Into the spotlight!

Editorial by Jan Peter Schemmel, CEO, Oeko-Institut

In stadiums, theatres and concert halls, people come together to celebrate, dance and be entertained. They represent a cross-section of our society, with different levels of education, interests and incomes. What a great opportunity to turn the spotlight on sustainability! Sports and cultural events are an excellent arena in which to raise awareness of the much-needed transformation – and reach members of the public who have not yet engaged with this issue. These events provide a framework for a seemingly less “cerebral” approach to the topic of sustainability – one which involves celebrity role models, appeals more strongly to our emotions and senses, or challenges our perceptions. Art, for example, can show us that in our society, we often have a highly anthropocentric view of the environment: we perceive it as the world around us, separate from ourselves. Yet other cultures see the environment and humankind as a single entity; sustainability thus acquires more relevance.

But sport and culture should not merely promote sustainability; they must embrace the concept more fully themselves. I would like to see anyone who organises a sports tournament internalising the principle of competition here. They should be asking: what can I do to make this the greenest and most climate-friendly event ever? That does not mean simply offsetting emissions as cheaply as possible by purchasing certificates; it means avoiding emissions as far as possible and buying offsets at a fair and equitable price. In other words, it means living up to our climate responsibility. Major events are a particularly good opportunity to trial mea­sures on a larger scale and achieve commercial viability for sustainable alternatives. The fact is that investing in compostable tableware, reusable cups and so on often only pays off if the target market numbers thousands, not dozens of people.

Mobility has a particularly significant impact on events’ sustainability performance. I saw this for myself when I went to a concert at the Hockenheimring. Due to the poor public transport links, there was total gridlock on all the access roads. The solution, surely, is to provide special trains, with shuttle buses to take ticket-holders from the nearest railway station and other transport hubs to the venue, with the cost of the transfer covered by the ticket price. Now that really would be something to celebrate.


Jan Peter Schemmel
CEO, Oeko-Institut