“Going to Gemba” is an ongoing series of industry forums, which bring together leaders from the sport and entertainment sector to explore developing trends. This year’s iteration, “Playing The Long Game”, focussed on the growing role of sport in environmental sustainability. As part of the event, Gemba presented bespoke research into sports fans’ attitudes around sustainability and explored the role sports organisations, players and brands have inspiring and instigating positive change.
We were joined by two international guest speakers from organisations taking a lead in this space: Celine Del Genes (Global Vice-President, Specialist Sports, adidas) and Scott Jenkins (General Manager, Mercedes Benz Stadium), who shared insights from their experience in addressing environmental challenges.
Celine revealed the motives and drivers behind adidas’ global sustainability initiatives; from shoes made from recycled plastic, to “closed-loop” manufacturing of high-performance footwear that is designed to be remade again and again rather than thrown away once worn out.
As a globally recognised brand, adidas believes it has a responsibility to be a leader in tackling environmental issues. It also recognises the power of athletes to influence opinions and change lives. While it is a topic that resonates with all segments, Celine highlighted that “the creator generation are more aware of the issues than ever”; highlighting the need for immediate action.
Celine spoke about the investment trade-off that exists when executing sustainable initiatives and why the long-term benefits outweigh the inevitable challenges and complexities. She touched on adidas’ desire to reduce its environmental footprint and how the philosophy is being adopted in relationships with partners and suppliers. It was clear that strong partnerships have been a key factor in adidas’ ability to create meaningful change and that consumers have embraced the concept of environmentally sustainable products.
With several elite sporting venues currently being redeveloped across Australia (including high-profile Marvel Stadium, Allianz Stadium and ANZ Stadium projects), it was timely to have Scott Jenkins shed light on what makes Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta one of the most sustainable stadium in the world.
Scott provided an overview of the initial concept and business case for the stadium as well as the structural features that reduce impacts on the environment and allowed the venue to exceed the requirements for Platinum LEED certification. Our key takeaway from Scott’s presentation was that the future role of sustainable venues will extend beyond match day experiences to encompass creating more sustainable ways of living within our communities. “Business as usual is not near good enough,” he said, and spoke of the next level of sustainability initiatives in “regenerative” infrastructure that itself makes a positive impact on the environment, rather than simply trying to reduce impact.
Our very own Head of Strategy and Insights, Craig Roberts, was the final speaker for the morning. Craig presented the findings from Gemba’s research into Australian sports fans and their attitudes towards environmental sustainability. Craig addressed what the sports fans of tomorrow are passionate about and the role sports organisations have in instigating positive changes on a global scale. He also spoke about actions that Gemba are taking as a business to make a difference on sustainability in our industry.
With 72% of Australian Sports Fanatics passionate about environmental sustainability, our view is that the sport industry has a unique opportunity, and we would argue a responsibility, to play a lead role in combating environmental challenges – harnessing extreme passion for extreme action as advocates and drivers of behaviour change for environmental sustainability.