SailGP's continuous commitment to integrating environmental and social sustainability into the sport is highlighted in its Season 3 Purpose & Impact Report, which builds on the foundation of its debut report from the previous year. The development of the Purpose & Impact report is intended to "report on progress, challenge the traditional view of sustainability in the sector and inspire other sports and businesses to take action".[i] The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), an international non-profit organisation that helps businesses and cities to manage their environmental impacts, announced that SailGP was the first sport to disclose its carbon plan, having done so in 2022. The league earned a B- score (ranked A to D-) by establishing its dedication to accountability, openness, and ongoing environmental improvement.[ii]
In Season 3, SailGP produced five renewable energy-powered events, up from just one in Season 2. By using sustainable energy to run SailGP's competitions, 236 tonnes of carbon were avoided. In addition, SailGP lowered emissions related to staff transportation by 22% and the carbon footprint of its on-water support fleet by an average of 13% per event compared to Season 2. SailGP cut its freight emissions by 83% compared to Season 2 through a relationship with the international logistics business Kuehne+Nagel by avoiding air freight, choosing sea shipping, picking effective, low-carbon routes and insetting any unavoidable emissions with biofuels.[iii]
SailGP Chief Purpose Officer Fiona Morgan said: “With 2023 shaping up to be the hottest year on record, it’s clear every sector – including sport – needs to step up to the challenge of mitigating climate change. I’m incredibly proud of the work we did at SailGP in Season 3, making positive headway in our ambition to be the world’s most purpose driven and sustainable global sports and entertainment platform. Embedding sustainability in sport is a marathon, not a sprint, and Season 3 has been all about learning and striving for continual improvement. We’ve enjoyed some great success in key areas, and despite increasing scope 3 emissions, our commitment to a low carbon agenda remains unchanged. Sustainability in sport is not easy, especially when SailGP is a growing league and we need to minimize our environmental impact. But at SailGP we love a challenge, and we see every obstacle as an opportunity to innovate and collaborate, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. We have to continue to be brave, challenge the status quo and show the world that purpose can go hand-in-hand with driving business value.”[iv]
At the F1 race in Spielberg, Austria, a low-carbon system was tested as a way to power all the garages, motorhomes, and other structures owned by the F1, F1 Teams, and the FIA. The energy system produced enough energy to meet peak and ongoing demand throughout the race weekend and was powered by more environmentally friendly sources, such as a hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) biofuel and 600m2 of solar panels on the inner field of the final corner at the Red Bull Ring, which was predicted to provide 2.5MWh of energy throughout the event prior to the event.[v] This was a pilot test for the F1 and, whilst of merit, marks out the F1 to be at a very different point in their decarbonisation than SailGP.
Perhaps a reason for the SailGP’s fair winds is the way they’ve embedded sustainability within the championship. The embodiment of this approach is SailGP’s impact league; described as a podium for the planet, sailors compete alongside their races to provide the most positive impacts on themes of inclusivity and decarbonisation. The winners of the impact league receive a cash prize, which can be donated to an ‘impact partner’ of their choice.[vi]
Actions of the sailors in the impact league
With fans of the sport, not only seeing their idols excel on the water but also in the pursuit of a greener future taps into sport’s great potential to influence millions to make more environmentally conscious decisions.
Oscar is a recent graduate with a background in earth science. He is currently studying an MSc focussing on disaster responses, emergency planning and community resilience. His postgraduate research project will assess the link between climate crisis risk perception and attitudes to green energy projects. “Adapting to the climate crisis through the pursuit of net zero requires community engagement and understanding. Zero Carbon Academy’s goals closely align with this approach and I’m excited to have the opportunity to research and communicate a variety of topics relating to our environment and sustainability”.