Nimble brands understand talk is cheap and conscious consumers expect brand action, especially as the longer-term impact of COVID is starting to take shape. New research on purpose and sustainability by Barkley indicate the pandemic created an increased consumer focus on environmental, economic and social justice issues. In fact, 95% of consumers say it is as important or more important now to support brands that are focused on environmental, economic and social justice issues.
Committing your brand to a purpose-driven sustainability strategy, grounded in meaningful, ambitious action, allows your company or organization to be a force for good. And when a brand proves its commitment to sustainable business, consumers become fans, true believers, and new advocates for your initiatives. That’s good business.
Consider the Philadelphia Eagles and its partnership with Ocean Conservancy and The Ocean Foundation. It may sound like an unlikely partnership at first until you understand that the franchise is committed to sustainability from top to bottom. In addition to a host of environmental actions it’s implemented for years, the Eagles are now offsetting its carbon footprint through seagrass and mangrove restoration. That’s sustainability on purpose and a win-win for sports, for the ocean and for the planet as a whole.
The team behind this innovative partnership shares more on the momentum around its call-to-action, the power of private-sector investments in sustainability, and the unsuspecting ally that makes their commitment possible.
Jeff Fromm: As we look at the UN sustainable development goals, what are the biggest ocean issues and opportunities that need to be addressed?
George Leonard, Chief Scientist of the Ocean Conservancy: The ocean is suffering from both a climate crisis and a biodiversity crisis at the same time. If we want the ocean to continue to provide the services on which humans depend, and we certainly want to, we need to solve both of those problems simultaneously. Interestingly, a new report was just released by the United Nations Environment Program that has called for an increase in investments in habitat protection to triple by 2030. The UN has specifically called on the private sector to scale up its actions and to scale up its investments, to close the current gap in funding.
This new commitment that the Eagles has made in collaboration with Ocean Conservancy and The Ocean Foundation is a really great example of the kind of private sector leadership that the UN has actually called for. As a result, with additional resources, we can work together to protect and restore more coastal habitats. In doing so, drive climate solutions, enhance biodiversity, and provide real, tangible benefits to local communities.
Fromm: How did the partnership with the Ocean Conservancy and The Ocean Foundation come to be, and what do the Eagles hope to achieve through it?
Catherine Carlson, Senior VP Revenue and Strategy, Philadelphia Eagles: We at the Philadelphia Eagles have actually been focused on sustainability efforts for close to 18 years.
What started as baby steps with a blue recycling bin under each employee’s desk back in 2003 has really grown into a company-wide sustainability program called “Go Green.” Sustainability is really part of our Eagle’s DNA, and now it’s part of a year-round program.
Our goal every year is to really reduce the team’s environmental footprint on the planet. This partnership was started with our Go Green ambassador Norman Vossschulte who had the initial conversations with Ocean Conservancy back in early 2019, and was really the start of this whole conversation.
What emerged from these conversations was the idea of how to offset the carbon footprint of team travel through sea grass and mangrove restoration.
We had a lot of discussions with the scientists at the Ocean Conservancy, and they worked with us to calculate how much sea grass would we need to plant to offset our team travel carbon emissions for the whole 2020 season?
What we also learned through our conversations was that sea grass populations in Latin America and the Caribbean are experiencing significant losses due to climate change. And so, for the Eagles, investing in that blue carbon restoration efforts was just another way to mitigate climate change, protect ocean life, and support the fragile ecosystem in the region.
At the end of the day, it truly compliments our Go Green initiatives and helps support a stable climate and a healthy ocean for the future.
Norman Vossschulte, Director of Fan Experience, Philadelphia Eagles: Sustainability is an hourglass journey that requires a global commitment to protecting and preserving our planet. Great progress has been made through innovation and technology, but when you factor in climate change and its current impact on the environment, our ability to stay ahead of the curve has never been more important.
As a professional football team, we are fortunate to have a platform that enables us to leverage our star power to serve as leaders in sustainability through our Eagles Go Green program. We are proud to support the Ocean Conservancy’s Blue Playbook as we take action to maintain a healthier ocean and climate for generations to come.
Fromm: What does success look like in terms of the partnership?
Mark Spalding, President, Ocean Foundation: We’re going to be able to effectively sequester and store carbon that offsets the Eagles’ footprint for the season, as well as the footprints of all of our project supporters. In the long-term, this effort will help pave the way for a project large enough to make third-party certification possible so that more blue carbon projects can be available to future investors. These projects are increasingly attractive because of the many benefits that they offer in addition to effectively sequestering carbon. For example, helping to increase local biodiversity, protect vulnerable coastlines, and provide critical habitats for marine life.
Fromm: How does it scale out?
Mark J. Spalding: Part of this is an effort to restore the ocean’s capacity. The ocean is an amazing ally for addressing human disruption of the climate. It manages the temperature of the planet by absorbing heat, but it is also a carbon sink. We’ve lost tremendous amounts of estuaries, sea grasses and mangroves due to development and to water pollution amongst other things. We now have an opportunity because we have cleaner water and have better water control systems, to restore those places and put them back into function and start taking carbon out of the atmosphere and moving it into the seafloor soils again. The neat thing is unlike forests, they don’t catch on fire. The re-release of carbon is not as critical a worry in these ecosystems.
Jeff Fromm: How do you think this will affect local communities?
Spalding: Well, first of all, we believe that only by working with the local community is this offset effort actually going to be achieved. The example here is the Jobo’s Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve , which is part of NOAA’s Federal Reserve System. It has trained staff who are not only helping us implement the restoration, but also helping to monitor it and make sure that it’s working over a timescale of decades. We conduct training workshops for local scientists to help continue building capacity for more conservation to occur, as well as education and outreach efforts to local residents that highlight the incredible co-benefits of mangroves and seagrass for the people of Puerto Rico. If we don’t convince them of this value, then they won’t necessarily protect it in the same way. That’s why local communities are critical to our success.
For questions about this interview, please contact Jeff at email@example.com