The BASIS Conference – Emirates Stadium, 24th October 2011

The British Association for Sustainable Sport (BASIS) was launched at a conference held at the Emirates Stadium on 24 October, 2011. Sixty five delegates from the sports sector, sustainable events organisations, academia and environmental consultancies met to hear speakers from a wide range of sustainability backgrounds including marketing, logistics, international standards, waste and recycling, sport and youth, ecology, creative industries and the restaurant industry. The conference highlighted that sport may be ten years behind business when it comes to implementing sustainability practices. However, despite this challenge, most presenters agreed that sport has tremendous potential to positively change individual lives as well as making society greener.

Sporting events such the Super Bowl, World Cup, the Olympics and the Golf Masters can make fans more aware of sustainability practices. These events can also introduce sustainability to a segment of the sport fan population who show tremendous passion, but may never have supported these issues before. The keynote speaker was Frank Supovitz, the Senior Vice President of Events for the National Football League (NFL). He described the economic and marketing power of the Super Bowl and how it was one of the biggest one day sporting events in the U.S. and across the globe. At the same time, he also confirmed the NFL’s commitment to mitigating the Super Bowl’s environmental impacts. He described their programs in carbon offsets through tree replanting, the recycling of sporting equipment and prepared food recovery. He also underlined the NFL’s commitment to using minority and women owned businesses when awarding subcontracts. The British Standards Institute, SGS and the Sustainable Events Group explained the effectiveness of British, European and International Standards for managing sports events. As an indicator of how sport and sustainability are becoming more intertwined, the Landon2012 inspired B58901 standard for managing events more sustainably will soon be replaced by an International Standard; ISO 20121. Ian Curtis from the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University discussed his research concerning the emotional power of sports and how this can be connected to the message of climate change and sustainability. He promoted the Arnold Schwartzenegger idea of how “successful movements are not based on guilt but on passion.”

The Australian company Closed Loop Recycling spoke about their involvement with waste management in Australian sports venues and demonstrated how their mobile recycling units could sort up to 90% of waste from sports events into recyclable material. Bob Taylor of STRI spoke about the ecological impact of golf and how the many professional golf courses had detailed plans to safeguard threatened species of flora, fauna. He described how during the Open in the UK a scoreboard had to be closed down because of nesting birds. While there was some initial resistance to this idea, most Master’s ground staff and even the press became interested in watching the baby birds’ progress. The Prince’s Trust gave a powerful presentation explaining how sport can directly help difficult to reach young people. One beneficiary of the program described how the Trust gave him a second chance to become a certified football coach and offered him employment and life changing opportunities he would not have otherwise. Representatives from Julie’s Bicycle, a sustainability organisation which supports theatres and the creative industries, and the Sustainable Restaurant Association gave presentations on how their sectors reduced energy costs, waste and instilled pride in their workers with their sustainability practices. The conference ended with a discussion on the future of sustainability in sport. BASIS is committed to working with sporting and sustainability organisations, academics and private industry in order to share best practice and consider new and innovative ways to enhance sustainability.