SETTING GOALS: An inaugural GOAL Grand Prix conference Jan. 9-10 focused on sustainability within motorsports. Pictured during a panel discussion are OVG360 President Chris Granger, (moderator), RFK Racing President Steve Newmark, NASCAR head of sustainability Riley Nelson and Penske vice president of sustainability Bill Combs. (Courtesy OVG)
Industry not known for green initiatives takes step toward sustainability
Motorsports leaders were waving the green flag at the recent GOAL Grand Prix conference in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The inaugural, invitation-only conference was held Jan. 9-10 at Honeywell headquarters for 100 participants representing leagues, teams, tracks, partners and other stakeholders in the racing industry to discuss ways to minimize the environmental impact of motorsport and lead the racing community toward a more sustainable future.
“Motorsports is so much about competition; sustainability is an area where we are far more about helping each other,” said Mark Sibla, chief of staff for IndyCar. “And this conference has encouraged that dialogue.”
“I really appreciated the last two days,” said Riley Nelson, head of sustainability for NASCAR. “It was great to see so many people in our industry in the same room having thoughtful discussions around sustainability and how our industry can be better and move forward within this space.”
Organized by Oak View Group and OVG’s GOAL Team, GOAL Grand Prix opened with a keynote from professional motorsport speaker Mike Mooney followed by a series of workshops, breakout sessions, social events and panels. Oak View Group is parent company to VenuesNow.
Panel topics included In Pursuit of Authenticity: Balancing Concerns of Greenwashing while Avoiding Greenhushing; Charged Momentum: The Electrification Surge in Motorsport; Farm to Finish Line: Showcasing Nature-Based Innovations and the evolution of the supply chain with synthetic fuel to tires made from regenerative rubber; The Critical Importance of Impact-Driven Partnerships; Accelerating Influence: How Media can Highlight Sustainable Solutions; and The Role of F&B in a Sustainable Race Experience.
“I think we all face very similar opportunities and challenges around decarbonizing our industry whether you are representing a venue, a series, team or partnership,” said Logan Waddle, sustainability program leader for Penske Entertainment. “So, I think it’s great that we have this group of people who are coming together and truly collaborating in a candid way and really not holding back about the challenges we are facing.”
“Sustainability is something we all need to pay attention to and get better at,” added Ed Lucas, track operations manager at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “We have a strong recycling program at the Speedway but it was great to learn the other initiatives that people are doing and ways we can incrementally add to our scope, which will be beneficial to us at the Speedway.”
Oak View Group is one of the founding members of GOAL, which stands for Green Operations & Advanced Leadership. It’s a sustainability program for arenas, stadiums, convention centers and other types of public assembly venues in the sports and entertainment industry.
Members of GOAL will have access to a digital portal that defines a broad set of sustainability standards specifically designed for venues, a tactical roadmap for achieving those standards and a customized tracking tool. The online platform includes a library of resources and provides a forum to collaborate with like-minded operators, vendors and sponsors who are committed to operating more sustainably.
“The entire point of GOAL is to help operators run their businesses more sustainably, and it’s as simple as that,” said Chris Granger, president of OVG360.
With deep ties and relationships in the racing industry, Granger said OVG and the GOAL Team recognized the motorsport industry faced a unique set of challenges when it came to sustainability, including the use of fossil fuel.
Convening an industry that’s not immediately associated with green initiatives was inspiring, Granger said.
“I walked out of those two days feeling better about the world,” offered Granger. “Just listening to the stories of people in the room who are doing really good work that aren’t getting enough credit for it. It’s not garnering enough national attention, but the work is meaningful and real. Sharing those stories so people think about motorsports differently was one of the big takeaways.”
A presentation on regenerative rubber was a call to action to corporate partners in the room, specifically tire manufacturers, on the importance of regenerative agriculture, specifically farming and growing rubber. Rubber is the No. 3 perennial crop by area in the world and the tire industry is the biggest player in natural rubber. The industry is experiencing change as FIA and F1 have integrated more sustainability standards on the rubber in their tires.
“As in any room of a league or multiple teams or multiple operators, people are coming at it from different places so it was encouraging that everybody understood that perfection is not the goal here, progress is the goal,” explained Granger.
Other discussions included the electrification within motorsports, marine biodegradable food and beverage products, messaging to the fan base, leveraging partnerships for increased efficiency and performance and how sustainability can create value on the cost side.
GOAL Grand Prix is only the beginning of potential future gatherings targeted at individual segments of the live sports and entertainment industry to accelerate the work of sustainability in a profound way.
“Everybody in the room realized that as much as the race teams compete aggressively on the track, as much as race leagues compete with one another for attention, or viewership or dollars, when it comes to an issue like sustainability the challenges they face are largely the same,” Granger said.