Sustainable Circuits Index reveals widening gap between innovators and laggards

Sustainable Circuits Index reveals widening gap between innovators and laggards

Mugello, Barcelona-Catalunya and Misano do well, while seven of 97 circuits fail to score a point

Interest in motorsport continues to grow with the rise of digital media and streaming platforms, engaging young fans who were previously not exposed to the sport. This new generation of fans brings higher expectations around sustainability and positive impact. 

Motorsport circuits, being the hosts of high-profile races and events, have a significant influence over the entire ecosystem. With thousands of attendees at each event, these circuits have a unique platform to promote sustainability and educate audiences on various sustainability measures.

The 2023 Sustainable Circuits Index provides an assessment of sustainability efforts among motorsport circuits worldwide. The index evaluates 21 sustainability performance criteria across seven dimensions, analysing publicly disclosed information from January 2022 to December 2022. It delves into how circuits address environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and communicate their progress. 

Dr. Cristiana Pace, the founder and chief executive of the company behind the index, Enovation Consulting, said that while there was “so much to celebrate” about this year’s edition, motor sport finds itself at an “inflection point” when it comes to sustainability.

“Innovators are setting the agenda, driving change and harvesting the rewards,” Pace told The Sustainability Report, “while laggards have to play catch-up in the face of increasingly loud calls from championships, teams and fanbases to explain their lack of engagement.”

At the forefront of the ranking was the Mugello Circuit, reclaiming its top spot after being displaced last year. According to the index, the commitment of Mugello is evident in its best-in-class certifications, waste management initiatives, renewable energy use and community outreach programs. 

In an assessment that took into account five environmental parameters (waste management and circular economy initiatives, renewable energy and energy efficiency, use of natural resources, transport and mobility and climate change projects), the circuit located 50 kilometres north of the Italian city of Florence scored best.

Recognition of its K.i.S.S. (Keep it Shiny and Sustainable) programme, the world’s first sustainability initiative in motorsport, featured highly in its index review. Supported by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) and Dorna Sports, the programme focuses on environmental and social sustainability. Initiatives like waste collection kits, sustainable mobility awareness campaigns, PET plastic bottle recycling and charity projects have contributed to Mugello’s consistent leadership in the motorsport industry’s sustainability drive. As the programme nears its tenth anniversary in 2023, Mugello Circuit plans to organise more activities to further enhance its sustainability efforts.

Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya followed closely in second place, making improvements in sustainability despite falling a place from last year’s index. The circuit launched a strategic plan for environmental and economic sustainability, certified its CSR management system, distributed reusable cups and invested in the RECICLOS recycling reward system. Collaborating with the Red Cross, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya conducted community outreach programs and installed electric vehicle charging points for sustainable mobility.

A consistently high rating in the index is the result of “exhaustive work in the field of sustainability for many years,” according to José Luís Santamaría, general manager at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

He added: “It is a great honour for the circuit to be regularly placed in the top positions of this ranking, with the mission to keep on improving, innovating and contributing with new ideas to take care of the environment.”

Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli secured the third position. The circuit demonstrated strong sustainability progress with both ISO 20121 and three-star FIA environmental accreditation, as well as effective fan engagement initiatives like the ‘Misano Green Circuit,’ encouraging sustainable mobility and minimising environmental impact. Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli also promoted waste recycling among paddock members and donated surplus food to benefit local communities.

The study’s methodology was developed in collaboration with sustainability expert Professor Paolo Taticchi, of UCL School of Management, to ensure independence and robustness. Points are allocated based on the criteria, resulting in an absolute score ranging from 0 to 100, which is then used to create the final ranking. 

As well as the five environmental criteria, there are social indicators (accessibility, philanthropy, community events and actions to counteract food waste), an economic indicator (impact on local economic development) and sustainability approach and engagement criteria (ethics code and policies, events and initiatives organised with a focus on sustainability, sustainability reporting and a disclosure on sustainability strategy).

In general terms, there was quite a big fluctuation in the progress made by the 97 reviewed circuits. As a collective, they performed best in the social criteria, with 64 and 55 having approaches to philanthropy and accessibility respectively. Around one-third of the circuits did well on the criteria related to environmental sustainability, ranging from 29 with climate change projects up to 47 that had a focus on transport and mobility.

The circuits’ sustainability reporting (3) and disclosure of sustainability strategy (4) were subpar. Combined with the prevalence of philanthropic projects among them suggests that sustainability is viewed more as philanthropy than a strategic priority.

Taticchi said that while it was “fantastic” to see many circuits making “great strides” it meant that the gap between the leaders and the stragglers “continues to widen”.

“I hope to see those at the back of the pack take inspiration from the best practice shared in the index to learn and implement their own policies and initiative for the good of the entire motorsport industry,” he added.

Elsewhere, Silverstone Circuit received commendation as the ‘most improved’, tripling its sustainability score through initiatives like the Shift to Zero strategy, two-star FIA environmental accreditation and adoption of hydrotreated vegetable oil for generators. The circuit installed solar panels, EV charge points and water stations, promoting eco-friendly practices and collaborated with local charities for food redistribution. The Green Champions programme and partnership with Sky Zero further exemplify Silverstone’s commitment to sustainability.

“As the home of British motorsport, we have a responsibility to lead the way with smarter and cleaner methods of working and act as a platform for change by sharing best practices with the entire motorsport and leisure industry,” said Stephane Bazire, head of business sustainability and partnerships at Silverstone.

The Sustainable Circuits Index also highlights other circuits’ sustainability efforts, with Circuit Paul Ricard securing the fourth position and demonstrating consistent progress. The circuit transitioned its technical and track safety vehicles to 100% biofuel, reducing carbon emissions significantly and installed EV charging terminals. Circuit de la Sarthe and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway jointly ranked fifth, each showcasing their unique sustainability achievements. 

Circuit de la Sarthe focused on its supply chain’s sustainability credentials, launched the Green Experience for race attendees and engaged in charitable endeavours. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway prioritised renewable energy credits, recycling bins and initiatives to offset fans’ travel footprint, promoting sustainability both in direct operations and through its retail partner’s sustainable shop. Yas Marina Circuit also made steady progress with biofuel recycling, a solar farm and innovative recycling collaborations with Etihad Airways.

While the Sustainable Circuits Index highlights positive progress in sustainability across the motorsport industry, it also reveals that seven circuits have yet to score a single point, emphasising the challenge ahead in achieving a decarbonised and sustainable future for the sector. 

The motorsport industry is called upon to contribute more to environmental, social, and economic challenges, with a mandate for all Formula 1 circuits to be sustainable by 2025. Collaboration and innovation are essential to achieving this goal. By harnessing technology, innovation, discipline and creativity, the motorsport industry can drive inspirational progress towards a sustainable future for generations to come.

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