Our influence can lead to wiser choices
In the past year, we’ve seen important cultural and social issues reach a new level of prominence in the media and in our communities. Sport has been a particularly powerful platform for bringing attention to a number of these social injustices and realities. I am very encouraged by the productive dialogue and progress that we, as a society and a sports community, have made.
However, as I enjoy what is another beautiful spring day here in Atlanta, I’m reminded of the land on which we live, build and play sports. The natural ecosystem and environment that surrounds us is too often overlooked and underrepresented in the conversation of what we as a sports industry can do to better the world around us.
Our businesses, athletes, associates, and fans depend on a stable climate to support healthy communities and a thriving economy. Seasons are drifting away from the expected and increasingly becoming unusual and extreme. One only needs to look at the past year and the $306 billion in damage caused by devastating natural disasters in the United States including floods, wildfires, mudslides and hurricanes — all of which were fueled in some ways by climate change.
Snow sports and hockey enthusiasts don’t need to be convinced. They see it and live it in real time. Other sports and athletes are beginning to feel the impact of the destabilizing climate as our communities and loved ones get hit by devastating flooding, droughts, storms and other disasters. The future well-being of our industry and that of our planet compels us to bring these issues into the spotlight.
It’s well-documented that our fans care about the environment. Fans expect that we as sports teams and leagues are doing the right thing and following environmentally responsible practices. But, are we doing everything we can and could we be doing more to engage our fans in combating climate change?
During this past season, the U.S. Green Building Council certified Mercedes-Benz Stadium as the first LEED Platinum professional sports stadium in North America. We received more certification points than any other sports project ever thanks to innovative design features such as the advanced storm water management system that captures rain water on site to mitigate flooding, which has historically been a significant issue in the historic Westside communities that we neighbor. We also partnered with Novelis to build a Habitat for Humanity home financed solely by 3 million cans that our fans recycled at Atlanta United and Falcons games. In a short eight months of operating the building, we donated and recycled more than 27,000 pounds of food from stadium events to feed the underserved in our community.
This is proof that it is possible to have meaningful brand engagement with our fans and partners to make environmentally wise choices on how to build and operate our venues. We can improve our bottom line by reducing operating costs, activating corporate partners and engaging fans.
The sports industry yields unprecedented cultural influence that can be used for good by raising environmental awareness and inspiring action on the scale that’s necessary to make meaningful changes.
I’m excited to be participating in the Green Sports Alliance Summit June 26-27 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta to help spotlight these critical issues facing our planet. Today, nearly 600 teams, leagues, venues, colleges, universities and individuals have joined the alliance and are making environmentally intelligent decisions on how we operate our venues and engage our fans. That’s real progress and we look forward to learning from you and furthering the conversation.
We can sit on the sidelines as spectators or we can get in the game. Given the competitive nature of our athletes, teams and leagues, I can’t imagine any of us choosing to sit on the sidelines for this challenge.
Arthur Blank is chairman and owner, Blank Family of Businesses.