Polluting industries are pouring hundreds of millions of pounds into sports sponsorship in an attempt to “wash sports” its role in the climate crisis, according to the authors of a report released Monday.
The study reveals more than 250 advertising and sponsorship deals between some of the biggest corporate polluters and leading sports teams and organizations.
Andrew Simms, co-director of the New Weather Institute and one of the report’s co-authors, said: “Sport is on the front lines of the climate emergency, but it floats in a sea of endorsement deals with major polluters. It worsens the crisis by normalizing polluting and high-carbon lifestyles and reducing pressure for climate action. “
The report, from the New Weather Institute, the climate charity Possible and the Rapid Transition Alliance, identified advertising and sponsorship deals with the top polluters in 13 different sports, including soccer, cricket and tennis. Soccer was found to have the most deals, receiving 57 endorsements from high-carbon industries ranging from oil and gas corporations to airlines.
Simms said: “We know ‘greenwashing’, when polluters falsely present themselves as environmentally responsible. This is ‘sports washing’: when highly polluting industries sponsor sport to make it look like a friend to healthy activity, when in reality they are pumping deadly pollution into the very air that athletes have to breathe and ruining the climate on which the sport depends. . ”
He said “big polluters” had replaced tobacco companies as big sports sponsors. “They should stop for the same reason tobacco sponsorship ended: for the health of people, sports and the planet.”
The study follows a high-profile campaign against sponsorship deals by UK arts institutions with oil and gas giants. Several have cut ties with fossil fuel companies.
The report’s authors say that sport will be the next battlefield to challenge the social license of polluting industries.
“Sport has been a game changer in raising awareness and rapidly changing opinions and policies on vital issues ranging from child poverty to racism,” said Simms. “Now it could be set to do the same for climate change.”
The report claims that the automotive industry is the most active high-carbon sector seeking sports sponsorship, with 199 different deals across all sports. Airlines come in second with 63, followed by oil and gas companies such as Gazprom and Ineos, whose deals have previously been criticized for climate campaigns. As Ineos was preparing to take on the sponsorship of Team Sky cycling in 2019, a spokesperson for the chemical company said it was committed to moving towards a circular economy.
The report reveals automaker Toyota as the largest sponsor with 31 deals, followed by Emirates airline with 29 partnerships.
A Toyota spokesman said he could not comment in detail without seeing the full report, adding that the company had been “the world leader in electrified low-emission vehicles for 25 years” and had “one of the lowest CO levels.two fleet averages of any high-volume manufacturer and is committed to some of the most ambitious environmental goals of any mobility company. ”
Emirates did not respond to requests for comment.
Activists argue that the report’s findings appear to undermine recent promises made by many sports clubs and bodies to take action against climate breakdown.
Melissa Wilson, a member of the GB rowing team for the Tokyo Olympics, is one of the athletes supporting the campaign. “As athletes, we focus a lot on keeping the sport ‘clean’ by prioritizing anti-doping,” he said. “However, continuing to pollute in the face of the climate emergency is the equivalent on Earth to doping or scoring one’s own goal. By keeping polluting sponsors on board, sports detract from their opportunity to play a productive role in the race to zero carbon emissions. It’s time for sports and athletes to change that. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism