As the worldwide insurance partner of both the Olympic and Paralympic movements until 2028, Allianz is working to engage fans, athletes, teams and employees through health initiatives in markets across the globe. In Australia, for example, the German financial services company supported the national Olympic committee’s Wellbeing Week in 2020 to showcase ways to improve mental health, while in France its support for ‘Club Paris 2024’ encourages people to get active and be part of the forthcoming Games.
Through its Allianz Sports Fund, the firm has pledged UK£100,000 in the form of grants of up to UK£3,000 for grassroots sports clubs in the UK. This year, the initiative will provide support to help clubs meet their obligations, continue to provide opportunities within their local community and alleviate the financial impact as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. That fund is just a small fraction of a broader corporate giving programme that amounted to some €50 million in 2020.
Environmental sustainability is also a key area of focus for Allianz, whose sports sponsorship portfolio includes deals with the likes of Formula E, the Drone Racing League, MotoE and several elite soccer stadiums. Having installed its first chief sustainability officer in January, the company has set out mandatory ESG targets for each of its operating entities in more than 70 countries and committed to becoming net zero by 2050. It has also put sustainability at the centre of its core business activities, channelling billions of dollars of investment towards helping companies ensure sustainable business practices improve their financial performance.
A certified B Corp, Gap’s Athleta female sportswear brand is among a new wave of businesses balancing purpose and profit. Comprising a team of athletes and designers, the company’s stated aim is to ‘ignite the limitless potential of all women and girls’ through sports.
Its most high-profile athlete endorsers include gymnastics icon Simone Biles and track and field great Alysson Felix, the latter of whom joined forces with Athleta in 2019 and has since gone on to play a central role in the company’s Power of She campaign. Last year, the pair launched a first-of-its kind grant programme to support athlete mothers, committing US$200,000 to help fund childcare costs for female athletes travelling between competitions.
Prior to that, in 2020, the Power of She Fund partnered with the Women’s Sport Foundation to put US$2 million towards organisations that ‘fuel confidence through movement and connection’. Among those that received grants were Afro Flow Yoga, Black Girls Run and Girls in the Game, which encourages young girls to try new activities.
From a sustainability standpoint, Athleta previously set itself a number of targets to meet by 2020 in relation to water conservation and waste diversion. Those involved making 80 per cent of materials with sustainable fibres, producing 25 per cent of products using water-saving techniques and diverting 80 per cent of store waste from landfill. That environmental focus is in keeping with the wider Gap company’s own efforts, which include a commitment to eliminate single-use plastics by 2030 by reducing plastic packaging across all its brands.
Packaging solutions firm Ball Corporation hit the sports business headlines in 2020 when it announced a global partnership with Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, penning a deal that includes a variety of sustainability activations with the ownership company’s various teams across Los Angeles, Denver and London.
That tie-up has seen Colorado-headquartered Ball work across marquee venues for the likes of the Los Angeles Rams, the Denver Nuggets and Arsenal to encourage aluminium recycling and provide fans with a more environmentally friendly fan experience. In a bid to further encourage fans to cut back on plastic usage, Ball also headed to the Super Bowl to make thousands of aluminium cups available to spectators.
Throughout 2020, Ball racked up several other sustainability highlights, including eliminating more than 5,000 metric tons of aluminium in their cans, which saved over 16,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Water efficiency also increased by 11 per cent between 2016 and 2019, while Ball’s carbon footprint for its beverage cans was reduced by 26 per cent over the previous decade.
Despite the Covid-19 disruption, Ball employees still managed to clock up 38,500 hours of volunteering in 2020, with Ball donating over US$7.5 million to support 2,000 non-profit organisations worldwide. The previous year, Ball’s partnership with the Molson Coors Beverage Company saw the donation of 300,000 cans of water to people in the US and the Bahamas during the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, and to residents affected by tornadoes in Ohio.
On the back of the Covid-19 health crisis, Barclays bank decided to refresh its corporate purpose and values to ensure they are appropriate for a post-pandemic world.
The London-headquartered company is working towards facilitating UK£150 billion (US$206 billion) in social and environmental financing by 2025 as part of its support for a sustainable and inclusive economy. Other headline goals include providing at least UK£100 billion (US$138 billion) of green finance by 2025, as well as investing UK£175 million (US$241 million) over five years in sustainability-focused startups.
