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“Saving the planet shouldn’t be boring”: Carbon Jacked brings sustainability to life

August 31 2023

Combating climate change is the most pressing issue of our time, and the sports industry and the world must take action if we want to protect our planet. But engaging people with sustainability isn’t always easy.

Carbon Jacked, a company founded in 2020, is on a mission to use the power of sport to help people combat climate change creatively—because ‘saving the planet shouldn’t be boring’.

So how exactly can sport help bring sustainability to life?

Bringing fun back into sustainability

Carbon Jacked was founded in 2020 by three friends with backgrounds spanning the corporate, policy, and sports industries. The aim was to inject some creativity into sustainability, and to ‘make doing the right thing easy and fun’.

The team saw some issues with existing communications and engagement on climate and sustainability topics. ‘A big motivation when we started was the fact that, far too often, the people component and the story of sustainability was overlooked,’ says Jacques Sheehan, co-founder of Carbon Jacked. ‘We wanted to do something about that.’

The team saw two major issues: unengaging sustainability initiatives that failed to connect with people, and sustainability work that ultimately fell into greenwashing.

‘There are far too many sustainability solutions that are just ticking a box, or at the worst end of it, are greenwashing,’ says Sheehan.

This meant there was a missed opportunity: the team believed that engaging with sustainability issues had a huge potential to improve wellbeing and connect people and communities, particularly in the sports industry.

‘Sustainability is something that you need to do, but you can also engage people and improve their wellbeing at the same time,’ says Sheehan. ‘That’s why it’s such an exciting space for us, because you can do both. But, too often, organisations are squandering at least one of those components.’

Jess Rogers, co-founder, had worked in the sports industry since graduating from university, and saw the potential to use the unique position and platform of sport to promote sustainability.

‘We came together because we saw these other environmental initiatives that weren’t really cutting the mustard, particularly when it came to sport and sustainability,’ she says. ‘We want to make sustainability cool, and sport sustainability gives us the absolute opportunity to do that.’

Sport can lead the way 

The sports industry seemed like a perfect place to make sustainability engaging.

‘Athletes, clubs, sports have a huge platform,’ says Rogers. ‘They get listened to—they’re trailblazers.’

Carbon Jacked draws on sport’s strengths under the Profile pillar of sustainability to promote People and Planet.

The team engage with athletes, fans, clubs, and organisations across the world, and have found that bringing sport and sustainability together means cross-cutting benefits.

‘Engaging with sustainability not only changes fan behaviour, but it brings in more sponsors as well,’ says Rogers. ‘You’re going to lose out if you don’t do sustainability now—it will bring in better sponsors, it will bring in more fans.’

How Carbon Jacked makes sustainability cool

To fulfil their aim of bringing sustainability to life, Carbon Jacked works in three main areas.

First, the team help organisations engage their people on sustainability. ‘We want to help organisations get the people part of sustainability right,’ says Rogers.

This means raising awareness of sustainability among employees, athletes, and fans through a dedicated sustainability platform. Anyone can sign up to become a member of Carbon Jacked and gain access to the platform.

The platform brings together high-quality content and technology to educate people about climate and sustainability, improve wellbeing, and inform people on how to take action. It is designed to be engaging, informative, and fun, and avoids generic content.

For example, the team recently created a content series on sewage pollution, including a collaboration with pro surfer and ocean champion Lucy Campbell about surfing, sewage, plastic pollution and what we can do about it.

The Carbon Jacked team also host climate training for organisations and climate strategy sessions for leadership teams, with a focus on engagement and fun.

The second area that Carbon Jacked focuses on is content creation for organisations, including event moderation and keynote speeches. Using their expertise on sustainability, the team engage audiences and fans directly.

Finally, the team also offer technical sustainability advisory work, which includes helping organisations set net zero strategies, helping with carbon footprint measurements, and assisting with formal ESG reporting. Within sport, this can mean helping organisations with things like the UNFCCC’s Sports for Climate Action Framework.

While the team mainly focus on the Planet pillar of sustainability, they’ve found that they still work with all pillars in their work.

