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  • Annabel Sides

Summer of Australian Sport + Climate Action Readiness

Updated: Jan 25, 2022

The Australian summer of sport has just keeps getting better for us here at Green Planet Sport. There is environmental change out on the field of play.

The kick off was SailGP, powered by nature, racing on the iconic Sydney Harbour from 17th-18th December, 2021.

One of my favourite things about this organisation is its strong governance structure that enables all involved in the sport to take part in environmental and social initiatives. This includes teams competing for two podium places, one for their on the water success and the second for their Impact League efforts, programs in clean energy and educational outreach. The Impact League tracks the positive actions teams make to reduce their overall carbon footprint and help accelerate inclusivity in sailing. As an organisation "SailGP'S target is to accelerate the transition to clean energy and be the most sustainable and purpose-driven sports and entertainment property. We champion a world Powered by Wind // Powered By Sun // Powered By Water. Because we believe sport has the power to change the world. Its in our DNA and it's our reason for being."

SailGP is a signatory to the United Nations Sports for Climate Action Framework (UNS4CAF) and was quick to be one of the first signatories to the frameworks step up from 5 Principles for change to Race to Zero Targets[1]. SailGP was also a prominent voice on the power of sport to influence climate action during discussions at COP26.

From an Australian perspective SailGP represents the leading sport and sustainability team from our shores. Tom Slingsby (2021 World Sailor of the Year, CEO and Driver) and his team have an Impact league partnership with Parley Oceans.

“Parley is supporting and advising the team through the Impact League, helping them to maximise their efforts to create changes ranging from the removal of single-use plastics to the use of clean energy. The partnership is ensuring genuine systematic change with its approach led by collaboration and eco-innovation, and through the Parley AIR Strategy: Avoid, Intercept, Redesign.”[2] You can read more about the project and the impact activities during the Sydney race at Parley - Racing For The Future.

Keep reading, Parley Oceans features again this summer.

Before we get to that though, we can’t go past the iconic summer of cricket and The Ashes where the playbook for partnerships is changing.

Cricket Australia, with a new CEO at the helm, some very socially attuned board members and fresh off an English season of cricket are probably the next best placed sports body (outside of the AOC – more about that soon) to really understand the impacts of climate change on their game, the international momentum for sport to play their part in becoming environmentally sustainable and, to support their fans to do the same.[3] It shows.

In a new partnership between Cricket Australia, certified B Corp 4 Pines Brewing Co, Landcare Australia and the Australian Men’s Ashes team opened the Ashes Series with a commitment to plant 4 trees for every 4 runs across the Ashes series, up to 44,444 trees.[4]

What stands out about this partnership is it demonstrates thinking outside the box, being open to new ideas and caring about climate change and its impact on the cricket community and the planet. The advertising of the partnership was well done. There were two commercials;

The first focused in on why regreening Australia is an important climate action. Pat Cummins, Ashes Captain, who also has a passion for the environment featured during the voice over, planting out trees in (and using) his cricket gear. Pat is authentic (and amazingly talented) as an athlete and actor for a better climate future. We can not underestimate his influence to normalise climate action within the cricket fandom. This fandom comes from all walks of life, which means all walks of life have just been made more aware of climate change and nature based solutions.

The second, delivered in a quintessential summer of cricket style, delivered 3 messages from a group of 4 Pines drinking, green tracksuit clad, diverse fans. The messages were pick up litter, Pledge 1% and wear a matching tracksuit. What is significant about these 3 messages is that it targets different fans and their levels of climate awareness and readiness to act. It shows that everyone can do something to have an impact. Pick up litter starts bringing into fans consciousness where waste comes from. A quick pick up on the beach (we call it an #emubob) can uncover goggles, tennis balls, surf board fins, beach apparel labels and tags, plus, the usual plastic wrap. 1% for the Planet (of which 4 Pines is a member) is a global organisation that exists to ensure the planet and future generations thrive. Members pledge 1% of profits for social and environmental causes. Pledge 1% starts fans in business thinking about their own commitment to the environment. And, a matching tracksuit, well, have you seen the crowd at the cricket?

At series end it’s an Ashes win to Australia and a win for the environment. Let’s not forget the English Team may not have been successful on the field, however they are no less concerned about the future our current climate trajectory holds for their sport. There are researchers, athletes, journalists, administrators and community cricket players in the UK taking action to mitigate and adapt in a progressive and authentic way.

So it is game on in the sport and environment stakes now as the Australian Open starts.[5]

On the 11th January, Adidas launched its latest Tennis apparel range, inspired by the spectacular Great Barrier Reef, the new collection highlights the commitment at Adidas to help end plastic waste through product innovations and sustainable design.

The launch was a bold activation.

A floating tennis court, with iconic Australian sports personalities, playing tennis, on the Great Barrier Reef. The Reef is iconic and it is also knocking on the door of extinction from changes in ocean temperatures, acidity and being suffocated by plastic debris. Adidas is a signatory to the UN Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action. Its new range is made from Parley Ocean Plastic. The partnership with Parley has been growing over 5 years and is again a demonstration of how diverse partnerships in sport can be.[6]

What we love about the Parley partnerships is that Parley AIR focuses on Avoid, Intercept and Repurpose. This reminds us that there is no "away"for plastics. They must be avoided first and then kept tightly in a closed loop. In the words of Ian Thorpe.

“When this [event] came up, I actually put my hand up and said to Adidas that this something I’d really like to be a part of,” says Thorpe “I see the water as being this really equitable space.”

“When we remember our holidays as kids, there’s usually a beach that is related to that – hot sand, running into the ocean. It becomes quite emotive.”

