Carbon Happy World helps Vipers pounce for cricketing first
Following the inaugural International League T20 (ILT20) in the United Arab Emirates, the Dubai-based Desert Vipers publicly disclosed its carbon emissions at a launch event at Lord’s Cricket Ground in July.
This not only marked a major step for a sports team, but it also saw the Vipers become the first cricket team in the world to fully measure and publish its carbon footprint. The franchise worked with Carbon Happy World, a provider of practical auditing and advice, to track its carbon emissions data.
Carbon Happy World began its journey during Covid-enforced lockdown in the UK, but founder Gary Adlen started his own sustainability journey back in 1990.
As a graduate trainee in 1990 at an international insurance company, Adlen was asked to choose issues that would affect the sector in the future and write a dissertation on his chosen subject. As explained by Martin Thornton, Carbon Happy World’s Director of Communications, Adlen had the foresight to choose global warming as a topic – and the rest, as they say, is history.
Adlen then went on to work in environmental services in Africa, the Middle East and South America with multinational and inter-governmental organisations such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (UN FAO), World Bank and wildlife organisation WWF.
More recently, he has been involved in the sports sector. Over more than a decade, he transformed the Liverpool FC Community department into the newly branded LFC Foundation, giving the club a CRS department that matched the values of its new owners at the time.
Additionally, he was a member of the branding committee that was tasked with refreshing the English Premier League football club’s values, brand and overall engagement with stakeholders, commercial activities and fanbase. As part of the initiatives, Adlen launched initiatives such as The Liverpool Way – leading to the Red Way (Red Neighbours), which has developed around a set of ESG values.
Prior to the creation of Carbon Happy World in 2018-2021, Adlen also worked with the Saudi Sports Authority, developing a brand awareness with the Saudi Football League and communities associated with them.
Fast-forward to 2023, and the inaugural ILT20 featured six franchise teams including Abu Dhabi Knight Riders (Kolkata Knight Riders), Desert Vipers (Lancer Capital), Dubai Capitals (GMR), Gulf Giants (Adani Sportsline), MI Emirates (Reliance Industries) and Sharjah Warriors (Capri Global).
The Desert Vipers reached the final before losing to Gulf Giants at the Dubai International Stadium. However, the team is already planning for the future. On the field, the services of former England batsman and top run-scorer Alex Hales are being retained for the second instalment of the ILT20, which is set to take start on January 13, 2024. Off the field, the team is focusing efforts on improving its carbon footprint for the good of the planet.
At Lord’s last month, it was revealed that the Desert Vipers’ total carbon emissions amounted to 570 tonnes, with travel accounting for 423 tonnes, goods and services – including hotel and transportation in the UAE – accounting for roughly 114 tonnes, and air conditioning coolant contributing to approximately 32 tonnes.
These baseline data were collected by undertaking a comprehensive Carbon-Calculation, which is an extensive carbon footprint audit facilitated and implemented by Carbon Happy World. The process monitored the Desert Vipers’ operations during the first season of the ILT20, and mapped out the organisation’s activities that contributed to carbon emissions. For the team, this covered all business activities, such as travel, accommodation, kit, merchandise and video calls.
Then, the Desert Vipers’ supply chain was assessed, with data collected from the franchise’s suppliers and carefully checked, organised and fed into the Carbon Happy World Tracker. The carbon footprint was further broken down into different scopes and categories like utilities, travel, and goods and services.
"We hope more teams will be inspired and realise how important this is to the planet.”
“During our period of working with Desert Vipers, the importance of the carbon calculation process really laser-focused the club’s ambitions and solidified its foundation from which to develop its sustainability strategy,” said Thornton.
“The one quote that captured the whole meaning behind this was ‘We can’t do anything meaningful, [if] we can’t measure’. We hope more teams will be inspired and realise how important this is to the planet.”
Thornton added that Carbon Happy World is set to embark on a new partnership with a Scottish Premiership football club this month. The team will look at the club’s whole carbon footprint including travel, accommodation, merchandise and more.
“To date, some football clubs have made attempts to define how they measure, and our partner is fully committed to transparency and disclosure of all their carbon emissions,” said Thornton.
