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  • Annabel Sides

Sport West + Social Return on Investment + Climate Risk

What a fantastic report released this week by Sport West on the social return on investment for organised sport. It is significant. https://sportwest.com.au/about-us/advocacy/social-return-on-investment/


This report shows how important sport is to individuals, communities, and the economy in Western Australia (WA). Organised sport supports physical and mental health and wellbeing + employment (and more), to the tune of billions of dollars per annum.


The biggest risk to this benefit? Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss.


The Western Australia government has clearly profiled for their state how climate change will impact Sport and Active Recreation participation and infrastructure. They have taken and developed resources to help sport adapt to and mitigate climate change. They have, through grants, been supporting communites in regional areas to mitgate and adapt. Sports I hope took advantage of this oppotunity.


Visit https://www.dlgsc.wa.gov.au/department/publications/publication/climate-change for a break down of the direct and indirect impacts of climate change for sport, along with the threats and risks for society and culture of sport.


To see how sport is being resourced via government in WA it is worth reviewing the Environmental Sustainability pack. https://www.dlgsc.wa.gov.au/department/publications/publication/environmental-sustainability-pack


Putting these reports and resources side by side makes a compelling case for sport to adapt to and mitigate climate change + protect and restore nature. Compelling as to do so is critical to the communites ongoing access to the benefits that sport and physical activity provide.


Just as access to sport and physical activity is disproportionate, so to is the impact of climate change.


It is those in our community who need the physical and mental health benefits and social connection that sport provides who will be impacted first and most by climate change related losses to playable time and infrastructure and to increasing participation costs (+much more). Regional and remote communities will be some of the most severely impacted.


Climate action has social return on investment.


Climate action failure is the biggest global risk we face in the next 10 years. Climate action is the biggest opportunity we have to provide protective benefits to people, planet and prosperity, locally and globally. https://www.greenplanetsport.com.au/post/australian-sport-global-risks


Sport can be supported and commence action in many ways, for example by

- utilising information from reports and resources already available

- joining Sports Environment Alliance Australia https://www.sportsenvironmentalliance.org/ and/or the United Nations Sports for Climate Action Framework https://unfccc.int/climate-action/sectoral-engagement/sports-for-climate-action. To find out about joining either organisation simply send them an email.

- asking for support at local, state, territory, and federal levels of government to increase climate literacy (and sport ecology literacy!) for those in executive and governance roles

- sports can enable themselves by looking to appoint directors with climate positive skills.


Climate literacy at a governance level will support the industry to develop authentic and in-depth work in this space.


So, as much as this is a risk, we must flip the risk to an opportunity proposition. This will enable action rather than have the industry falter with what is otherwise an overwhelming prospect.


Conversations, collaborations and opening doors to share knowledge across the sports industry will allow us to learn from the leaders and start today.


Working more nimbly to be innovative and use the skills we have learnt from sport – to find solutions – is also critical.


Our influence in sport is vast, sport evokes our passion, “research shows you can bypass resistance to environmental messages of individuals by engaging them through their sport or team” so if you work out your membership and fan base (we all know it) and times influencing by even 25% of that group to take a climate action (a shorter shower, a meat free Monday, an active mobility trip) we can rapidly see induvial action making collective differences. [1]


As stated by - UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed “Sport has the power to align our passion, energy and enthusiasm around a collective cause. And that is precisely when hope can be nurtured and trust can be regained. It is in our collective interest to harness the tremendous power of sport to help build a better and more sustainable future for all."


And from the Internationals Day of Sport for Development and Peace, 6 April, 2022 “With the need for urgent action growing more dire every day, the relationship between sport and climate must be better understood and ways of developing policies and taking concrete action to help reverse the impact of climate change through sport must be communicated to as wide an audience as possible.”[2]


So start, and start today, aim to kick the end goal, keeping warming below 1.5 degrees and protecting and restoring our natural world in a fair and just way.




[1] Brian P. McCullough (Ph.D., Texas A&M University) during the Sport Ecology Earth Day presentation on fan engagement [2]- visit https://www.un.org/en/observances/sport-day


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