Today, the National Hockey League released the first Sustainability Report ever issued by a professional sports league. Based on years of data collected from NHL arenas, the NHL's Sustainability Report represents what is arguably the single most important environmental statement ever issued by a professional sports organization.
As the first Sustainability Report produced by a professional sports league, the NHL Sustainability Report will be noticed worldwide, throughout all of professional sports and within the NHL's global supply chain as well. The NHL's focus on controlling the use fossil-fuels and limiting greenhouse gas emissions is a mainstream wake-up call confirming that climate disruption poses an existential threat to everything we hold dear, including sports and recreation.
As Commissioner Gary Bettman writes in the Report, "Major environmental challenges, such as climate change and freshwater scarcity, affect opportunities for hockey players of all ages to learn and play the game outdoors...[T]o continue to stage world class outdoor hockey events ...we need winter weather."
Although the NHL's Sustainability Report reveals that the total amount of carbon emissions associated with NHL events and operations is relatively small, under 400,000 tons annually, the release of the data in this Report underscores the fact that that measuring and reducing greenhouse emissions is an obligation of all businesses, sports leagues and others alike.
Great credit is due to the NHL's Commissioner: An organization is a shadow of its leadership and Commissioner Gary Bettman is without a doubt one of the greatest environmental champions in the world of sports. For this reason, Commissioner Bettman this week will receive the Green Sports Alliance's annual Environmental Leadership Award. No league has ever produced an environmental report, and this one is thoughtfully crafted, honest about its limits, and emphatic about the urgent need to protect our planet. And no league has ever been so frank about the risks to its very existence posed by climate change.
The NHL Sustainability Report is an important reminder to all sports fans, leagues, teams, and businesses that while hockey ice might be the "canary in the coalmine" when it comes to the effects of climate change on sports, the effects of climate disruption is a challenge to all leagues and businesses, and we must take meaningful action to reverse course.
Focusing as it does on the monitoring of the technologies and operations the run NHL arenas, this Report underscores the fact that there is no action too small to undertake when it comes to addressing our ecological problems. After all, there is no single law or single business undertaking that by itself can remedy the problems posed by climate disruption, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, ocean acidification and so many other ecological pressures. We have no choice but to implement many small steps that will collectively add up to meaningful ecological progress.
Bearing this in mind it is worth pointing out that relative to large industrial sources and power plants, the NHL's carbon footprint is relatively small. During the 2011-12 season the league, its teams and their arenas were collectively responsible for approximately 433,848 tons of CO2e emissions (including Scope 1 and 2 emissions and including available though limited refrigerant data), and 528,322 tons of CO2e emissions when including (Scope 3) League and club air travel, arena waste management and recycling. By way of comparison, our global economy emits 90 million tons of carbon each day and the annual CO2e emissions from our nation's single largest coal power plant by itself totals 23 million tons per year. New York State alone has 90 power plants that collectively emit a total of 35 million tons CO2e every year. Relative to those sources, the NHL's footprint is small, and it is a tribute to the League's commitment to documenting its carbon impacts that despite its relatively small impact, the League still felt responsible to publicly report its emissions, and it is also identifying ways to reduce them.
The production of this report was years in the making, depending on years of data about energy use, waste management, and procurement at 30 NHL arenas throughout North America. The reporting protocols used by the NHL for greenhouse gas emissions and other impacts have the highest integrity, following as they do guidelines established by the Global Reporting Initiative and the World Resources Institute, arguably the most intelligently crafted and transparent greenhouse gas reporting guidelines ever developed.
However, the NHL's Sustainability Report is not only a report about impacts. It is also an aspirational document, reporting on the meaningful ecological accomplishments achieved throughout the League during the past few years. It conveys the NHL's great commitment to environmental leadership not only in the world of sports, but in the business world more broadly. Says the NHL: "Through the advancement and adoption of new technologies, the refinement of operations and procedures, and an ever-increasing level of environmental awareness, the League will continue on the journey toward greater environmental sustainability."
If only all businesses approached their operations this smartly. Perhaps the companies that comprise the global supply chain of the NHL -- from paper products to clothing, from food and water to chemicals -- will follow this great league's excellent environmental example.
To verify the accuracy of the data generated by NHL arenas the League hired Michael Totten, one the world's most informed and highly regarded energy experts. And out of its concern for accuracy and transparency, the League invited NRDC to help oversee the data gathering process and data analysis, beginning three years ago with the development of the League's measurement protocol. Together, we verified the integrity of the information contained in the NHL's Report.
The single most important thing we can do to address the urgent ecological challenges we face is change cultural expectations and attitudes about how we relate to the planet. The NHL, with one of the largest and most passionate fan bases in all of professional sports, is a powerful social unifier, and it is using its extraordinarily influential position to bring businesses and people together to solve our ecological problems. There are 58 million NHL fans in North America and the League's total social media audience, not including individual Club sites, exceeds 7.5 million followers.
As this Sustainability Report confirms, the NHL is using that market influence and cultural visibility to positively encourage millions of hockey fans -- and the global businesses that support hockey -- to embrace responsible environmental stewardship. Bravo to the NHL and all the good people at the League for supporting this critical work.
Learn more about the NRDC Sports Greening Project at www.nrdc.org/sports and @NRDCGreenSports. Download NRDC's Game Changer report for more information on NRDC's work with professional sports and the burgeoning U.S. sports greening movement. Read more about NRDC's partnership with the NHL.
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