From an operational standpoint, Barclays last year achieved a 71 per cent scope one and two emission reduction against its 2018 baseline as the company continues to offset residual emissions from operations and business travel.
Diversity is another area where Barclays has been making progress. In 2020, as part of its Global Supplier Diversity and Inclusion initiative, eight per cent of the company’s global addressable spend was placed with small and medium-sized businesses, many of which were owned by women, ethnic minorities and members of the LGBT community.
In sport, one of Barclays’ most telling contributions has come in the UK, where in 2019 it paid a reported UK£10 million (US$13.8 million) to become the first title sponsor of the Women’s Super League (WSL). As well as providing crucial funding for the pinnacle of women’s soccer in England, it has also become the lead partner of the FA Girls’ Football School Partnerships scheme, which aims to give girls equal access to soccer in schools by 2024.
Among the top ten largest home appliance brands in the world, Beko is perhaps best known in sport for appearing on the training kits of Spanish soccer giants FC Barcelona, although the Arçelik-owned firm also sponsors the Fenerbahçe men’s basketball team and the League of Legends European Championship esports event.
Beko’s collaboration with Barcelona has helped to raise awareness of its award-winning #EatLikeAPro social media campaign, which has seen the Turkish company work alongside Unicef to promote healthy living and tackle the global rise in childhood obesity. The first 11 days of the initiative resulted in the campaign hashtag being shared in over one million Twitter or Instagram posts, each of which triggered a €1 donation to Unicef.
The brand’s charitable endeavours also extended to the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2020, more than 5,000 units of Arçelik and Beko-branded products were donated to 202 hospitals around 75 cities across Turkey, and to over 550 hospitals across 20 countries worldwide, including the UK and France.
When it comes to sustainability, Beko’s product packaging is 100 per cent recyclable, as are 90 per cent of its products on average. In addition, Beko and its parent company have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent since 2010, as well as saved 1,350,000 cubic metres of water over the past eight years.
Beko is taking major strides in the area of diversity, too, highlighted by the continuation of its 100 Women Dealers project, which aims to increase female participation in the retailer ecosystem.
Notable for its striking pink branding, Austrian water technology provider Best Water Technology (BWT) is also looking to stand out through its mission to make drinkable water readily available all over the world.
With this goal in mind, the company’s Bottle Free Zone initiative aims to provide locally processed mineralised water, dispensed or bottled into environmentally friendly reusable bottles. In addition, BWT is backing b.waterMISSION – a project of AQUA Pearls for You and Planet Blue Foundation – by building wells in mainly rural areas of Gambia and Tanzania. The company has also established the BWT Distance Award, which will add together all the distance metres achieved by athletes using BWT skis during this season’s ski-jumping individual competitions. For every 18,000 meters jumped, a fountain is filled for inhabitants in Gambia.
Sustainability is also at the heart of BWT’s expanded partnership with Formula One. Signed in August, the pair are aiming to make the paddock free of single-use plastic bottles by 2025. To help achieve that, reusable water bottles will be offered to those attending Formula One events, with BWT also providing water refilling stations as part of a new plan to reduce plastic waste and encourage more sustainable solutions across the sport.
With an extensive portfolio of athlete ambassadors and event sponsorships, US-based food brand Clif Bar has long used sport as a way to further its mission in sustainability. Its ‘Let’s Move the World’ campaign encourages people to get active whilst advocating for various social causes. Tennis great Venus Williams, for example, has spoken out for equal prize money in women’s sports, while Paralympic athlete Daniel Romanchuk has lent his voice to inspire athletes with physical disabilities. Clif Bar’s support for Outdoor Afro has also helped African-Americans reconnect with natural spaces.
In 2020, Clif Bar joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Global Commitment to Packaging with Purpose, pledging that all Clif Bar packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, while it also received LEED Gold certification by the US Green Building Council in part for its energy and water efficiency. Furthermore, as of 2020, 90 per cent of waste from Clif bakeries has been diverted from landfills and incinerators.
Internally, Clif Bar backs up its pledges and public-facing initiatives with meaningful employee engagement activities. Not only is the company incentivising its staff to purchase electric vehicles and commuter bikes, its ‘Clif Corps’ programme encourages employees to volunteer in the community during the workday on company time. Through the programme some US$61 million in cash and product has been donated over the past 12 years, while over 18,000 hours of community service were volunteered in 2019 alone.
