This year’s Laureus Sport For Good Index celebrates the positive impact being made through sport by brands from a variety of sectors. SportsPro looks at how the class of 2022 are leading their industries in sustainability and using sport to further their purpose-led objectives.
Improving access to sports participation for women and girls, underprivileged youth and marginalised communities. Fundraising for disaster relief efforts and charities working to support displaced citizens in active warzones. Applying technology solutions to help sports organisations and venue operators reduce their carbon emissions and encourage event-goers to make more sustainable choices.
Those are just some of the ways the brands recognised in this year’s Laureus Sport For Good Index are using their respective platform and investments in sport to bring about positive social and environmental change.
Released this week, the second edition of the Index features 29 brands from multiple industry sectors, including sports goods and apparel, consumer products, technology, energy, financial services and transport. Between them, these brands are making a tangible difference through innovation, creativity, and a commitment towards building a more prosperous and equitable society.
Through their partnerships in sport, each of the companies is implementing social and environmental sustainability initiatives that are material to their business and intended to benefit both people and the planet. With a clear focus across the triple bottom line, their approaches and investments differ in many ways, but what unites them is a shared purpose to drive meaningful progress through sport for good campaigns.
Here, SportsPro breaks down this year’s Laureus Sport For Good Index by sector to identify how the class of 2022 are leading their industries and using sport as a vehicle to achieve long-term, purpose-led objectives.
Sports goods and apparel
The Laureus Sport For Good Index recognises brands doing good work from within sport as well as those investing from outside the industry. As such, sports goods and apparel brands are well represented once again this year, with 12 companies – 41 per cent of the total – hailing from this all-important endemic sector.
It is no secret that sportswear manufacturers and retailers have a pivotal role to play in setting the tone and creating value for the sports industry. For legions of fans, they are the most visible touchpoints through which sport is experienced and fandom is expressed in their everyday lives. What’s more, leagues and clubs across all sports rely on them for financing and the provision of technical gear, not to mention their sprawling distribution networks and unmatched marketing clout.
Such is their scale and influence that tip-of-the-tongue global brands like Nike and Adidas wield considerable responsibility to lead by example. By implementing more sustainable business practices, developing more eco-friendly products, putting out responsible messaging and inspiring future generations with viral marketing campaigns, they have the power to be forces for good in industries where manufacturing and supply chains span the entire globe but remain opaque and widely scrutinised.
There is no single common thread that unites the work of each of the sports apparel brands that feature in the Index. Priorities and ambitions differ, of course, but what is clear is that they are all purpose-driven companies – some are certified B Corps – that are using their sport for good activities to achieve broader ESG-related business objectives.
From Patagonia, the poster child for corporate activism, to Hummel, recently named Denmark’s most sustainable clothing brand for the third year running, these companies have plenty to teach others about what it means to run a socially conscious business.
In their messaging and advertising, in the way they choose to do business and manufacture products, in their ability to embed themselves into the hearts and minds of people young and old, consumer-facing brands hold unique influence over consumer behaviour and everyday purchasing decisions.
In sport, brands are using that influence in myriad ways. Indeed, the five consumer products companies on this year’s Index – Clif Bar, EA Sports, Lego, Rexona and SunGod – are working to highlight and tackle a broad range of issues, from gender equality and food security to ocean conservation and youth education.
Clif Bar in particular has long been a leader in corporate social responsibility (CSR), having made sustainability a central focus of its brand ethos for three decades. But what sets these businesses apart is the manner in which they measure and report their impact.
As well as putting forth clear mission statements and eye-catching campaigns that seek to engage mass market consumers, all of them were highly commended by the Index judging panel for the depth and breadth of the data they capture and the specific outcomes they publicise around their respective projects.
As critical service providers, technology companies provide the technological backbone upon which much of sport’s physical and digital architecture is built. Yet many are now using their partnerships in sport for a higher purpose, one that goes beyond the mere provision of software and hardware.
Through the innovative deployment of technology solutions, these companies are applying their expertise and services for all manner of good causes, not least female empowerment. In collaboration with various sports partners and non-profits, for example, Microsoft is operating STEM-based educational programmes for young girls and using its Teams co-working platform to facilitate connections between elite athletes and a global community of female fans.
Like Microsoft, Google has also been particularly active to women’s sport. As a WNBA changemaker and official partner of the International Basketball Federation (Fiba), the tech giant is taking steps to boost the visibility and discoverability of women’s basketball content, part of its broader commitment to achieving more balanced gender representation in the media.
Elsewhere SAP is helping organisations of all kinds – from elite entities like the National Hockey League (NHL) and Mercedes-EQ Formula E team to grassroots sports clubs – to monitor and reduce their ecological footprint through cloud-based platforms and tools. Meanwhile lesser-known firms like Rubicon, Xylem and Xero are doing equally impactful work in this space behind the scenes, helping to enhance awareness and education around issues that directly affect both their businesses and society at large.
Another sector drawn to women’s sport is financial services. The two finance companies that feature on this year’s Index, Allianz and Visa, are both heavily invested in female properties and athletes, and both are using their investments to support broader ESG objectives relating to diversity, equity and inclusion.
FC Bayern main partner Allianz is aiming to improve gender diversity through campaigns like its ‘All Are United’ initiative and Allianz Sports Fund, while Visa, a Uefa Women’s Football partner since 2018, is running various dedicated women’s soccer projects and has launched The Second Half, a programme which supports female soccer players in Europe as they consider their post-playing careers.
While neither feature in the Index this year, two other financial firms recognised in 2021, Barclays and Santander, have taken similar approaches, with targeted investments in women’s soccer within their respective domestic markets of the UK and Spain. Visa rival Mastercard, another 2021 honouree, is also a prominent supporter of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in the US.
No doubt there are numerous reasons for why the finance sector is putting its money behind women’s sport – accelerating growth and the potential for commercial returns chief among them. The impact their money is having at the elite end is already apparent, but their work at the community and grassroots level through sport for good projects, if sustained in the coming years, is sure to have a far-reaching influence over time.
Energy and transport
Two further sectors represented in this year’s Index, energy and transport, are much like technology in that they primarily perform a service provider role within sport. By their nature, both industries are hardly the most ecologically sustainable when compared to many other sectors, yet some companies are clearly more committed than others to reducing the environmental impact of the sports industry.
Logistics firm Kuehne+Nagel, through its work with the likes of SailGP and the Rugby League World Cup, is driving progress towards net zero supply chains, while Nissan, the only carmaker in the Index, is actively showcasing the potential benefits of electric vehicles through its participation in Formula E.
Elsewhere energy firms Ecotricity and Iberdrola were both recognised for their work helping sports organisations to go green and promote sustainable mobility. UK-based Ecotricity partners with and powers more than 200 charities and teams such as Forest Green Rovers, dubbed the world’s greenest soccer club, with renewable energy, while Spanish firm Iberdrola is working to reduce the environmental impact of elite sports facilities, including the first City of Sustainable Football in Madrid.
Together, such initiatives have the power to dramatically accelerate the green sports movement and inspire major carbon emitters to see the benefits in adopting more sustainable practices.