Skip to content

A commitment to sustainability in sport

The Chair of the British Association for Sustainable Sport (BASIS) reflects on last year's challenges of climate change and how in 2023 we, as a sector, can proactively work towards being more sustainable.

20th February 2023

by Russell Seymour
Chair at BASIS and Senior fellow, Institute for sport business Loughborough University, London

“[Climate change] is the defining issue of our age and the central challenge of our century” – António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

In 2022, two global conferences (COP27 on climate change and COP15 on biodiversity loss) provided profound moments of reflection for world leaders.

Discussions around the knock-on effects of political unrest, increasing living costs, the reintroduction of coal-fired energy suppliers, and declines in wildlife populations sparked further powerful reminders for immediate action.

A man and a woman practice surf on a lake


2022 also boasted a host of major sporting events, from the Beijing Winter Olympics to the FIFA Men’s World Cup.

The UK celebrated many sporting successes, including the Lionesses Euros win, and the most inclusive Rugby League World cup with concurrent tournaments for men, women, and wheelchair participants.

Local action against global issues

From elite athletes to recreational participants, we rely on nutritious food, clean air and, for many sports, natural playing surfaces (water, snow or grass) and spaces to be able to take part in the activities we love.

We also rely on natural rainfall to irrigate crops and we discharge our waste into the environment in the ‘hope’ that it will go away – processes that we often take for granted.

We must all be more aware that sport doesn’t exist independently of the ‘real world’. Instead, our sector is impacted greatly by the social, political, and environmental issues that occur alongside it, and, collectively, we can play a big role in helping to tackle climate change.

This may seem like a global and somewhat insurmountable issue but taking local action can amplify results and start crucial conversations.

This is exactly why my organisation – BASIS – came together with Sport England’s Club Matters team, Community Leisure UK, and Active Partnerships to create the Becoming more environmentally sustainable guide.

How can you help?

As you seek to make a difference in 2023, this is a great resource to help you get started.

The hints and tips within the guide start with a commitment to change by writing a policy or pledge that your members/volunteers/board are fully committed to in the day-to-day running of your organisation.

We must all be more aware that sport doesn’t exist independently of the ‘real world’. Instead, our sector is impacted greatly by the social, political, and environmental issues that occur alongside it, and, collectively, we can play a big role in helping to tackle climate change.

It’s important to understand your current impacts, set targets and share your progress with your community to boost morale and inspire others to be proactive.

You can do this by:

  • building your community into your decision-making processes
  • regularly monitoring your process
  • communicating with your people and partners to show what you’re doing.

Explore the ways you can maximise the efficiency of your facilities, should you use them.

If you hire facilities, you can ask the operator what they are already doing and how you can contribute to their agenda, and if you own your facilities, there are many ways to reduce your energy consumption and other impacts, such as:

  • Installing energy meters.
  • Switching lights and electrical equipment off.
  • Using LED bulbs.
  • Exploring different energy tariffs/providers.
  • Recycling greywater or rainwater.

You can also ask the facilities’ manager what they’re doing to support biodiversity and see if your community can help.

Equally, if you have your own facilities, make the most of your natural environment and support wildlife and nature by leaving grass to grow longer in unused areas, planting wildflowers, or reducing the pesticides or fertilisers you use.

Take time to consider the waste you create and how you can reduce it. Encourage people to repair, recycle or re-use things, consider going paperless where possible and starting a kit and equipment donation scheme.

Consider reducing the single-use plastics you use by providing water-refill stations at your venue and encouraging participants to bring reusable bottles. You can also review at the things you sell and buy and look for sustainable alternatives.

The guide suggests further conscientious ways to make a difference, such as the food and drink offering or transport solutions – explore more here

Your contribution matters

It may be tempting to think that your individual actions can’t make a difference. Perhaps true if it was only one person, but if everybody acted, it would add up.

It may seem challenging at a time when so many other issues are making it hard for your organisation to survive financially, but a broader scan of the horizon makes it clear how many of these issues are inter-linked.

It’s really important for us to make a promise and take positive action against climate change. This is a fight we have to win and we’re all on the same team, let’s work together to make a difference

Sign up to our newsletter

You can find out exactly how we'll look after your personal data, but rest assured we’ll only use it to make sure you receive our newsletter, to understand how you interact with our newsletter, and to provide administrative information about our newsletter.