sports to take action for nature.   

Spreading the 30×30 message around the world

Yann Guichard, Dona Bertarelli and nine other sailors make up the crew of the ‘Sails of Change’ maxi-trimaran, which is preparing to attempt to set a new record for the fastest non-stop and unassisted circumnavigation of the world. 

The Sails of Change boat proudly carries the ‘30×30’ message, referencing the need to protect at least 30% of global ocean and land by 2030. Dona and the crew will be using their voyage to highlight the need to safeguard biodiversity, for example through establishing Marine Protected Areas. 

The team also aims to prove that high-performance sport can be sustainable, by completing the trip without using fossil fuels. Instead, the boat will rely on solar and wind power to generate the energy needed for the boat’s electronic and navigation systems. 

Through all of its actions, Sails of Change aims to inspire a wide public to protect and preserve nature. While getting to ‘30×30’ will require governments to play their part, individuals and organisations also have vital roles in protecting, regenerating and rewilding ecosystems. Sails of Change will be working hard in the coming years to accompany and assist them.

Anne-Cécile Turner is the campaign director at Sails of Change

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