Sporting equipment company Columbia has long been associated with outdoor pursuits like fishing, snow sports, golf and trail running, yet its CSR initiatives transcend far beyond the realms of those disciplines.
Throughout 2020, the Columbia Sportswear Company (CSC) donated nearly US$1.9 million to charitable causes. It also works with organisations like the Planet Water Foundation, which is helping the company to provide clean water to communities within CSC’s supply chain. Since 2016, through its Columbia Clean Drinking Water Program, the company has built 22 water towers thanks to projects in places like India, Indonesia and Vietnam.
With women accounting for around 75 per cent of the Columbia brand’s global supply chain workforce, the company’s HERproject is a multifaceted programme that aims to empower these women by promoting women’s health, financial inclusion, and gender equality. HERproject training programmes are delivered during work hours for free to all employees and have reached over 700,000 women in over 620 workplaces to date.
In 2017, meanwhile, Columbia became the official outfitter of the UK’s 15 National Parks as part of a five-year partnership. Two years later, it launched an initiative that celebrated and promoted diversity and inclusivity in the great outdoors, with the #SwitchOffandReconnect campaign encouraging individuals to get outdoors and get moving.
Retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods is a prominent supporter of youth sports teams and leagues across the US, having invested nearly US$30 million in community and corporate grants, sponsorships and donations in 2020 alone. Through its non-profit arm, the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation, the company has set out to broaden access and grow sports participation among younger people and impoverished communities by partnering with multiple other organisations.
In teaming up with the US Soccer Foundation, for example, Dick’s became the presenting partner of the United for Girls initiative, providing a three-year, US$5 million Sports Matter grant. It has also launched a women-engineered basketball shoe with Under Armour and rolled out the Empower Her Collection with Brooks Running, a portion of the sales of which have gone to support under-resourced girls running programmes across America. Additionally in 2020, the company’s foundation collaborated with pro athletes such as Candace Parker, Blake Griffin and Matt Ryan to provide sporting gear and equipment to 10,000 kids in eight cities, and also partnered with the Beyond Sport Foundation to support youth-focused organisations to tackle racial inequality and aid Black communities.
Besides gender equality, diversity and girls empowerment, Dick’s has made climate action a key focus of its CSR and ESG activities. In 2020, for instance, the company joined the Outdoor Association’s Climate Action Corp and supported the Paris Climate Agreement by becoming a signatory to the ‘We Are Still In’ coalition. By 2030, it aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent compared to 2016, while it has also committed to eliminating single-use plastic bags in all stores by 2025 and to donating one per cent of all sales to conserving and increasing access to public lands.
Founded by British businessman Dale Vince, the owner of Forest Green Rovers, a lower-tier English soccer club whose sustainable practices are often held up as an example for others to follow, Ecotricity is a UK-based renewable energy supplier that provides its consumers with 100 per cent green electricity.
All told, Ecotricity works with and powers over 200 charities and organisations, including Forest Green, who have previously been described by global soccer body Fifa as ‘the world’s greenest football club’. Once named ‘Green Sponsor of the Month’ by the UK Sponsorship Awards, Ecotricity’s backing of the modestly sized, Gloucestershire-based League Two outfit has provided the company a unique platform to promote its sustainable messaging, while also transforming the way the club operates. The green energy that fuels the team’s home ground, for instance, is partly generated onsite from solar panels on the stadium roof and a solar tracker at the stadium’s entrance.
Beyond its endeavours in soccer, Ecotricity has been encouraging other businesses to become more sustainable through the publishing of its ‘Guide to Going Green’, a 19-page document advising companies on ways to reduce their carbon footprint. In March 2020, Ecotricity even started lobbying alongside the Good Law Project for the UK government to review the country’s national planning policy for energy, a push that was ultimately rewarded in April this year.
Internally, Ecotricity has set itself a goal of becoming a zero-carbon organisation by 2025, while it has also started building green gas mills, which will utilise grass cuttings rather than animals to create gas.
Guided by a stated purpose to ‘accelerate the transition to a carbon neutral economy’, French multinational utility firm Engie has repositioned its business model to meet the demand for decarbonised energy and new energy services.
