Feature

Silverstone Circuit’s steps to sustainability all-year-round

June 29 2023

Silverstone is a major venue and three-mile long circuit in Northamptonshire, England and is famously the current host of the Formula 1 British Grand Prix and MotoGP British Grand Prix. When it is not being used for these big dates on the sporting calendar that attract hundreds of thousands of attendees, it is still used as a venue for other events.

Silverstone Circuit’s steps to sustainability all-year-round

Of course, there is a lot of attention on how these major events approach sustainability and the environment, but there is little focus on the venue all-year-round. 

Silverstone has taken the approach to improve its carbon footprint and approach to other areas of sustainability such as business profitability, and diversity and inclusion, 365 days a year. 

Particularly over the last 18 months, the team at the circuit have worked hard on initiatives that have been accelerated by events such as the invasion of Ukraine and the energy crisis in Europe and the UK. 

Stephane Bazire, Head of Business Sustainability and Partnerships at Silverstone, explains that the team’s calculations revealed that over the next 20 years, the circuit’s electricity bill could reach over £100m. 

This figure not only prompted a concern over energy usage, but of course what it would mean from a business perspective. 

In response, over 4,000 square-metres of solar panels have been installed on the circuit’s emblematic ‘The Wing’ building. 

“That is something that we had in the pipeline already,” Bazire tells Global Sustainable Sport. “The Ukrainian crisis accelerated the situation and demonstrated that we needed to start investing in and modernising our own infrastructure to be able to generate some of our electricity that we are using.”

Bazire explains that installing solar panels will help the circuit to reduce its carbon footprint by 13%. 

Because of the current situation with energy, the return on investment time frame for the installation of solar panels has also decreased from roughly seven or eight years to five. This means that the circuit will be able to generate its own free electricity in a relatively short time frame. 

“So energy wise, now I think that we’ve ticked almost every box that any venue could have: solar panels, EV chargers, biofuel in our generators and 100% green electricity coming from the grid." Stephane Bazire, Head of Business Sustainability and Partnerships

Not only is this key to reducing the circuit’s carbon footprint, but it also provides an attractive feature for potential event organisers.

“There is another business sustainability factor there,” says Bazire. “If we don’t get those green credentials, we could end up losing out on potential clients. So we need to make sure that we equip ourselves to make sure that when we do have this kind of request we can say ‘yes we have [those features], so come and host your event with us’.”

From April 1, Silverstone has also been utilising 100% green electricity from the grid, meaning the venue’s Scope Two emissions have been cut quite significantly.

Elsewhere on the wider circuit layout, the Silverstone team has made the switch to using hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) fuel for generators. Bazire explains that this comes at a slight cost to the venue, as it is often 18-20p more expensive per litre than traditional white diesel, for example.

“We make that effort to pay a little extra but we know the impact that makes in terms of our carbon footprint,” he says.

Making the venue more appealing to potential clients also prompted the decision to install EV chargers for daily or frequent visitors to Silverstone.

While the wish would be the ability to cater to multiple thousands of fans that attend the British Grand Prix and MotoGP, these EV chargers can now appeal to clients and smaller event organisers as opposed to mass usage.

“So energy wise, now I think that we’ve ticked almost every box that any venue could have: solar panels, EV chargers, biofuel in our generators and 100% green electricity coming from the grid,” explains Bazire.

“This is what we’ve been focussing on over the last 18 months.”

The importance of data

In Silverstone’s efforts to become more sustainable, the team have been working hard to transform the circuit and its buildings into a smart venue.

This allows for the collection of data that will ultimately help the venue to reduce its carbon footprint, as the team will know of the areas where electricity and water is being consumed.

“If you don’t know what you’re using when you’re using it, it’s very hard to drive change and draw a sustainability roadmap,” says Bazire.

“We’ve been investing over the last few months in having more and more metres – sun metres, smart metres – that can give us an idea where the electricity and also the water is consumed onsite. Then you are able to have a smarter building or energy management system that allows you to know exactly what is happening right now – ‘is there someone in that building? If there’s nobody there, let’s switch it off’.”

Silverstone is also currently making the switch to LED lighting, with 50% of the venue now benefitting from this move.

“This means that it cuts down considerably electricity consumption, so it’s good for the planet and obviously it’s good for us in the long term because we are cutting and using less electricity,” adds Bazire.

The 2022 Formula 1 British Grand Prix

The 2022 Formula 1 British Grand Prix

A team effort

Since 2018, Silverstone has sent zero waste to landfill. This has been through a mixture of recycling and sending anything that cannot be recycled to a nearby incinerator, through a waste-to-energy scheme. The track’s goal is to recycle 35% of its waste in 2023 and to achieve a 100% recycling rate by 2026.

