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Volume 23 No. 13
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'Green' survey results

Green Sports Alliance survey shows that sustainability efforts continue to catch on in sports, but cost perceptions thwart growth

SportsBusiness Journal partnered with the Green Sports Alliance to survey its members and assess the state of — and perceptions and attitudes toward — sustainability efforts in sports.

The GSA works with leagues, teams, venues, events and others to promote recycling, energy and water conservation, local sourcing, safer chemicals and other practices that benefit the environment.

The survey results show that green initiatives continue to face many of the same challenges and perceptions that have kept such practices from becoming more widespread.

Upfront cost was clearly identified as the leading obstacle to implementing green initiatives. Along those lines, close to half reported that their biggest investment in sustainability was over $250,000.

“Everybody wants to contribute and do their part, but when the financials aren’t there, it’s harder for them to do their part,” said Nikolay Panchev, senior vice president of research at Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, which administered the survey.

Among other key takeaways:

Recycling, LED lighting and energy efficiency upgrades were the most popular sustainability initiatives — more than three quarters of members reported involvement in them. Roughly two out of three are involved in food donation and composting. “These are the more palatable investments both in terms of cost and how much effort and hours you are going to have to introduce to commit to this,” Panchev said.

Roughly 60 percent have sold sponsorships that include “green” assets. That reflects a growing new piece of inventory. “They are starting to figure this out,” Panchev said.

Members appear wary of the sports industry’s perceptions of sustainability initiatives as simply “green washing” public relations moves. While GSA members said they engaged in sustainability because they felt it was their responsibility to be good stewards, they also said they did so to cut costs. In comparison, 35 percent described the overall view in the sports industry toward sustainability initiatives as PR, and only 8 percent think the overall industry views the efforts as a cost-saving measure.

The online survey was distributed among the GSA’s approximately 375 members and a total of 63 participated, representing venues, teams, leagues and events. The data was collected from April 25 to May 15. Turnkey administered the survey and processed the results. See the results on the pages that follow.

Who they are

Their organization:

League 8%
Venue 41%
Team 49%
Event 2%

Average per event attendance at their organization:

Less than 5,000 6%
5,001 to 15,000 18%
15,001 to 35,000 49%
35,001 to 60,000 14%
60,001 to 100,000 10%
100,001 and above 3%

Their role:

Facility operations 57%
Administration 11%
Community relations 6%
Communications / public relations 3%
Event management 2%
Marketing and sales 2%
Programming and production 2%
Sponsorship 3%
Strategy 2%
Other 13%
Does your organization have a person/group solely dedicated to developing and overseeing sustainability initiatives?
Yes 57%
No 43%

Hot spots and obstacles

Which categories offer the most promise for substantial cost savings and reducing your organization's impact on the environment?
(Respondents could make up to three choices.)
Energy efficiency upgrades 70%
LED lighting 56%
Recycling 41%
Heating/cooling system upgrades 30%
Composting 24%
Water reclamation/reuse 24%
Solar energy 14%
Green cleaning program 11%
Improved public transportation access 8%
Local sourcing for food and other supplies 8%
Green roofing systems 2%
Hybrid/electric vehicles 2%
What sustainability initiatives has your organization been involved with?
(Respondents could select all that apply.)
Recycling 94%
LED lighting 83%
Energy efficiency upgrades 78%
Food donation 67%
Composting 65%
Heating/cooling system upgrades 54%
E-Waste collection drives 48%
Using players/brand to advocate green-supportive initiatives 48%
Local sourcing for food and other supplies 44%
Solar energy 33%
Hybrid/electric vehicles 32%
Improved public transportation access 32%
Water reclamation/reuse 25%
Green roofing systems 13%

What is the main obstacle to your organization being involved in more sustainability initiatives?

Upfront cost 48%
Overall lack of interest/inertia within the organization 11%
Insufficient cost savings (power bills, water bills, etc.) 10%
Lack of buy-in from venue contractors 6%
Lack of interest/support from fans 6%
Lack of support from upper management 5%
Insufficient/unreliable technology 3%
Lack of sponsor support 3%
Other 8%

What is the biggest investment your organization has made in equipment and building changes tied to sustainability initiatives?

Less than $100,000 29%
$100,000-$249,999 24%
$250,000-$499,999 11%
$500,000-$749,999 7%
$750,000-$999,999 0%
$1 million or more 29%

Perceptions and attitudes

Which statement most accurately describes the overall view in the sports industry toward sustainability initiatives?

The right thing to do 43%
A public relations/fan engagement move 35%
An emerging revenue-generation opportunity 14%
A cost-saving measure 8%
Sponsorship revenue opportunity 0%

Which statement describes your organization's motivations toward sustainability initiatives?
(Respondents could select all that apply.)

The right thing to do 68%
A cost-saving measure 64%
A public relations/fan engagement move 49%
Sponsorship revenue opportunity 25%
An emerging revenue-generation opportunity 24%
Point of differentiation 22%

How important are sustainability efforts … ?

  Not at all important Not very important Somewhat important Very important Extremely important
At your organization 0% 10% 33% 38% 19%
Among your fan base 0% 22% 60% 16% 2%
Among your sponsors 3% 22% 49% 22% 3%

How has the level of interest in sustainability efforts changed in the past five years ... ?

  Much less interested Somewhat less interested Stayed the same Somewhat more interested Much more interested
At your organization 0% 3% 16% 37% 44%
Among your fan base 0% 3% 25% 67% 5%
Among your sponsors 2% 2% 38% 51% 8%

Green sponsorships

Does your organization have sponsorship space carved out specifically as a “green” category?

Yes 38%
No 62%

What is the average value of sponsorships your organization has sold that have included a sustainability initiative?

Less than $5,000 0%
$5,000-$19,999 19%
$20,000-$49,999 5%
$50,000-$74,999 19%
$75,000 or more 57%
Has your organization ever sold a sponsorship that has included a sustainability initiative as …
(Respondents could select all that apply.)
… a part of a bigger deal 41%
…one of the cornerstones of the sponsorship package 24%
… the main asset of the sponsorship package 21%
None of these 43%

Goals and best practices

Which of the following is your No. 1 priority in waste diversion?

Recycling 46%
Composting 30%
Source reduction 14%
Food donations 6%
N/A, we do not currently implement any of these practices 3%

What benefits do you hope to realize through your recycling and composting activities?
(Respondents could select all that apply.)

Good stewardship 84%
Educating fans 70%
Reducing operating costs 70%
Enhancing our brand 64%
Compliance with state or local requirements 25%
Other 5%

What benefits do you hope to realize through energy and water efficiency initiatives?
(Respondents could select all that apply.)

Reducing operating costs 92%
Good stewardship 86%
Enhancing our brand 57%
Educating fans 54%
Compliance with state or local requirements 24%

What techniques or practices do you employ to manage facility energy use?
(Respondents could select all that apply.)

Adopted organizational goal to reduce energy use 49%
Adopted facility management goal to reduce energy use 44%
Installed sub meters on key building systems 43%
Installed building energy management system 40%
Installed renewable energy on site 30%
Benchmark using EnergyStar Portfolio Manager 29%
Hire outside firm to conduct an audit or commission the building 27%
Encourage staff to pursue certifications and ongoing education and training 25%
Invested in a power purchase agreement or purchased green power 22%
Benchmark using private sector developed tools 21%
Utilized utility or public financing to support retrofits 21%
Designated an energy manager 11%