Sponsors need to push decarbonisation in sport

Sponsors need to push decarbonisation in sport

Sports partners should sign the Sport Sponsors Climate Pledge to focus the industry to carbon reduction, says Francois Singer

As is the case for many other industries, the sport movement has to play a role in addressing climate change. Some initiatives have been launched to respect the Paris Agreement objectives and align with the 1.5°c carbon trajectory, such as the “Charte des 15 engagements écoresponsables” of the French Ministry of Sport or the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) but, in my view, nothing much is really changing.

In our industry, who is really talking about the IPCC reports and the nine ecosystemic planetary boundaries? Who is setting up science-based target initiatives? Who is integrating a sincere and transformative purpose-driven strategy? 

A report from the New Weather Institute Report revealed that more than 250 deals have been done between high-carbon industries and leading sports teams. What’s more, lots of sport organisations are now withdrawing from the UNFCCC framework as the rules and constraints seem too significant.

In this context, 17 Sport has decided to work on an ambitious initiative with the ChangeNOW summit to establish a ‘Sport Sponsors Climate Pledge’, which, we hope, will be signed by major, progressive and responsible partners of national and international sport

Revealed as part of the Sport for Change programme, launched initially in 2022, the Sport Sponsors Climate Pledge aims to go further than existing charters by linking financial support from committed sponsors with the carbon reduction performance of the sponsored sport organisation. It has active commitments that focus on the decarbonisation of the sports sector and embraces science-based targets.

The pledge is simple:

1. To select a shortlist of major sponsors in the sports industry that are aligned with the Paris Agreement

2. To have them commit to demanding, from 2025 onwards, that the sports events they wish to sponsor actually set carbon reduction objectives aligned with the Paris Agreement and certified by a third party

A new era of sports sponsorship 

Our employees, consumers and fans know that the environmental challenges facing our world need more than empty promises. All business sectors have entered a phase of decarbonisation, and so should the sports industry. We aim to go well beyond carbon neutrality and shift mindsets towards a clear path of GHG emissions reduction. 

This is why the companies involved in the sports industry, alongside a group of passionate, committed business leaders, have to publicly commit to taking concrete steps and to leading the charge by encouraging and inspiring the wider sports industry to take verifiable and measurable action. 

What does this mean in practice? Sport sponsors have to recognise that business can play a vital role in fighting the climate emergency. They have committed to working in accordance with the Paris Agreement and standards such as the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) to set GHG emission reduction targets for their business and demonstrate concrete, audited results. 

As part of the Sport for Change Sponsors Alliance (SCSA), and recognition that they need to act beyond their own footprint: 

1. From 2023 onwards, sport sponsors will call all sports organisations (clubs, federations, competitions, event organising committees) they partner with to demonstrate climate transparency. They will call on them to commit to GHG emission reduction objectives aligned with the Paris Agreement, and to validate these targets by 2025 with the SBTi or a third party mutually agreed upon

2. They will co-create a framework and toolkit to help our partners and the sports industry move from talk to action.

3. From 2025, all their sponsorship investments in the sports industry will be contingent upon the following criteria for the sports organisations they partner with: 

– For private sports organisations with a turnover equal to or above €40m / year: A GHG emission reduction target aligned with the 1.5°c target and validated by the SBT initiative

– For all other sports organisations: A commitment by the sponsored sports organisation to setting GHG emission reduction performance objectives aligned with the 1.5°c target, verified and validated by a third party mutually agreed upon

Together, let us demonstrate the unifying power of sports. We have the power to work together and make real progress. If we take immediate and decisive action, we can – in the words of the SBTi – ‘help prevent the worst impacts of climate change and future-proof business growth.’ 

The Sport Sponsor Climate Pledge announcement was a great success, with international sport ponsors already signatories such as Accor, EDF, Orange and Sodexo Live! 

What’s more, more than 50 sport organisations (media, NGOs, federations, sport clubs) and athletes also support this initiative.

Come and join us !

Francois Singer is the senior purpose partnership manager at 17 Sport

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