“So when we look at what’s happening and the fact that we can go back to some of those remote places and find plastic at the beaches, it can be quite overwhelming,” he continues. “Plastic is the only thing that doesn’t have an end life to it. It will exist in the environment forever. Everything else will, at some point, break down and die. Plastic doesn’t. And it needs to be addressed.”[7]

There was some flack on Instagram about the floating plastic court, the location impacting the reef and the potential of tennis balls floating out to sea. Adidas responded well. The court is going to a school in Townsville, the reef was protected, the balls were collected by surf lifesavers.

Did you know that this summer you can also recycle your tennis balls? Game On Recycling is a combined effort by Wilson Sporting Goods Co and Australian New Zealand Recycling Platform through an Australian Government from the National Product Stewardship Investment Funds. Tennis clubs can participate as collection points. To find out where you can drop off those tennis balls, well eaten by the dog and that just keep getting stuck in the mower visit Game On Recycling or follow them on Instagram. You can also check out Alex Deminaur in a sea of tennis balls (showing how tennis ball recycling might make life easier for him off the court!)

In Australia, 2021 also brought us;

- The Cool Down and the AFLP4CA, demonstrating just how concerned our athletes are about climate change. We really respect and appreciate how closely both these organisations connect First Nations stewardship, connection to country and healing of country to athlete voice and caring for the environment. We have also seen many Australian athletes involved in calls for action including Emma McKeon in #DearLeadersOftheWorld, Rhydian Cowley in World Athletics inspirational #WeCanStillFixThis, many have signed up to be part of the Athletes of the World movement and there was a strong Australian representation that signed the Open Letter from Rugby Internationals to World Rugby, encouraging and supporting them to take a stronger stance on climate action, including climate justice. Today World Rugby announced its Environmental Sustainability Plan 2030, it is well worth a read for all in Australian Sport. There has also been an increasing number of Australian athletes joining the ranks of EcoAthletes

- An Environmental Sustainability Strategy was launched by Bowls Australia (also a UNS4CAF signatory)

- The first Australian signatory to the UNS4CAF Race To Zero targets, Richmond Football Club (The Tigers). The club launched its new program Richmond Green: lets play today, for tomorrow. The program has includes a raft of climate actions taken by the club and activities for members that support the clubs commitment to climate activation. A full run down can be found on their website. A significant program of work that has been evolving over several years is the clubs partnership with the WWF in conservation to support threatened species and club mascot, the Tiger. There is a great case study about the project that has been put together by Sports Environment Alliance Australia (SEA) if you would like to read about it. We are really excited to see what the internal working committee, Richmond Environmental Action Team (REACT) has in store in 2022.

- Sports Environment Alliance Australia is increasing its membership and has a new board well connected into sport.

- We are seeing the first sport and environmental sustainability roles being advertised within Australian Sports business. This shows an appetite for rapid change.

- Australian Sports icons are refusing to stay in their lane and be silenced on ESG issues. We hope to see a growing number of these amazing athletes be elected to the senate following our next federal election.

There are many other achievements. There are many sports who are just getting on with it, knowing that a better climate future is everyone’s business. You know who you are and you are appreciated.

2022 is also the start of the 10 year legacy run in to Brisbane 2032. The IOC has committed to all Olympic Games from 2030 to be climate positive. Brisbane has a lot to deliver on. The IOC is firmly committed to the environment, supporting OCOGS, NOCs, Paralympians and Olympians to lean in and work hard in this space. We have only until 2030 to change our trajectory and keep warming within 1.5 degrees. The recent 2022 World Economic Forum report on risks, indicates strongly that climate and biodiversity are critical areas of action, so, Brisbane 2032, let’s make it a green legacy.

We know that sport in Australia has a long way to go, sports organisations and people are not climate scientists, however they have something else on their side…as we are in a race to keep warming below 1.5degress and halt biodiversity destruction……where better to show how a race can be won, even from behind, than through the Gritt, Determination and Magic that athletes and the sport network have to be able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. In Australia we punch above our weight on the international sport scene. Australian Sport, its time to do this again, to ride the wave and speak up about what you are doing, big or small as every bit counts .

The opportunities in this space are there for the bold. The reward? A planet to play on.

Sports smallest fans and future athletes, our children, are counting on all of us.

Green Planet Sport would love to talk to you about sport and climate, join the conversation, give us a call and follow us on socials.

NOTE: Since writing this article here are some updates.

It was revealed during the 2022 Australian Open that a multi year partnership arrangement with Santos (who in Feb 2021 “joined the Australian Open and ATP Cup family as Official Natural Gas Partner”.) was terminated. Full details are yet to be disclosed. This is significant as it send a powerful message to Australian Sport, that engaging in partnerships with fossil fuel companies is coming to an end. For sport to stay relevant it must be respectful of the planet, young people and front line communities who are already impacted and will be impacted most by climate change. How? By engaging in #ESG strategy that is purpose driven to restore natural capital and keep warming below 1.5 degrees.#SGDs, #racetozero #UNS4CAF #circulareconomy #generationrestoration #generationequity. Read more about the partnership changes at Tennis Australia here

You can also read more about the impact of climate change on Australian Sport here and and transitioning away from fossil fuel partnerships here.

Annabel Sides (She/Her) | Founder | Green Planet Sport

[1] [2] [3] To read about the report visit To download the report visit [4] [5] Tennis Australia is a signatory to the UNS4CAF principles, and although they are yet to sign up to the new targets, they have been working at increasing the sustainability of the Australian Open for many years. This is not the focus in this article. [6] [7] article by Jessica Bailey

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