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Net zero goals

8 October 2021

Net zero goals

Top flight derby football games can be divisive but Tottenham Hotspur’s encounter against Chelsea on 19 September attracted praise from many quarters even before kick-off. It was billed as the world’s first net zero carbon match at an elite level.

Supported by the COP26 climate change summit, the Premier League and broadcaster Sky, the #GameZero branded event aimed to be zero carbon, with direct emissions being reduced as much as possible and the remainder offset through natural projects to remove emissions from the atmosphere.

This latter way of offsetting emissions is not ideal since you are basically investing in carbon reduction measures – like planting trees – to an extent that counteracts the excesses of your own carbon footprint. 

But it’s a pragmatic response that many organisations make as an initial step on the net zero path, and perhaps there are strategies that hire companies and suppliers can emulate in their own operations. 

Earlier, for Tottenham’s opening match of the season against Manchester City on 15 August, a carbon measurement consultancy RSK used direct data, including a fan survey, to measure regular match-day emissions. This looked at fan journeys, squad travel, energy and waste at the stadium and match day employee commutes to create a baseline from which to make reductions.

In order for the Chelsea match to be net zero, the Club and Sky worked to minimise emissions from match day activity such as energy used to power the game, travel to and from the stadium and dietary choices at the ground. 

Fans were encouraged to take sustainable actions, including: using public transport, cycling to the match (Tottenham has provision for up to 180 bikes to be parked nearby), choosing a plant-based food option and recycling waste. 

The home team travelled to the match by coach to reduce the number of car movements and, as the away team, Chelsea personnel were asked to travel across London sustainably. Both teams headed to the stadium on a coach running on biofuel and all players drank water on the day from cartons provided by Spurs, as opposed to plastic bottles.

To address remaining emissions, Sky is working with the Natural Capital Partners consultancy to restore natural carbon sinks which remove emissions from the atmosphere. Initiatives include supporting a community forestry project in East Africa and creating new UK native woodlands. Tottenham and Sky will also plant trees locally to the stadium later this year.

In January, Spurs were named as the Premier League’s greenest club following a study carried out by the UN-backed Sport Positive Summit. Measures have included: 100% cent renewable energy and zero Scope 2 emissions (associated with energy supplies) at the stadium, with LED lighting (including the floodlights).

Single-use plastic reduction measures are in place across the club, with food served in recyclable packaging with wooden cutlery, and beer keg caps are recycled. Water consumption is minimised with waterless urinals and low-flow fittings and fixtures.

Tottenham have also established an ecological habitat at its training centre, including an organic kitchen garden, new and semi-mature trees, plants and hedgerows, ‘bug hotels’ and bat houses, wildlife ponds, green roofs to capture and re-harvest rainwater, solar panels and air source heat pumps. 

Also, the shirts that players wear on the pitch and the replica jerseys for fans to buy are constructed with 100% recycled polyester fabric, which is made from recycled plastic bottles.

Initiatives like this show the sort of measures an organisation can take to reduce their carbon footprint, as well as the need to involve all its stakeholders. 

• On the morning of the Tottenham and Chelsea match on 19 September, the death of Jimmy Greaves at the age of 81 was announced. He was Tottenham’s record scorer with 266 goals in 379 appearances between 1961 and 1970. Coincidentally, he started his professional career with Chelsea in 1957. 

Photo: Hzh/Wikimedia Commons 

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