BENCHES project to assess sport’s impact and dependency on nature

BENCHES project to assess sport’s impact and dependency on nature

Three-year Erasmus+ funded project, led by the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, brings together World Athletics, the International Biathlon Union, World Sailing, the Italian Canoe Kayak Federation, S.L. Benfica and Touchline

A three-year project, funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme, will investigate the interdependence of sport and surrounding ecosystems, examining its dependency and impact on the natural environment.

Led by the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, the BENCHES project (Biodiversity, Ecosystems and Nature Conservation Helped and Enhanced by Sports) aims to enhance understanding and awareness while developing tools and practices to measure, manage and mitigate the adverse impacts of sport on biodiversity.

In collaboration with sports partners including World Athletics, the International Biathlon Union, World Sailing, the Italian Canoe Kayak Federation and S.L. Benfica, the consortium will produce various deliverables, including research papers, reports, webinars, workshops, conferences and a key tool assessing both the impact of sports on biodiversity and how sports benefit from ecosystem services.

The BENCHES project commenced with a kick-off meeting in Pisa on 6 February, where the project parameters were discussed.

At the kick-off meeting, sports partners presented their ongoing efforts in the field. World Sailing, aligned with its organisational tagline ‘Sport, Technology and Nature’ and its 2018 sustainability strategy, Agenda 2030, highlighted projects addressing invasive species, biofouling management and its collaboration with the Marine Mammal Advisory Group.

The Italian Canoe Kayak Federation highlighted its sustainability journey, emphasising the “environmental vocation” of every canoeist. Key milestones include establishing its Environmental Commission in 2005, forming a partnership with WWF and showcasing initial results from its Erasmus+ funded DECK project (Developing Environmental Circular Knowledge).

Both the International Biathlon Union and World Athletics illustrated the integration of biodiversity and nature into their sustainability strategies. The former highlighted its Target 26 strategy, focusing on ecosystem protection, while the latter showcased the alignment of the BENCHES project with its 2020-2030 sustainability strategy and the Athletics for a Better World sustainable event standard.

London-based international agency Touchline, specialising in sport and sustainability, serves as the project’s dissemination partner. It will highlight the BENCHES team’s achievements and milestones through a dedicated website and regular online content.

Tiberio Daddi, associate professor as the Sant’Anna Institute of Management and Interdisciplinary Center on Sustainability and Climate, said: “This project has scope to be both innovative and impactful for the sports industry as we seek to uncover not only its impact on the natural environment but also its dependencies.

“Each of the sports represented in the BENCHES team has a unique relationship with nature across different terrains – from rivers, lakes and oceans to mountains and urban areas. We hope our findings will lead to the development of an assessment tool and processes that can help sport mitigate its impact on these delicate and cherished ecosystems.”

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