Following the collaboration with the Desert Vipers, Carbon Happy World also received enquiries from Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket teams.
The ball is rolling
Thornton believes that more teams will be more honest about their carbon footprint and emissions.
“It’s a question of when, not if,” he said. “There are a couple of drivers here. The biggest asset a sports organisation holds is its brand, and one of the easiest ways to damage the integrity of a brand is through dishonesty.
“Inaccurate claims about their sustainability pathway could, and should, come back to haunt them, as this type of behaviour undermines loyalty with their sponsors and commercial partners who are increasingly looking to associate their brands with environmentally responsible clubs, and ultimately their fan base.
“The other is mandatory disclosure requirements for large organisations which will start to filter through in 2024.”
Thornton is referring to the rule changes within the EU, which will see all large companies required to disclose data on the impact of their activities on the environment and people, and publish regular reports on the social and environmental risks they face.
"Sport has the ability to break down barriers, communicate to its fans and wider audiences on a whole range of issues."
Earlier this year, the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) was introduced to modernise and strengthen rules concerning social and environmental information that companies will need to report. Large companies, as well as listed SMEs (small-medium enterprises) will now be required to report on sustainability.
The first set of companies will have to apply the new rules for the first time in the 2024 financial year, with the first reports to be published in 2025.
“At the moment, there is no real structure or governance to how any sports league would report their members’ emissions, and this makes it a challenge to compare who is doing what and if it has any collective credibility,” explained Thornton.
“However, in 2024, large companies will need to publicly disclose information on the way they operate and manage social and environmental risks. Imagine it like this: Next year, reporting on your carbon emissions and the actions taken to reduce them will have the same legal standard as your company annual reports have today.
“It will be part of your company report with calculations that will cover every activity in and around the business, and maybe then we will have the evidence to produce credible sustainable league tables and collective responsibility.”
Reporting sustainability efforts
Working towards carbon neutrality in sports has accelerated over the last few years – see Formula 1’s regular updates on its journey towards net zero in 2030; Paris 2024’s bid to be the most sustainable Olympic and Paralympic games ever and SailGP’s goal of being the world’s most sustainable sports and entertainment platform.
However, as Thornton discussed earlier, making false claims about environmental efforts can cause problems.
In June, the Swiss Commission for Fairness (SLK), Switzerland’s self-regulatory body for the advertising and communications industry, upheld complaints against football’s global governing body FIFA over its Qatar World Cup carbon neutral claims. Qatar hosted the FIFA World Cup 2022 in November and December.
Organisations from five European countries – Switzerland, France, Belgium, the UK and the Netherlands – submitted complaints to the SLK at the end of last year. The complainants accused FIFA of making false statements in its communications about carbon neutrality at the World Cup. The Second Chamber of the Swiss regulator upheld all five complaints.
While the decision was not legally binding, the SLK advised FIFA to ‘refrain from making unsubstantiated claims in the future. Particularly the claim that the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar was climate- or carbon-neutral’.
“The sports sector should be taking the lead.”
So, how does Carbon Happy World work with clubs and teams to make sure they get their sustainability reporting right?
“We will work with both club and venue together, as one does not exist without the other,” said Thornton. “Sport has a special place in cultures across the world. In some respects the nature of the work is the same, we measure activity across a business and create a carbon emissions output then develop an action plan to reduce emissions. Where it differs is the breadth of activity from hospitality and retail, mass transit to ground management.
“Sport has the ability to break down barriers, communicate to its fans and wider audiences on a whole range of issues that no other platform has the ability to do so. That is why we have to get the message right when it comes to climate change, sports businesses have to be more transparent about their carbon emissions and its impact.”
Given the influence of sport – and its leading clubs, franchises and names, Thornton is in no doubt that the sector can play a huge role in driving transformation.
“They are the drivers for change, with their supply chains, fan base, local community, sponsors, their interaction with local, national and international governments and organisations,” he said. “The sports sector should be taking the lead.”
Carbon Happy World is a consultancy that provides practical auditing and advice, helping organisations to track carbon and emissions data.
Read more about Carbon Happy World here.