Keeping sustainability at the center of large-scale events

This article is sponsored by WM.

For many fans, expectations of sporting events extend beyond three-pointers, birdies, and checkered flags. Today’s fans want events, teams, and even athletes to mark what’s happening on the pitch, course, or track with a greater sense of purpose.

A recent report by YouGov Sport, a global sports and sponsorship research firm, backs up these claims. The report examined what sports fans expect from sports organizations on issues such as Environment, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI).

According to the report, fans believe that teams, events and athletes “should be leaders in social responsibility, and fans will hold those organizations accountable when they fail to articulate and deliver on their social promise in an authentic and transparent manner.”

The good news is that sporting events provide a natural vehicle for showcasing products and services that educate people and reduce environmental impact. However, most sponsors and event organizers are not optimizing the opportunities for footprint minimization, stakeholder engagement and collaboration that increase brand equity.

Fortunately, WM is well-positioned to help event organizers, sponsors and corporates implement agile sustainability programs to continuously grow and make the greatest impact while taking care to minimize environmental impact.

Sport is important to most of us

The YouGov sports report made it clear: Sport – and sustainability – is important to people. According to reports, 76 percent of adults worldwide watch sports and more than a third of US fans believe sports leagues should do more to reduce carbon footprint and other environmental concerns.

Organizations of all sizes are expected to make real sustainability advances – a mindset that has accelerated with increased awareness of the climate crisis and sustainability. With this shift, companies are looking for overarching strategies that integrate environmental sustainability priorities into planning processes.

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WM Advisory Services provides end-to-end strategic supply chain support and thought leadership for clients to implement meaningful environmental sustainability initiatives. As a result, WM is changing the way sports organizations, event sponsors and corporations approach sustainability, evaluating operations, compiling impact metrics, supporting practical implementation efforts and creating comprehensive strategies.

New name, broader mission

Traditionally, many WM customers have equated sustainability with recycling. However, WM – formerly Waste Management – was rebranded in 2022 to drop “Waste” from its name to demonstrate the organization’s commitment to being a trusted sustainability partner and innovation leader that does much more than just manage waste.

WM’s Advisory Services team is at the forefront of this environmental sustainability spear, helping clients achieve broader sustainability goals through uniquely diverse technical sustainability expertise.

Comprehensive guide to supply chain overhaul

WM has been supporting customers in their ecological sustainability goals for over 25 years. This work includes developing sustainability strategies, designing emissions management plans and supporting supply chain management programs in the sports world and beyond.

WM’s sports and entertainment sustainability portfolio has grown to five professional leagues, seven venues, nine golf tournaments and several non-sports companies. The company uses the same approach from this work to solve complex environmental challenges for customers across all industries.

WM consultants provide a wide range of guidance on environmental sustainability issues, from managing organic materials and optimizing renewable energy opportunities to integrating sustainability marketing and addressing upstream mitigation activities (including material sourcing, transportation and even product design).

WM combines customer-specific consulting support with local logistics, such as B. Coordinating minimization pilots, including reusable tableware programs and fan-centric sustainability competitions; transport of organic matter and recycling; generation of renewable natural gas for its fleet; multi-layered program management support; and unique waste stream diversion for textiles, general waste and plastic films.

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While every sporting event is unique, the ingredients for environmental sustainability success are the same: the more an organization commits to sustainability from department to department, the faster progress is made. KM can help develop sustainability “task forces” within an organization to ensure enforcement through strategic guidance.

WM helps clients answer the big questions that are changing the organizational structure, operations and DNA of event planning, such as:

  • What are the customer’s core values?
  • How does the customer embed sustainability in his business?
  • How does the customer create sustainable branding and communication strategies?
  • How does the client develop sponsorship strategies that add financial value and improve sustainability outcomes?

One example of this holistic approach to sustainability is the WM Phoenix Open golf tournament. The planning team at WM and the tournament host, The Thunderbirds, are committed to presenting environmental education, solutions and conservation throughout the event.

Since 2013, WM has pursued a zero-waste approach with the tournament through recycling, composting, donation, reuse and energy generation. This process involves engaging more than 100 vendors and sponsors and establishing annual sourcing requirements to ensure materials are put to their next best use. In addition, the tournament has raised more than $110 million for local charities since 2010, when Worlds became the title sponsor.

Regardless of sport, sustainability translates.

“Our long-standing relationship with WM has continued to grow over the years and has helped place sustainability at the core of our business,” said J. Douglas Boles, President of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, another long-time WM customer. “Through WM’s guidance, we have developed a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improved our waste prevention efforts. Our work with WM also helped us achieve the first Council for Responsible Sport race certification in motorsport and the first event certification.”

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Sustainability needs a team

Sporting event organizers are well advised to integrate multiple perspectives to provide sustainability expertise and support, as these events naturally require diverse financial investments via sponsorship, media and operational strategies.

Why? Environmental sustainability strategies can create numerous marketing channels that did not previously exist, such as: B. Sponsorships related to material management, energy, water and transportation. The ultimate goal is to build a mutually beneficial relationship that allows events to promote stakeholders’ brand values ​​while leveraging their services and products. WM believes that inclusive collaboration across the organization creates financial, branding, operational and impact-reducing value.

Collaboration is a top priority for WM, even to the point where some clients rely on the WM Advisory Services team for programmatic support, yet still enlist other companies as official sustainability sponsors.

WM’s role in this dynamic is to ensure that environmental priorities are embedded in all event activities.

Creating authentic progress

For event sponsors, advocating for sustainability is not just about logo placement; It’s about participating with intent, action, and integrity. Authenticity and transparency are key, even as the curtain is pulled back revealing the messy, complicated processes that progress towards sustainability often requires.

WM relies on third-party validation (e.g. from the GEO Foundation and UL Zero Waste to Landfill) and internal data tracking to measure common sustainability metrics such as water use, greenhouse gas emissions and waste prevention. The company also creates reflections on outcomes, such as: B. the number of sustainability sponsors and the level of enthusiasm of the stakeholders to determine the success of the event.

Before engaging in any collaboration, stakeholders should carefully consider the intent and purpose of potential collaborators, and not be afraid to walk away if the vision doesn’t match. WM helps customers with this assessment.

Like sport, sustainability is about having good teammates. And like in sports, you can’t do it alone.

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