In February last year, the company laid out 19 new objectives for 2030 which it believes to be fully in line with the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations. Those include two key aims related to climate change, which are nearly halving greenhouse gas emissions from the production of electricity and increasing the share of renewable energies in the power production capacity mix to 58 per cent, up from 28 per cent in 2019.
A staunch supporter of sport in France, Engie has carried out significant work at the French Open Grand Slam through its role as the energy and sustainability partner of the French Tennis Federation (FFT). Since 2015, the Paris-headquartered company has supplied Roland Garros with 100 per cent renewable energy, while it also provides six solar-powered charging terminals positioned inside the venue. In addition, ‘Green Teams’ are deployed at the event to help raise spectator awareness of sustainability issues.
Other efforts have seen the Engie Foundation support Fête Le Mur, a charity founded by former tennis player Yannick Noah, for over 20 years. That initiative has seen the company help the organisation set up tennis courts and practice walls at apartment blocks in city estates to give young people from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to play tennis.
Material science company Footprint announced its arrival in sports earlier this year by taking the naming rights to the home of the Phoenix Suns, vowing to transform the National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise’s 18,422-seater arena into an ‘immersive living innovation lab’ showcasing sustainable solutions.
One of several changes being made at the venue is the replacement of plates, packaging, utensils, coolers and other single-use plastic items with Footprint’s plant-based products, which are made from biodegradable, compostable and recyclable fibres. Those efforts will also extend to the Visit Mallorca Stadium, home of RCD Mallorca, who are part of the same ownership group as the Suns.
That is all in keeping with Footprint’s broader goal to ‘make every industry more sustainable’ with ‘cutting-edge materials’. The company’s suppliers are expected to abide by the Footprint sourcing guide, which requires them to use energy from fossil-free energy sources, take actions to reduce emissions, minimise waste disposal, and use chemicals with the lowest health and environmental risk.
The organisation also runs a non-profit arm, the Footprint Foundation, which aims to eliminate plastic pollution from the environment and educate people about the impact plastic has on the planet.
Part of that education is already happening within Footprint’s sports partnerships. Susan Koehler, the company’s chief marketing officer, told The Sustainability Report in September that the business is working on sustainable products with some of the Suns’ existing partners, including Fry’s and Jim Beam. In Mallorca, Koehler added, Footprint has been able to make connections with the government, local businesses and NGOs to help them with their sustainability objectives.
Synonymous with the touchlines of many a major league, American sports drinks giant Gatorade is now fuelling various sustainability and diversity initiatives. Specifically, the brand has been working with New Jersey-based waste management firm TerraCycle on a national recycling programme for Gatorade, Propel, Evolve and Muscle Milk packaging, which through the scheme is melted into hard plastic and remolded into products like park benches and gym equipment.
More broadly, Gatorade is leveraging its relationships with leagues, teams and athletes to tackle the lack of diversity in sport. In April, the company formed a 14-strong women’s advisory board comprising members of its own leadership, professional athletes and industry executives. Established to address ‘societal and cultural barriers’, the group will be focused on improving participation among girls and providing counsel on brand initiatives that better serve female athletes.
That mission is also being reflected in Gatorade’s own partnerships. Its deal with Angel City FC, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) expansion franchise, will include ten per cent of the sponsorship fee going towards new pathways for young female coaches.
Elsewhere, Gatorade’s Play it Forward initiative has seen it work with the winners of its Player of the Year award, who are given the opportunity to choose a local or national youth sports organisation to receive a US$1,000 grant. In the event that the athletes do not wish to self-select an organisation, the money goes to one of Gatorade’s four national partners focused on participation, which are Boys and Girls Clubs, Up2Us Sports, Disabled Sports USA, and Women’s Sports Foundation.
A global partner of the Uefa Champions League, Formula One and the W Series, Dutch brewer Heineken has closely aligned its sports investments with its broader environmental, social and responsible commitments. In every market in which it operates, the brand runs social impact initiatives and activities to address alcohol-related harm, with ten per cent of its annual media spend now being channeled towards responsible consumption campaigns such as ‘When you drive, never drink’, an awareness drive promoted in part through its Formula One association.
