Fans expect sports organizations to do more on sustainability

More eco-friendly venues are coming

Sustainability is a major focus this week at the COP28 Summit in Dubai as the nations of the world discuss how to make progress on climate change.

The sports industry has a seat at the table via a group called “Sports for Climate Action,” which is committed to halving carbon emissions by 2030 and aiming to achieve net-zero by 2040. The group also has the goal of using sports as a unifying tool “to federate and create solidarity among global citizens for climate action.”

Sporting events have historically faced sustainability challenges. A typical NFL game produces about 35 tons of waste, or about 1.5 pounds per fan, according to Front Office Sports. The Super Bowl can increase that amount by 50 percent.

More than two-thirds of sports fans said they feel disappointed that the teams/players they follow are insufficiently prioritizing environmental sustainability, according to a CapGemini Research Institute survey of 12,000 fans earlier this year.

Seventy-five percent of fans expect teams and clubs to prioritize sustainability internally and in the community, the survey said. And 72% say they want their favorite players to be sustainability role models.

“It’s important for everyone involved in rugby, including players, supporters, and management, to be sustainable and be seen as such,” said Ronan Donagher, Head of Game Systems, World Rugby.

“Sustainability in sports is not just a goal, it’s a responsibility,” said Rebecca Hopkins, CEO at the STA Group, a global insights, communications, and events platform for technology in sports. “It’s about making conscious choices to reduce our impact on the planet, and athletes and fans have the power to influence positive change and must use that power with authenticity and intention.”

One way sports organizations can put sustainability principles into action is to focus on eco-friendly facilities, according to the consulting firm PwC. Venue and event innovation is one of the investment categories in Comcast NBCUniversal SportsTech, powered by Boomtown.

As an example, Eco Park Stadium, the proposed arena for the Forest Green Rovers, a soccer team in EFL level 2, will be built entirely from sustainably sourced timber, run on renewable energy, and serve vegan food on game days.

The Golden 1 Credit Union Center in Sacramento, home of the NBA’s Kings, is completely solar-powered and the first LEED Platinum-certified arena in the world. Also LEED-certified are such iconic venues as the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Sports organizations can also advance sustainability by reducing waste, switching to renewable energy, and using tech to increase efficiency.

Digital twin technology, for example, allows teams to build virtual models of their facilities so they can consider the benefits and risks associated with potential sustainability initiatives.

Once in place, a digital twin allows teams to monitor and adjust — in real time — as new sustainability programs are implemented.


Tripp Baltz
Head of Research