Sailing Environmental Claims Need to be More Than Talk. 2

Sailing is a ‘Green’ sport right? What could be more environmentally friendly than a boat being powered by a sustainable energy source – the wind? Well if the boat is made of carbon fibre and the crew all flew 3000 miles around the world to sail it, then the list of sports that are more environmentally friendly is pretty long – like any sport where the only equipment required is a ball.

When people in the sport of sailing say in their sponsorship proposals that sailing is an environmentally friendly sport, usually what they mean is that is is more environmentally friendly than motorsport – and when they think of motorsport they are usually thinking of F1 or powerboat racing.

On the face of it, Soccer looks more environmentally friendly than Motorsport, but for smaller motor-racing events the fuel burnt by 15 cars racing modern, efficient engines for 30 minutes is a fraction of the footprint created by 40 or 50 thousand fans driving to a football game. The comparison gets even more interesting if you consider a stadium game held under enough electric light to create the effect of daylight for a couple of hours.

Without thinking this deeply, a high-tech wind powered machine ticks all the boxes for marketing people who are about perception rather than reality. Making sailing a truly green sport means looking at the whole event, including how the spectators get to the venue and how boats and sails made of exotic materials are recycled.

There is a recognition by some in the industry that claiming green credentials means actually doing something about it. A bullet point in sponsorship proposal or issuing a press release is not enough. Here are a couple of recent examples of organisations working to deliver on their green claims.

Perth 2011’s ‘Green’ Goal…

The Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships has a stated goal to make their event environmentally sustainable and make it more than just a sentiment. The event has  partnered with climate change consultancy Greensense to help them minimise the impact of the regatta on the environment.

The evnt will establish an Environmental and Sustainability Programme, incorporating the six elements of greatest consequence to the World Championships – energy, ocean, venues, recycling, air and water. While many organisations only think about the impact of the competitors, Perth organisers are mindful of the impact of 4000 support crew and up to 500,000 spectators.

Greensense’s team will monitor and report on various facets of the Event, including travel, catering, energy use, waste management, recycling and carbon offsets, through their internationally recognised practices. Greensense Managing Director Derek Gerrard said:

“This approach will enable the organisers of the World Championships to minimise the negative environmental effects of the Event, while simultaneously maximising social and economic benefits. Taking this initiative shows that the organisers recognise the value of the environment to the community in social, environmental and economic terms and are keen to ensure its longevity.”

TEAMORIGIN Announce Environmental Policy

Much has been made of TEAMORIGIN’s Race for Change. The scope of the campaign is wide ranging with an attempt to force sponsors to sign up to strict environmental targets as part of their support for the team. Partnering with the Carbon Trust, the team will be held accountable to tough environmental standards, but apart from a couple of press announcements, there has been not a lot of visible delivery of the strategy.

Now the team has issued an Environmental Policy that sets out how the talk will be put into practise to deliver a positive impact on the sport and industry.

The key points of Race for Change are:

  • TEAMORIGIN will measure its impact on the environment and set targets for ongoing improvement, continually reducing its carbon emissions
  • TEAMORIGIN will comply with all relevant environmental legislation
  • TEAMORIGIN will ensure that all members of the team are aware of the environmental issues and support Race for Change
  • TEAMORIGIN will work to inspire action on climate change within the sport, marine industry and wider and encourage the adoption of similar principles by its, suppliers, partners and supporters

More specifically TEAMORIGIN will:

  • Monitor, manage and reduce its energy usage
  • Actively manage travel and transportation to reduce carbon emissions as far as practicable
  • Minimise waste through efficient use of materials and energy, reducing, reusing and recycling where possible
  • Use sustainable products and services where feasible that minimise the environmental impact of both production and distribution e.g recycled, FSC, renewable energy
  • Reduce risks from environmental hazards for team members, others and the environment in the vicinity of our operations
  • Train team members in good environmental practice and encourage employee involvement in environmental action
  • Work with suppliers to promote positive environmental actions
  • Continually improve our environmental performance by setting objectives, actions and targets
  • Communicate our policy within the team and to the public
  • Work towards achieving the Carbon Trust Standard
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  • jeffreitz

    It's good to see some companies (teams/yacht clubs/regattas included) actually walking the walk here rather than just puffing up some non-data driven greenwashing.

    It'll be interesting to watch Team Origin's actual practiced focus on this as a professional team (are there any pro teams in other sports on to green initiatives?) – and how it will play out when it comes to their competitors' stance on going green. Hell, even if they choose some of the gear from “green” apparel company SailProud ( ), they'd at least have some kind impact.

    – Jeff