Reaching carbon neutrality and maximising circularity throughout its supply chain are two longer-term ambitions that are now being supported by Heineken’s sports-focused activities. In July 2021, for example, the brand teamed up with former Formula One world champion Nico Rosberg to unveil a new sustainable bar concept that will be utilised across all Formula E events. The Heineken Greener Bar aims to reduce waste, water, emissions and energy usage, with tables sourced from naturally fallen trees, benches and cushions manufactured from 100 per cent recycled materials, and the bar itself made from reused Heineken crates.
Named Denmark’s most sustainable clothing brand two years in a row, footwear and sportswear manufacturer Hummel is on a self-described mission to ‘change the world through sport’.
In 2019, the company introduced the ZeroH20 dyeing concept to its sponsored British soccer teams, which has decreased energy use by 50 per cent, and reduced water consumption and water wastage to almost zero. That is one of a number of sustainable practices being implemented by the company, which has banned all single-use plastic packaging and donates surplus products to organisations such as sports projects in Kenya.
Hummel is also trying to inspire change through its partnerships, which include a longstanding arrangement to be the official clothing sponsor of the Danish national homeless soccer team. In 2020, that relationship saw the company launch a joint clothing collection alongside OMBOLD, which organises the team, with the proceeds going towards the non-profit organisation’s work to support socially disadvantaged and homeless people.
This year, Hummel provided the official merchandise for August’s WorldPride and EuroGames as part of a partnership with Copenhagen 2021. That event welcomed 6,000 LGBT+ athletes to the Danish capital, alongside 750,000 international visitors.
Outside of its own borders, the company has supported soccer festivals in Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan in an effort to encourage youngsters in those countries to participate in the sport. It has also sponsored the Rooklyn International Football Association (RIFA), a New York-based team helping immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees integrate and establish a social network.
Having set about ‘making performance products in a better way’, UK-based footwear manufacturer Hylo Athletics is a brand with sustainable innovation at its core. Its completely recyclable shoes use majority renewable materials such as corn fibre, organic cotton and natural rubber, while consumers can even send them back and receive UK£10 credit. Notably, the company has reduced its carbon footprint to 7.83kg CO2 emissions by using natural materials, a localised supply chain and less packaging, while it also funds a project which installs biogas digesters in Sichuan, China that decompose organic waste, turning it into clean fuel that replaces the need to burn coal or wood.
A partnership with Common Goal sees Hylo donate at least one per cent of its net revenue to environmental causes. Since its formation in August 2020, the brand has also been actively raising awareness of the climate challenge; its film, ‘Athletes for Planet’, delves into how sport can positively impact the environment, showcasing English soccer club Forest Green Rovers and their sustainability efforts, as well as Hylo’s athlete ambassadors such as golfer Charley Hull, boxer George Davey and soccer player Patrick Bamford.
A member of the B Corp movement since 2018, Coca-Cola-owned Innocent Drinks has committed to responsible sourcing and transparent, measurable social and environmental performance. In November 2019, having ensured all of its bottles and cans are 100 per cent recyclable, the smoothie maker outlined plans to develop a zero virgin plastic bottle and become carbon neutral by 2030. It also gives ten per cent of its profits to charity and has set out ambitious targets in areas like human rights, diversity and equal pay.
Every year, Innocent donates thousands of free seeds to encourage people to grow their own vegetables at school or at home. In 2019 alone, the company gave away 60,000 growing kits to schools and, by 2023, it is aiming for the Big Grow to be part of the UK’s national curriculum. Such initiatives are supported by Innocent’s investments in sport. In 2020, for instance, the brand became Forest Green Rovers’ stadium sponsor and subsequently committed to planting 50 trees for every professional soccer game in the UK that ‘nets zero’ – or, in other words, finishes 0-0.
Global payments provider MasterCard continues to support some of the world’s premier sporting events and competitions, including the Australian Open, Uefa Champions League, PGA Tour and League of Legends. In recent years, it has also stepped up its commitment to supporting women’s properties and female athletes, including the likes of Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, Arsenal Women, Naomi Osaka and Ada Hegerberg.
While the brand’s ‘Priceless Experiences’ campaign has been a mainstay of its sports sponsorship activations for many years, Mastercard has put social impact at the heart of its activities. Its partnership with the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), for example, saw the creation of a soccer-themed curriculum for its signature science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programme, Girls4Tech, in a bid to boost career opportunities for young women.
