Sport Sector Gather for BASIS Conference
Posted: Mon, 23 May 2022 22:43
On 17 May approximately 130 delegates with an interest in and concern for what the sport sector can contribute to addressing climate change and environmental sustainability gathered together at The Principality Stadium in Cardiff for the British Association for Sustainability in Sport (BASIS) conference.
The conference programme was a diverse combination of keynote and case study presentations, panel discussions and workshops and networking opportunities, reflecting the scale, scope and complexity of the subject and the many different ways in which it is relevant to the sector.
Russell Seymour, BASIS Chief Executive, opened the conference by reflecting on responsibilities of and opportunities for the sport sector to demonstrate real leadership in relation to the biggest challenges currently facing humanity, emphasising the importance of sports organisations adopting strategic, whole system approaches in order to maximise its contribution.
BASIS is rapidly establishing its role as the lead body in the UK for sustainability in sport by offering guidance, accreditation standards, annual awards, training and support. BASIS is also one of the founding partners of the Sport Environment and Climate Coalition established in March.
Pavel Cenkl provided a valuable philosophical contribution to the conference by outlining the unique approach to adult education and learning at Schumacher College. Rooted in a regenerative learning ethos, the College's holistic educational approach, combining movement studies, arts, ecology and social justice, emphasises relationships between humans and the natural world, and intersections between social and ecological systems. Core to the College's work is the use of outdoor adventure environments to create opportunities for its students to experience vulnerability as a gateway towards building enhanced personal resilience.
The overriding message from a panel discussion on climate, biodiversity and waste management was that current levels of human consumption are unsustainable. Significant opportunities exist for sports organisations - professional sports clubs, event organisers in particular - to set an example to other sectors by remodelling catering provision and waste management systems at major spectator events.
Professor Mark Maslin, Professor of Earth System Science at University College London and a leading voice in the battle against climate change, suggested 8 actions for the sport sector to achieve net zero emissions.
- Set meaningful and transparent greenhouse gas reduction targets
- Switch to 100% renewable energy provision
- Engage players and fans in the sustainability agenda
- Use carbon neutral or retrofit buildings
- Offset emissions through reforestation and/or rewilding
- Link your sustainability ambitions to your supply chain
- Lobby government to support change
- Tell your fans what you are doing and achieving
Delegates were welcomed back after lunch by Laura Baldwin, former Team GB Olympic Rower and founder of Champions for Earth, who delivered an impassioned call for leaders in sports organisations to fully grasp the urgency of the challenge, as well as the opportunities presented by the transition to net zero.
Case study presentations included:
The Greener Game initiative delivered by Southampton F.C. as part of 'the club's ambitious sustainability strategy, 'The HALO Effect', in partnership with Arsenal at the Premier League game in April this year, was designed to promote awareness and behaviour change amongst fans, staff and players.
The innovative work of Motorsports UK coordinated and led by a recently appointed Sustainability Manager.
How the All-England Club and Royal Yachting Association, 2 signatories to the United Nations Sport for Climate Action Framework, are responding to the climate and environmental sustainability crises.
The sustainability work underpinning the work of the organisation of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
A second panel discussion involving Sport Positive, senior media managers from the BBC and Sky Sport and an independent filmmaker, highlighted the power and impact of storytelling in engaging with new and existing audiences in relation to climate and sustainability issues.
One issue not discussed in any detail during the conference was the role of universities. As one of the few university delegates at the conference I suggest this could usefully be conceptualised around 3 interrelated pillars:
- Curriculum development - educating and training the next generation of graduates
- Research and innovation
- Industry/community engagement and service
There are significant co-benefits to be gained by universities from engaging with this agenda. With regard to curriculum development, many universities run sport and physical activity courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels; however, curriculum developments do not have to be restricted to these courses - climate and sustainability can also be linked to wider social justice, equality, diversity and inclusion agendas, as well as providing opportunities for introducing students to systems thinking, systems dynamics and multi-solving (concepts discussed in our first climate blog).
Tackling the dual challenges of climate change and environmental sustainability requires whole system and interdisciplinary approaches, so there is plenty of scope to introduce students to these issues from multiple disciplinary angles, including sport.
In closing the conference Russell Seymour thanked all the sponsors, contributors and delegates. In reinforcing the role of BASIS, he also reminded delegates about the urgency and importance of the issues discussed during the day. After a 3-year gap, primarily due to COVID, the BASIS conference is set to become an annual event once again - details of next year's conference are due to be announced shortly.