WSA host successful and illuminating Sustainability in Sport Conference

WSA host successful and illuminating Sustainability in Sport Conference

The Welsh Sports Association (WSA) is delighted to have hosted a successful and hugely informative Sustainability in Sport Conference on Thursday 16 November, and thankful to everyone who made it possible.

Hosted in collaboration with the Federation of Irish Sport (FIS) and supported by the Welsh Government’s Agile Cymru initiative – aiming to deliver cross-border and international economic co-operation across shared interests – the event took place at the Principality Stadium, whose venue and hospitality were outstanding throughout the day.

Attendees heard from Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport Dawn Bowden MS, who opened proceedings with a pre-recorded video address. You can view this below.

Following the Deputy Minister’s words, the room then heard from the event’s opening panel.

Noel Mooney, CEO at the Football Association of Wales, discussed Cymru, Wellbeing and the World, how sustainability is at the forefront of the sporting landscape and its wider social value. Swim Wales CEO Fergus Feeney talked about their Ymlaen strategy and Aquazero, demonstrating the valuable work the organisation is undertaking around sustainability; and Cardiff Dragons CEO Vicki Sutton discussed how central sustainability is to the netball franchise – down to the finest details, such as kit colour – and how they strive to be not only carbon neutral, but also nature positive.

The room then heard from Gary Stewart, CEO of FIS member Volleyball Ireland, an organisation leading this space in Ireland, demonstrating their leadership by signing up for the United Nations Sport for Climate Action Framework. Talking about the responsibility around sustainability that NGB’s have to their stakeholders and teasing a big-name partnership (soon to be signed) which will further progress their work in this field, Gary was joined by Impact3Zero Founder Patrick Haslett, who elaborated on the organisation’s work in supporting others with their first steps into sustainability and future objectives.

Following an excellent – mainly vegan – lunch provided by the Principality Stadium, the room welcomed presentations from three speakers.

The Lawn Tennis Association’s Head of Public Policy, Jack Baker, spoke about the LTA’S vision to engage all of its stakeholders in its sustainability mission and embedding sustainability into strategic and operational thinking.

David Gilroy, from Meath County Council in Ireland, then took to the floor to talk about Project Long Game, supporting clubs with opportunities to embark on their sustainability journeys.

Before our second coffee break of the day, we then heard from Padraig Fallon from the GAA on the organisation’s Green Club Programme and how, while the sport still has a long road ahead, sustainability had become a key aspect in every management structure within the sport – from club committees across Ireland to the GAA’s headquarters in Dublin.

Jennifer Huygen, Head of Policy and Strategic Partnerships, at WSA Strategic Partner, Community Leisure UK, then presented to the room. She discussed the organisation’s Carbon Literacy Programme, designed to educate a wide range of individuals on sustainability, eventually aiming to shift behavioural tendencies.

The final panel of the day saw the nominees of the Best Sustainability Initiative award at the WSA Sport Industry Awards 2023 take to the floor.

Steve Ward, Newport Live CEO, presented first of all, giving the operator’s view and painting the stark reality that sport and leisure is a huge polluter, but also giving hope by demonstrating some of the excellent work that his organisation is doing to go greener and build for the future, promoting behavioural change among individuals among other things.

Canoe Wales CEO Alistair Dickson then presented, also putting emphasis on culture changes and awareness of one’s environmental surroundings. He also discussed the Big Paddle Clean that saw the organisation nominated at June’s Awards, confirming that over 300 sacks of litter had been collected from Welsh waterways last year.

Concluding presentations was Dilwyn Griffiths, Sustainability Lead at Wales Golf, who spoke passionately about the fantastic work that Welsh golf courses are doing to preserve wildlife, conserve resources, and become hubs of positive sustainable behaviour.

The WSA is thrilled to have hosted such a powerful and successful event, with delegates describing the conference as “energising”, “inspirational”, “thought-provoking”, and “enlightening”.

Andrew Howard, WSA CEO, commented:

“Collaboration is at the heart of our Strategic Plan and we are best placed to bring the sector together for the most important topics. In April 2019, the Welsh Government declared a national climate emergency to accelerate action to tackle climate change. This is already impacting on sport and the Conference provided a platform for our members to share their experiences and actions, whilst also learning from our Celtic friends.

“There were clear messages at the Conference and ‘collaboration’ and the ‘power and reach of sport’ were two of them. I have no doubt that all delegates left feeling that they had a responsibility to make a difference and if our Members can influence their players, coaches, officials and volunteers, to make lifestyle changes, then using sport’s reach, there is a quite a movement to tackle climate change.”

Federation of Irish Sport Commercial & Business Services Manager, Clare Louise O’Donoghue, was in attendance on behalf of the organisation, and added:

“The Federation of Irish Sport was delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate with the Welsh Sports Association in bringing the hugely informative Sustainability in Sport Conference to fruition.

“Sustainability, decarbonisation and the impact of climate change on sport are some of the issues that are becoming more and more prevalent for sporting organisations. Bringing together such a diverse and informative group of speakers throughout the day provided the opportunity to learn from those already on their sustainability journeys and the variety of steps that they have taken to mitigate their impact on the environment.

“There is great power and potential in the collective approach of sport, in sharing solutions, open-source toolkits and research in forums such as this to ultimately make a societal and environmental difference for generations to come.”

The WSA would like to extend its full gratitude to our fascinating speakers on the day, who spoke and presented with evident enthusiasm for the issue, extending best practises to a room of keen ears.

We would like to thank all delegates who attended the event, both in-person and virtually, as well as our panel moderators and of course our conference host Lauren Jenkins, who once again led the event perfectly.

A thank you must also go to the Principality Stadium and its staff, whose hospitality was warmly appreciated by all in attendance.

Finally, the WSA would like to thank the Federation of Irish Sport, with whom it was fantastic to cooperate on such a vital event for the sport and leisure sector, and Agile Cymru, whose financial support made this collaboration possible.

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