Among its other diversity and inclusion commitments, Mastercard has pledged to increase its annual spending with Black suppliers by more than 70 per cent by 2025, as well as providing business solutions to 25 million female entrepreneurs. In 2020, the company received awards for its efforts in human rights and inclusion for people with disabilities, while it was also named within both the Dow Jones Sustainability North America Index and the FTSE4Good Index.
A technology partner of sports organisations such as the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA) and La Liga, Microsoft has been setting itself some bold targets for the near and distant future.
Those are all part of a new sustainability vision and strategy laid out last year, which includes an ambitious aim to be a carbon negative, water positive, zero waste company by 2030. Come 2050, the American technology giant also intends to have removed from the environment all carbon the business has emitted since its founding by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1975.
Initial strides towards those sustainability goals were taken in 2020, when Microsoft paid for the removal of 1.3 million metric tons of carbon from 26 projects around the world. The company is also seeking to involve its staff in the process, and last year engaged over 10,500 of its employees in ‘EcoChallenges’ to reduce their personal waste footprints.
However, that renewed focus on the environment hasn’t made Microsoft lose sight of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects. Last year, the company pledged US$750 million to accelerate the construction of more affordable housing in the US’ Puget Sound region, while it also provided US$1.9 billion worth of donated or discounted products and services to 243,000 non-profit organisations.
The positive impact Microsoft can have in sport has been plain to see through its partnership with the Special Olympics, for which the company provides both financial and in-kind support, including free software suites for the organisation’s 220 accredited programmes around the world.
Given its standing as the world’s largest sportswear company, the onus continues to be on Nike to make the most of its global reach. To that end, the Oregon-based brand has invested US$63.8 million into sport-related community initiatives, as of the 2020 financial year. A number of targets have also been set in time for 2025, including tens of millions of dollars being committed to various projects covering inclusivity, kids participation, employee engagement and local community partnerships.
Indeed, Nike is looking to get more children into sport through its Active School initiative. In China alone, the scheme has engaged more than two million students from 7,100 schools and trained more than 7,000 physical education teachers.
The biggest supplier and manufacturer of athletic footwear and apparel globally, Nike is also a founding member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), an industry-wide group of over 200 leading organisations set up to reduce the environmental impact of apparel and footwear products.
Nike’s endeavours to strengthen its green credentials have meant that, by 2020, over 47 million kilograms of the company’s manufacturing scraps were recycled into new footwear products. By 2025, Nike aims to have ten times more finished product waste refurbished, recycled or donated.
On the diversity and inclusion front, Nike’s 2020 intern class was 55 per cent women, and 49 per cent racial and ethnic minorities. By 2025, the brand plans to have 50 per cent representation of women in its global corporate workforce and 45 per cent in leadership positions.
According to Nissan chief executive Makoto Uchida, the Japanese multinational automobile manufacturer is aligning its sustainability strategy with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs) as it works to address global environmental and societal challenges.
Nissan recently announced its ambition to become carbon neutral by 2050, an aim that will undoubtedly be supported by the company’s goal for every all-new vehicle offering in key markets to be electrified in time for the early 2030s. Those aims form part of Nissan’s Green Program 2022, which also sets out the long-term vision of reducing its dependence on new materials by 70 per cent. Other objectives include a 40 per cent decrease in CO2 emissions from new cards, a 12 per cent reduction of CO2 emissions per production, and a 21 per cent cut of water withdrawal per global production.
From a sporting perspective, Formula E has provided the ideal testing ground for Nissan’s electric future. The manufacturer recently committed to the all-electric series’ Gen3 era, having spent its first two seasons in the championship focusing on its ‘Phase One: track-to-road’ technical objectives, which took learnings from its LEAF road-going electric vehicle (EV) to develop the performance of the race car. It will now shift that focus towards ‘Phase Two: track-to-road’, through which it plans to showcase features that will encourage consumer adoption of its EVs.
Elsewhere, as part of a collaboration with Eaton, BAM, The Mobility House and the Johan Cruijff ArenA, Nissan’s EV batteries are part of the largest European energy storage system at the home of Dutch soccer giants Ajax.
Swedish oat drink company Oatly has brought plant-based products to the mass market and, in doing so, is helping to raise awareness of the climate crisis.
