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Carbon accounting in sport and why it matters

Find out how responsible carbon accounting in sport can improve your reputation and support investor relations.

Jack from Carbon Responsible's Team

Jack Thistlethwayte

Climate Risk Analyst

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Last month we attended BASIS Sustainable Sport Conference where we heard about leadership and action, reducing emissions, protecting nature, sustainability in broadcasting and sponsorship, and how to inspire and engage the public in the radical change we need.  

The conference made very clear how climate change is visibly impacting the spectator sports scene here in the UK and it’s made us evermore committed to supporting our clients with expert policy and regulatory advice.  

Here are a few photos captured by Jack, our Climate Risk Analyst: 

BASIS 2024

Jack comments: “Among numerous high-achieving sustainable sports clubs, one common theme in their approach is a noticeable reluctance to let short-term ambition get in the way of material progress. 

They would rather ensure and establish stringent and robust baselines before expanding, than go with industry trends and set targets for areas and emission sources they are not yet ready to tackle.”  

This sentiment is echoed across our client base with understanding of data and areas of material control being the most critical starting point to any net zero strategy. 

What is carbon accounting in sport? 

According to Rapid Transition Alliance the size of the global sports industry has been calculated at around $500 billion a year. Global GDP is $85 trillion which means that sport is about 0.6% of the global economy which is responsible for 50 to 60 billion tonnes of CO2e. Sport may be less carbon intensive than some economic sectors – like concrete production – but it also very heavy on aviation. 

Carbon accounting enables sports clubs, associations, venues and sporting bodies to measure, monitor and reduce their carbon footprint over time.  

Think of the sports you play or watch – it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The challenge that many stakeholders face, is the environmental impact of sporting events is often complex and tricky to audit. Carbon reporting includes measuring emissions from: 

  • Transportation to and from events by athletes, staff and spectators  
  • Construction and use of sporting venues and facilities  
  • Supply chains for merch and sports equipment  
  • Food and beverage procurement, distribution and waste disposal at events 

Let’s put sports emissions into context by looking at these sporting events and their associated carbon emissions:  

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 was not only heavy on flying, but there was considerably more construction work than at the other World Cups, accounting for 20 per cent of emissions alone (play the game) 

Screenshot 2024-04-25 at 15.26.42

Tokyo Olympics 2020  – The International Olympics Committee (IOC) estimated that the total carbon footprint was 1.96 million tCO2e, of which most of the emissions came from business travel.  
 

Wimbledon 2023 Championship set a new record for attendance, with 532,651 guests passing through the gates making it the UKs most popular sporting event. Its carbon footprint is 35,894 tonnes of CO2e , 84% of emissions come from fans travelling to the tournament.

A quick glance at the above carbon emissions shows the massive impact of sports can have on the environment – this is happening at a grassroots and global level. 

blog – sport – 1024

Why does carbon accounting in sport matter? 

The regulatory pressure is ratcheting up all the time, not just globally but nationally. Last year we saw the UK Government set a new call for evidence on non-financial reporting disclosures, coupled with Net Zero transition plans rules coming into play very soon.  

At Innovation Zero in 2023, our Founder and CEO, Hugo Kimber discussed confidence in carbon reporting alongside Hannah Mansour, Sustainability Lead at Arsenal F.C.  

 Hannah explained her two key drivers to do more carbon reporting: 

  1. Sense of responsibility: as a football club with a global brand and considerable fan following, they have a responsibility to be doing the right thing for the environment and are focused on using their platform to encourage others to start their net zero journey 
  1. Opportunity to get in front of regulatory pressure: While their income hasn’t been sufficient to mandate a lot of the reporting, the opportunity to get ahead of regulatory pressure is massive. They rely on commercial sponsors for a big part of their revenue, and increasingly they’re looking to partner with organisations that show meaningful action in this space, 

Hannah commented: “For me, meaningful action starts with really understanding the data and being able to report and be transparent about what we do. The business case still needs to be there for the significant investment needed to make the changes, but the appetite is certainly strong for us to take a leadership position.” 

 

Benefits to clubs looking to invest in their carbon disclosure? 

Hannah draws on some key benefits that comes with responsible carbon accounting; the main one being the positive impact it has on key stakeholders. It opens up interesting conversations with club supporters, suppliers and even your local authority who will often have a strong agenda around emission reductions.  

There are genuine cost savings that can be had by looking at your clubs scope 1, 2 plus supply chain inefficiencies. Premier League clubs, like Arsenal FC, have considerable facilities with a big demand for energy which is key contributor to emissions. 

Where the business case is very straightforward to get CFO buy-in is where you’re showing emission reduction (within stadiums for examples) aligns with cost savings.  

The benefits are more apparent, especially when the price of energy fluctuates so much, the business case has become easier to prove that some of that upfront capex investment required to make those changes will pay dividends in the long run. 

 If you’re looking for support with your carbon accounting, please reach out to us: info@carbonresponsible.com or phone us 020 8712 1162 

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