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Sports for Nature Challenge: inspiring and driving positive change

February 24 2023 - News Release News Editorial Sports for Nature Challenge: inspiring and driving positive change

Meet Dona Bertarelli, co-founder of Sails of Change…andthe fastest woman to sail around the world!

A sportswoman, investor and philanthropist, Dona Bertarelli has been a strong advocate for ocean protection, environmental conservation, animal welfare, education and social causes for more than thirty years. Together with her husband and her children she created Sails of Change, a foundation dedicated to the protection and regeneration of biodiversity. Lately, Sails of Change teamed up with ThinkSport, to power the Sports for Nature Challenge, which looks for innovative solutions that promote and enhance biodiversity conservation, linked to sport.

We caught up with Dona Bertarelli to learn more about her motivation, her experience, ambitions and hopes….and of course her expectations for the Sports for Nature Challenge!

Why did you create Sails of Change?

Dona Bertarelli: With my husband and my children, we founded Sails of Change in 2021 to raise awareness about the vital importance of preserving nature’s biodiversity and ecosystems. Our family shares a passion for sport, on both land and sea. Through Sails of Change’s Sports for Nature programme, we aim to inspire and unite sport participants, organisers and governing bodies, in order to drive positive change. Nature needs our help: a million species are threatened with extinction. Scientists say we need to fully or highly protect at least 30% of global land and ocean by 2030, and Sails of Change’s first focus is on work towards achieving ’30×30’. Together, we can get there!

Why did Sails of Change decide to get involved in the Sports for Nature Challenge?

Dona Bertarelli: The fate of humanity is tightly linked to the health of the natural world, and more particularly the health of the ocean, which provides 50% of the oxygen we breathe and plays a critical role in regulating our climate. Sportspeople need clean air and a healthy natural environment in order to practice their sport. Because sports activities impact nature, it’s important to share practical steps to protect and preserve the environment. Teaming up with ThinkSport to support the Sports for Nature Challenge is a wonderful opportunity to nurture and accelerate projects which can generate positive change.

What can the sports world do to protect our planet and its biodiversity?

Dona Bertarelli: There’s a great deal we can do, both as individuals and as organisations. I can share some examples from Spindrift, our professional racing team. Like all sports teams, we have a carbon footprint. Since Spindrift’s early years, we’ve kept pushing to reduce our environmental impact, while maintaining high-level sporting performance. For example, we’ve opted to carefully maintain our existing maxi trimaran, which was launched in 2008, rather than building a new one every few years, as is common in our sport.

We are currently preparing to attempt to sail around the world without using fossil fuels, using only the wind and sun as energy sources to power our boat’s instruments.

At our sailing base, we’re taking every opportunity to improve energy efficiency, reduce energy consumption, eliminate single-use plastic, use electric vehicles, reduce waste, maximise recycling and use local suppliers. Every little action helps!

What are your top tips for applicants to the Sports for Nature Challenge?

Dona Bertarelli: I think the best ideas often come from asking the right questions. Perhaps you’ve noticed something which could be improved or changed. Why are we using plastics to produce this object? Why isn’t there a recycling option at this sports venue? Why aren’t we using this platform to communicate and encourage change for nature? Then imagine, what is the change you would like to see? Imagine what the solution could look like. What is needed? How could you make this happen? Be bold! By thinking outside the box, the best ideas can come true.

What do you hope the Challenge can deliver?

Dona Bertarelli: We urgently need to rethink how we interact with, and take care of, our environment. Changing habits isn’t easy and doesn’t happen overnight. But we humans have a great ability to solve problems. I hope the Sports for Nature Challenge will inspire new thinking about how we can protect and preserve biodiversity. I look forward to discovering the ideas and solutions which emerge, and wish all the participants the best of luck!

Click here to learn more about the Sports for Nature Challenge. Application deadline is 15 March 2023.

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