In 2020, the fast-growing brand reduced its environmental impact and energy consumption by double digits compared to the previous year, despite producing 299 million litres of product, an increase of 81 per cent on 2019. By 2029, the company has stated that its manufacturing and sourcing practices will give back to nature and communities by restoring carbon, improving biodiversity and boosting farmers’ incomes, while it has also committed to reducing its environmental footprint by 70 per cent from its 2019 baseline.
In sport, Oatly has aligned its brand ethos with purpose-driven entities who are using their platforms to further social and environmental causes. Its sponsorship of Forest Green Rovers sees its products supplied to the English soccer club’s stadium kiosks and vegan kitchens, while it is also a backer of Babelsberg, the German lower-league side whose political engagement and support for displaced refugees entering Europe has been well-documented and widely lauded. In the US, too, Oatly has teamed up with several Major League Baseball (MLB) franchises to offer dairy-free ice cream at ballparks for the first time.
Renewable energy specialist Octopus Energy was named by the Renewable Energy Association as ‘the company that’s done the most to advance UK renewables’ for two years running. As well as supporting direct renewable generation and encouraging new independent generators to market, its subsidiary Octopus Renewables managed over 300 renewable energy projects in 2021, generating two TWh of green power and saving 1.8 million tons of CO2.
Octopus’ work with elite teams like Cardiff Blues and Arsenal exemplifies its goal of using sport as a vehicle to accelerate the UK’s shift away from fossil fuels. Having helped the Premier League side make the switch to 100 per cent green electricity in 2016, the company has since provided renewable energy solutions to Gunners fans and installed electric vehicle charging points at the club’s Emirates Stadium.
The outdoor clothing and sports gear brand has continued to throw its weight behind a variety of sustainability initiatives in recent years. This season, 87 per cent of Patagonia’s lines used recycled materials, avoiding 4,300 metric tons of CO2 emissions, while 87 per cent of the company’s products were Fair Trade Certified sewn, impacting more than 64,000 workers.
The rollout of its Supply Chain Environmental Responsibility Program now sees Patagonia grow its cotton organically, enabling the brand to save water and reduce CO2 emissions by 45 per cent compared to conventional cotton. Patagonia has also introduced its Worn Wear programme, which supports various initiatives that encourage reusing, repairing and recycling to extend the life of products and reduce their environmental footprint. In 2019 alone, over 70,000 pieces of Patagonia gear were repaired.
Patagonia’s sustainability commitments date back decades, including co-founding the ‘1% for the Planet’ non-profit in 2002. This commits the company to donating one per cent of net revenues in cash and in-kind donations every year, primarily to grassroots environmental non-profits. As of the 2019 financial year, Patagonia has given US$116 million in support of environmental work since 1985.
As well as its eco efforts, Patagonia has championed its female workforce, with 50 per cent of its board consisting of women, compared to the US national average of 20 per cent. Additionally, 47 per cent of the brand’s executives are women, compared to the national average of 27 per cent.
As its name suggests, Renewable Energy Group (REG) takes waste and by-product fats and oils from other industries and converts them into sustainable fuels.
In 2020, REG produced 519 million gallons of biodiesel and renewable diesel, generating 4.2 million metric tons of carbon reduction. Other highlights included 65 per cent of the company’s feedstock usage coming from harder-to-process, lower-carbon waste and residual streams, and the remaining 35 per cent consisting of vegetable oils.
Looking ahead, REG is developing ways for consumers to utlise more of its clean fuels for their operations. This includes enabling diesel vehicles to use 100 per cent biodiesel year-round, offering higher blends of biodiesel into the heating oil market, and completing testing related to renewable aviation fuels.
The company’s staff have also been buying into REG’s broader mission to support its communities, with an employee-led philanthropy committee overseeing donations to over 170 causes between 2019 and 2020.
REG is now looking to raise awareness of its lower-carbon solutions through one of the most powerful platforms in sport, having partnered with English soccer giants Manchester United in June this year. Billed as ‘a partnership to promote a more sustainable tomorrow’, the agreement will see the pair encourage positive environmental change among United’s global fanbase. The Premier League club will also start to integrate cleaner fuels into its day-to-day operations to build on its record of reducing annual emissions by 2,700 tonnes since 2008.
Financial services company Santander is perhaps best known in sport as a former official partner of the Uefa Champions League and the current title sponsor of Spanish soccer’s La Liga. In recent years, however, the Madrid-based company’s investments in multiple sport-focused community impact initiatives have begun to catch the eye.
