Sport teams and events have been urged to give up sponsorship from companies that promote high carbon products, services and lifestyles.
A new report, Sweat not oil, said the deals damage efforts to tackle climate change.
The authors concluded:
“High-carbon sponsorship of sport has, in many ways, replaced once common and now disgraced deals with tobacco companies.
“Today the world faces a climate emergency and sport is floating on a sea of high-carbon sponsorship.”
The report, published by four climate change groups, identified 258 sports sponsorship deals that promoted high carbon products and lifestyles. These funded 13 different sports, including football, sailing, cycling, athletics, golf and motorsport. The report said:
“Direct association with promoting high carbon products and lifestyles not only contradicts the pledges of climate action that many clubs and sports bodies are beginning to endorse, but it poses an increasing reputation risk to sport, which is meant to represent a better, healthier way of life.”
The report features the petrochemical group, Ineos, a prominent sports sponsor and the biggest holder of onshore shale gas licences in the UK. Ineos supports:
- Ineos team UK, the official British America’s cup sailing team
- Team Ineos Grenadiers, a British cycling team
- OGC Nice League 1 football club in France
- Lausanne’s football club, Lausanne-sport, and hockey team, HCL
- Mercedes British Formula 1 team, five-year deal
There were anti-fracking protests at the first outing of its cycling sponsorship at the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire. One campaigner accused the company of “selling out cycling”. Ineos also supports the Daily Mile, an initiative to encourage school children to run 15 minutes each day.
An Ineos spokesperson told BBC News:
“Ineos’ leadership on sustainability has been recognised by Ecovadis, a world renowned sustainability ratings agency. Audits of Ineos on environment, ethics, labour and human rights, and sustainable procurement placed it in the top 4% of 65,000 companies rated.
“And Ineos was especially recognised for its environmental performance, reflecting its commitment to carbon emission reduction targets and to recycling and the circular economy.
“Our relationship with our sports teams is more than sponsorship. They are a part of our company.”
The report identified Toyota as the largest high-carbon sponsor, with 31 deals, followed by the Emirates airline with 29. Along with Ineos, Gazprom was a prominent fossil fuel company in sports sponsorship.
The car industry, spending an estimated $1.285 billion, was the biggest sponsor numerically with 199 deals, followed by airlines.
The report said companies use sports sponsorship as a marketing tool to create a positive public image or increase television coverage. Sponsorship influences consumer behaviour by creating a positive association between the brand and the spectator’s sports team, the report said. It concluded:
“Sport needs to up its game and adopt policies that reject high carbon sponsors. Clubs, competitions and institutions need to take their climate commitments seriously.”
The report recommended sport should “positively screen corporate sponsors and turn down any from companies promoting clearly high carbon lifestyles, products and services, especially those in the automotive, airlines and fossil fuel industries.” It also urged sports to sign up to the UN Sport for Climate Action Framework and, within a year, publish a 10-year plan to ensure operations are zero carbon by 2030.
After 2030, sports events that are not carbon neutral should be cancelled, the report said. It also said net zero plans should be a condition of any public funding. It urged sports to cut reliance on air travel and increase support for low carbon local grassroots sport.
- Sweat not oil: Why sports should drop advertising and sponsorship from high-carbon polluters
Emilie Ticarico and Andrew Simms
Published by New Weather Institute, KR Foundation, Rapid Transition Alliance and Possible