Almost every sponsorship proposal looking for backing for yacht racing includes a bullet point or a slide about how the sport is environmentally friendly. Sure the main power source for the yachts is the wind, but what about the bigger picture? How many gallons of diesel are swallowed during an America’s Cup or Volvo Ocean Race start; how clean is it to build a boat; how many crewmembers are flown from New Zealand to the major sailing events?
[cleeng_content id=”818652827″ description=”99 cents or 10,000 hours. The path to being an expert can be easy or hard. ” price=”0.99″]The World Yacht Racing Forum talked to Andrew Pindar OBE, Chairman of the Pindar Group and Board Director of Earth Watch to share his thoughts in preview of a session to be held in Estoril in December.
The panel entitled: “Can Sailing Be Promoted As an Environmentally Friendly Sport?” will also feature Open 60 sailor Sam Davies, Isabelle Jahlan, Head of Sponsorship, Veolia and Joe Royle, Skipper, Plastiki Project.
Is the sport of sailing environmentally friendly?
Andrew Pindar: “The perception is clean, with often very powerful imagery of ‘man vs nature’, showcasing some of the most skilled sailors in the world taking on the elements; however the reality can be different. Yacht racing is a huge business, which like many sports involves using the most technologically advanced (and not always the most environmentally friendly) materials and widespread logistics including the transportation of boats, crew equipment and event infrastructure all over the world. It is clear that more and more companies associated with sailing, have become more environmentally responsible and there are some great campaigns that are genuinely seeking to make improvements, but there’s clearly a lot more that can be done.”
What are the key issues the sport of sailing faces from a sustainable development perspective?
Andrew Pindar: “The key is to hammer home that the responsibility lies not just with the professional teams, but to everyone associated with the sport – from the shore crew, sponsors, fans and the thousands of people who enjoy sailing on a day to day level. Simple practices like recycling and reusing materials needs to become second nature, along with a general awareness of our carbon footprint. It’s not just about the bigger issues of using carbon materials to build boats, but being conscious about everything that we do on a day-to-day level. The simplest measures like sharing a lift to an event or reusing the same water bottle, can have a long term big impact. You wouldn’t drive a car nowadays without wearing a seatbelt – it’s a similar concept that takes time to become the norm. The responsibility also lies with the event owners who need to encourage more sustainable practice and incentivise teams/ entrants to follow their lead. OC Group is a front runner in this type of activity.”
In which areas should the yacht racing industry focus in order to reduce its footprint? Can you suggest any concrete measures?
“Everyone needs to be more accountable. When Brian Thompson sailed around the world in the Vendee Globe for Bahrain Team Pindar, he set out to be carbon neutral – the Open 60 underwent a refit and was modified with key environmental issues in mind, including solar panels and wind generators. It’s was a big challenge, especially with the high consumption from the hydraulic motor used to cant the keel, however the point is that we all need to become more aware about what we are doing and how we can improve.
First of all it is important to understand the issues. The closest experience I have, has been through running my fourth generation international printing business, Pindar, which by its very nature, made us acutely aware of the impact our work was having on the environment. When we embarked on a 5-year change management programme ‘Respect the Planet’, in 2007 it became an integral part of our Corporate Social Responsibility plan and we enlisted the help of experts to advise on sustainability issues. They helped us to put together a solid remit to minimise waste, promote recycling, reduce energy consumption and harmful emissions and where possible, ensure we work with suppliers who themselves have sound environmental policies.
British yachtswoman and environmental expeditionist, Jo Royle was also a huge inspiration. We first met her following her second trip to South Georgia in the Southern Ocean, where she had returned to see the devastating effects caused by global warming. She spoke at our AlphaGraphics conference in the United States and through her experiences, challenged the way we operated.
To aid our internal communications, we formed a ‘Green Team’ consisting of employee representatives to help implement the campaign across all our sites and we also drafted a ‘Best Practice Guide’ covering the whole paper handling process, to educate colleagues throughout the business. I think the sailing industry could benefit from a similar blue print and steering committee.
To help spread the message further, we formed a partnership with EARTHWATCH, one of the world’s leading environmental organisations. They offer ongoing support and advice with our programme, whilst we help raise awareness of its Sustainable Oceans appeal, via our yachting campaigns.
It’s been a steep learning curve and we have only scratched the surface in terms of where we want to be, but to give you an example, at one of our plants we managed to reduce the volume of waste going to landfill from the factory to just 5% in 2 years. As well as ISO14001, we’ve also achieved FSC & PEFC chain of custody certification at our main printing sites, which we hope to obtain across all our sites in the near future. If the sailing industry embarks collectively on a similar journey, I’m sure we can achieve great things.”
Do you think the World Yacht Racing Forum audience – the yacht racing community – is aware of those issues, and ready to take concrete measures?
Andrew Pindar: “Absolutely, there are already many great campaigns in place, from TEAM ORIGIIN’s ‘Race for Change’ programme, Perth’s ambitions for the 2011 World Championships, the VELUX 5 OCEANS ‘Taking on the elements’ right through to individual sailors. I believe ‘measurement’ is the key issue and whilst there’s much goodwill and talk, it would be beneficial to see more results from campaigns like these. We also all need to be mindful that sailing is a commercial business, so it is important to be realistic about how quickly our ambitions can be achieved.”
What do you expect from this debate?
The World Yacht Racing Forum is the ideal platform to discuss these issues and I’m looking forward to a lively debate that will generate a better understanding of the issues we face. Collectively I hope we can set out some tangible goals to ensure that the professional sport of sailing leads the way in environmental best practice, for other sports to follow.
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