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Organizational Change
New Initiative Sees Professional Sports Teams ‘Sidelining Carbon’

Sidelining Carbon is helping professional sports teams and their fans get clarity around how to take definitive climate action, connecting them to resources to drive it forward, and growing the conversation in the sports world.

Sidelining Carbon, an initiative created by a collaborative of ‘green sports’ advocates, aims to showcase professional sports teams that are taking steps to reduce and offset their carbon emissions. By the end of 2021, the initiative aims to have 50 professional sports teams committed to sharing their carbon emissions work, whether through fan engagement, reduction strategies, or investment in offsets. With already two major league teams on board, the initiative is growing quickly with the goal of normalizing the word ‘carbon’ within the front offices of sports teams. 

The initiative was originally created by The Conservation Coalition (TCC) through inspiration from a collaboration between The Nature Conservancy and Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brent Suter. TCC, a youth movement to reform the culture of environmentalism, manages Sidelining Carbon as one of their campaigns to ‘build a national base to challenge the status quo through market-driven solutions.’ Recently, TCC brought on the change agency Recipric as its Sports Industry Partner, to grow the movement through Recipric’s network of sports teams that work at the intersection of professional sports and sustainability. Together, TCC and Recipric plan to leverage the precedent set by Suter, as a climate-active athlete, to work with other athlete-led environmental organizations such as Players for the Planet and EcoAthletes; and collaborate with other climate advocates to evolve the topic of carbon in sports — especially within the front offices of sports teams. 

Sidelining Carbon engages professional sports teams in several ways: 

  1. Teams that already make investments in their choice of carbon-offset projects — including on-site renewable energy production — can simply leverage the initiative to join the community of professional teams talking about carbon and to showcase their efforts on the website. While the efforts vary, clubs have been able to estimate their emissions related to Scope 1, 2 and sometimes Scope 3 — and work with an offset partner to invest in an offset solution. Many teams have not shared this commitment publicly; but by joining Sidelining Carbon, they can share their work through a nonprofit that will clarify confusing messaging about sustainability. Sidelining Carbon encourages teams to share their commitments publicly as well, and will even provide turnkey social media content for teams to help them talk about the importance of measuring and reducing carbon emissions. 

  2. Professional sports teams that do not currently invest in carbon projects may sign up for Sidelining Carbon by completing a simple online form on the website. By doing so, they will also select an offset project that is relevant to them, receive support in quantifying their season’s emissions, and be connected with their chosen offset partner. After doing so, their team logo will appear on the initiative’s website and they will receive turnkey social media content to share their efforts and engage with their fans. 

  3. Sports fans can also get involved by nominating their team to join the initiative. Sidelining Carbon aims to leverage the voices of the teams’ best advocates by equipping fans with information on how their favorite teams can join the movement. The initiative is also launching an interactive online tool for fans to nominate their team and provides social media language for fans to publicly share their call to action. By bringing tangible actions to the fans, the initiative hopes to highlight the importance of talking about carbon emissions in professional sports. 

Sidelining Carbon is just getting started. In addition to bringing on 50 professional sports teams in 2021, we are also aiming to further integrate carbon emissions-related climate actions into professional sports. Similar to most corporations, most professional sports organizations are currently focused on measuring, minimizing and offsetting Scope 1 & 2 emissions. In future years, Recipric & TCC hope to support the organizations that have joined the initiative to dig deeper into the carbon-accounting process, recognizing embodied carbon within the supply chain and other carbon-intensive factors of operating a professional sports team. In the future, this could include integrating sports brands and team sponsors with the goal of continuing to elevate the critical importance of integrating carbon-related solutions into business.