But Bazire says that visitors to Silverstone will need to play their part in helping to segregate their waste when visiting the track for major events such as the Formula 1 British Grand Prix. Visitors are also a key aspect of the venue’s Scope Three emissions, meaning Silverstone is trying harder to promote alternative means of transport to come to the track.

Of course, this may seem tricky because the circuit is not near a major city or train station, but Bazire explains that Silverstone is trying to provide more shuttle buses from train stations and promote car sharing initiatives. The use of park and ride services alongside these options can also help to ease congestion around the track during major events.

“This year, during the British Grand Prix and MotoGP, we will run a fan travel survey,” adds Bazire. “There will be a QR code on almost every seat around the grandstands that people can scan. It will ask them to share with us how they got to Silverstone, what means of transport did they use, did they use their car and what type of car, and how many days they stayed onsite. This helps us to calculate the carbon footprint.”

A positive for Silverstone, and perhaps the F1 British Grand Prix and MotoGP race, is that many of the visitors for these events are based within the UK. So while cars are often the mode of transport, this can reduce the number of emissions because of lower aeroplane travel.

There are also 27 water stations on site, meaning visitors are able to refill water bottles to reduce the number of plastic bottles purchased or sent for recycling. Bazire says an estimated half a million plastic bottles are saved by having the refill stations on site.

“So that’s what we are trying to do: diversify our business, transform into a business and leisure destination, transform our events into festivals to not only attract the middle-aged male but also families, younger people, women.” Stephane Bazire, Head of Business Sustainability and Partnerships

And it’s not just the visitors that are part of the track’s sustainability efforts, but stakeholders and new staff members too.

“When you think about sustainability, you think about ‘how do you engage with your stakeholders?’ So that’s another thing that we are doing,” says Bazire.

Engaging with stakeholders and suppliers is key for Bazire, as ultimately all have the same goal of being more sustainable, so how can they work together to do this? Silverstone hosts webinars and writes articles on sustainability efforts at the track, hoping to educate and inspire others to do more of the same.

The team is also working hard on the aspect of procurement, and implementing a policy about working with suppliers that already have sustainability credentials and initiatives in place that can ultimately help an event become carbon neutral.

He says, “We want to be able to tell other venues, or any other people involved in motorsports or management business: ‘look we’ve been deploying these solutions, we’ve been trying this, trying that and it works’, so we want to make sure we are seen as a platform for sustainable solutions.”

Newcomers to the team are also introduced to Silverstone’s sustainability efforts and targets from the beginning, with Bazire detailing what has been done so far, future plans and the current initiatives.

“Because at the end, sustainability is the result of the efforts of everybody,” he explains.

Silverstones social side

Aside from the environmental initiatives, Silverstone is also in the midst of diversifying its business operations to maintain profitability.

A partnership with Hilton, which has a 197-bedroom hotel on site, allows events to be hosted both during the day and at nighttime. This also helps to increase the number of events that can be hosted at Silverstone.

There are further residences being built at the track, increasing the number of beds by 200 on the site, pushing Silverstone towards its target of becoming a business and leisure destination.

“So not only a racetrack, but that sustainable business and leisure destination, which offers premium services, unique lifestyle experiences, related to motorsports or not,” explains Bazire.

“We want to increase the MICE business, which is the meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions side.”

Stephane Bazire, Head of Business Sustainability and Partnerships at Silverstone

Stephane Bazire, Head of Business Sustainability and Partnerships at Silverstone

Events are transforming, and Bazire notes that now visitors are coming for the festival feel. The main entertainment is the motorsport, but guests are often there for four days, with 50,000 camping or clamping onsite.

“It’s great also from a carbon footprint point of view, because instead of people going back and forth on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday, they actually stay on site over those four days,” adds Bazire.

“So that’s what we are trying to do: diversify our business, transform into a business and leisure destination, transform our events into festivals to not only attract the middle-aged male but also families, younger people, women.”

Silverstone also works with over 10,000 volunteers, more than 200 full-time staff, and over 500 staff that work almost full time. Part of its sustainability journey also includes being inclusive and diverse, and looking after its employees and volunteers with training around sustainability. There is also a sustainability Taskforce, as well as a green champion representative in each division.

“We want to be seen as a great employer,” says Bazire. “We really want to foster inclusivity and diversity into our working culture, so that’s something we are working a lot on. We are 50/50, men/women split.

“We try to be as accessible as possible for those with a disability, either physically or mentally. We want to make sure they can attend our events or visit our venue.”

The social side of Silverstone extends to the local community, where any leftover food from the track is donated to a local food larder called TowFoods in Towcester.

Next on Bazire’s list is the upcoming Formula 1 British Grand Prix, which will take place at Silverstone between July 7-9.

Stephane Bazire is the Head of Business Sustainability and Partnerships at Silverstone. To find out more about Silverstone’s sustainability efforts, click here

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