‘We’re primarily specialists in environmental sustainability, but that often touches on the social and governmental sides too, and the wider remit of the UN’s SDGs,’ says Sheehan.

Projects to date

Working across three areas, the team have worked with organisations across the world, from all corners of the industry. ‘We work on all sports—everything from football, to netball, to sailing, to electric racing,’ says Rogers.

Projects to date include working with SailGP on a ‘climate change 101’ staff training programme; developing a seven-part sustainability series with Sky Sports that looked at how athletes can combat climate change; going on Soccer AM to talk about Green Football Weekend; and chairing a climate panel for Manchester City. The team have also advised organisations like Y1 Hockey, who last year became the world’s first carbon-neutral hockey brand.

Carbon Jacked also uses its own platform to reach new audiences and educate on sustainability: their blog and Instagram feature videos and articles on topics as varied as wild swimming, the IPCC, sustainable finance, and eating a green diet.

The focus of all of Carbon Jacked’s work is making education on sustainability something that people actually want to consume and engage with. ‘We’re all about working on fun, slightly different, cool initiatives, to bring sustainability to life,’ says Rogers.

Creating impact

Importantly, Carbon Jacked’s business model puts funds directly back into climate projects doing on-the-ground work to protect forests, oceans, and coastlines.

The team select projects to support by focusing on those that have the most impact, and those that will grab people’s attention.

Recent projects that Carbon Jacked have supported include tree replanting and peatland restoration in the Peak District; the Good Law Project’s Clean Waters case; Carbon Tanzania’s forest conservation project in Ntakata Mountains; and reforestation and coastline restoration projects in Madagascar, Mozambique, Haiti and Colombia.

The team also support community projects in the UK and abroad, including the Trussel Trust and Pecan in Peckham, South London, and the Fair Climate Fund’s initiative to distribute solar cookers to communities in Sudan. In this way, Carbon Jacked’s work spans the wider UN SDGs and GSS’s seven pillars of sustainability.

This approach means that Carbon Jacked’s memberships aren’t based on carbon offsetting or becoming ‘carbon neutral’. Instead, when employees, fans, or organisations become a member of Carbon Jacked, their memberships directly support projects that will have the biggest impact.

Facing challenges 

The team have encountered some bigger issues in their work, but are thoughtful about how to overcome them.

‘A major issue is short-termism—people often try to avoid the problem,’ says Sheehan.

Another challenge is the idea that being sustainable is a huge cost. ‘I think that’s a misconception,’ says Sheehan. ‘If you look at the evidence, the biggest cost is not acting. If you act now and are a bit ahead of the pack, you can form big partnerships, and find some great opportunities.’

Perception can also be a problem. ‘People think that if you do anything it needs to be perfect, that it’s all or nothing—but that’s just not the case,’ Sheehan says.

Working in the sustainability space has its challenges, but the team are confident that creatively working with stakeholders in sport will ultimately overcome them.

‘There are lots of challenges—but all of them are surmountable,’ says Sheehan.

The future is fun

Three years on from founding Carbon Jacked, the team hope to continue to use the power and reach of sport to reach new audiences.

In the next few years, they hope to increase the number of users on their platform, and build the number of people growing their interest in sustainability and engaging with Carbon Jacked’s content.

This will mean that the team will be able to fund even more climate projects.

‘By growing our platform we get to really help out and do more,’ says Sheehan. ‘It allows us to fund more and more climate projects.’

While the sport industry is becoming ever-more attuned to sustainability issues, there’s still plenty of room for growth. ‘We want to have greater impact with more sports, more people, more athletes, and just encouraging more people,’ says Rogers. ‘Lots of sports are getting involved—but there’s still so much space.’

The team have faith in the potential of sport to be a key player in the fight against climate change and the move to a sustainable future.

‘Sport can show people how things should be done,’ says Rogers. ‘We really believe that sport can be the positive tipping point that the world needs.’

Get in touch with the Carbon Jacked team on enquiries@carbonjacked.com.

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