September 2020, for example, saw the launch of the Banco Santander International Women’s Football Scholarships for females aged 16 to 20 to study and play soccer in the United States. The bank also teamed up with National Numeracy and popular YouTubers F2 to create ‘The Numbers Game’, a UK-wide educational roadshow aimed at boosting numeracy awareness and recognition across the country.
This July, Santander premiered two short films as part of FootballCan 2041, a campaign that aims to convey how eco-friendly technology and sustainability could shape soccer in the future. The initiative launched in 2019 to support the release of Fieeld, the first tactile broadcasting system for blind fans. Santander and Microsoft’s Global Sports Innovation Center (GSIC) have also created an international contest to reward tech ideas and solutions that make soccer more open and environmentally conscious.
As a signatory to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), one which has ambitions of becoming net zero by 2050, Santander has been ranked as the top bank for financing renewable energy for the last decade. Since 2019, it has mobilised some US$48.7 billion in green finance through its Santander Sustainable & Green Bonds Frameworks, while around three-quarters of its electricity use comes from renewable sources.
T-Mobile has been hailed for its impact efforts ranging from equality to sustainability in recent years. Notably, the mobile network is investing in digital literacy programmes, while its Project 10Million initiative has set out to provide free and heavily subsidised connectivity and mobile devices to millions of underserved student households over five years.
The company’s commitment to younger generations can be further seen in the annual T-Mobile Little League Call Up Grant, which helps families to cover registration fees for their local baseball and softball programme. In 2021, T-Mobile’s donation hit US$2 million, helping 20,000 families register their children in this season’s Little League.
T-Mobile’s close ties with Little League and Major League Baseball (MLB) also saw the firm commit to raising US$2 million during the 2020 MLB post-season through a series of initiatives, including donating up to US$10,000 for every home run hit during the World Series.
T-Mobile is also the only wireless company in the US that has committed to Science Based Targets that address Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. As such, T-Mobile aims to reduce combined absolute Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 95 per cent by 2025, as well as cut Scope 3 emissions by 15 per cent per customer by 2025. Furthermore, to reduce waste, T-Mobile collected over 7.9 million mobile devices for reuse, resale, and recycling last year.
Like other manufacturers of outdoor clothing, German mountain sports equipment brand Vaude has long been a noted advocate of environmental causes and sustainable development. Since 2012, every product manufactured at its headquarters in Tettnang has been climate neutral, with renewable energy and solar installations powering the family-owned company’s manufacturing processes.
In cooperation with eBay and several schools and universities, Vaude developed an upcycling store concept in early 2020. Dubbed the Vaude Second Use Shop, the initiative has seen residual materials from the brand’s supply chain made into bags, wallets and other items, with all proceeds donated to Save the Children.
A partner of the German Alpine Club (DAV), the only sports association recognised as a nature conservation organisation, Vaude has won numerous accolades for its business practices, most notably in the areas of social impact and environmental and corporate sustainability. In 2019 it was also among the first group of companies awarded the Green Button from the German government, which recognises companies with the highest ecological and social standards.
Water technology provider Xylem brought up a number of sustainability milestones in 2020, which included preventing 1.4 billion cubic metres of polluted water from flooding communities or entering local waterways and installing treatment solutions that will help its customers reuse 4.3 billion cubic metres of water. It also helped 4.1 million people classed as living ‘at the bottom of the global economic pyramid’ gain access to clean water and sanitation solutions.
With ten of its 22 major facilities now operating on 100 per cent renewable energy, Xylem is seeking to raise awareness of current and emerging issues of water scarcity. A big part of that effort has been through its sports sponsorships, especially with Premier League champions Manchester City, who have been a partner of the US-based company since 2018. Together, Xylem and City created a short film called ‘The End of Football’ to highlight that the UK will not have enough water to meet demand by 2045. The campaign also saw the pair develop a playbook of everyday and industry actions that can help tackle the looming drought.
More recently, in March 2021, Xylem teamed up with the club’s Cityzens Giving programme to bring together a network of 100 leaders to deliver water education to 5,000 young people across Mumbai, Sao Paulo, New York City, Cape Town and Shanghai. Also this year, Xylem has been working with Mumbai City FC, another club in the City Football Group (CFG) portfolio, to raise awareness of monsoon flooding and river pollution across India.