SENSIBLY SUSTAINABLE: Oak View Group’s Senior Director, Sustainability Kristen Fulmer addresses attendees at the first GOAL Invitational. (Courtesy OVG)

Event likely to take place annually, key organizer says

About 100 people attended last month’s GOAL Invitational in Seattle, where some of those in town for the Green Sports Alliance Summit also made their way to Climate Pledge Arena to hear about practical approaches to making venue operations more environment friendly and how doing so makes good business sense.

Oak View Group launched GOAL (Green Operations & Advanced Leadership) in 2022 as a set of tools, resources and standards for sports and entertainment facilities to integrate sustainability anywhere along their journey.

The June 26 invitation-only affair focused on tactical best practices in sustainability, said Kristen Fulmer, senior director of sustainability for VenuesNow parent company Oak View Group.

Attendees, which included GOAL members and friends of the growing sustainability movement, were also treated to a 100% plant-based dinner at the Seattle Aquarium, sponsored and provided by OVG Hospitality.

“Attendees included leadership from about 75 different venues, including some of the most prominent in the country,” Fulmer said. “Our audience is much broader than just OVG. We had people from competitor venues and leadership from the major sports leagues in the country.”

A keynote panel addressed why sustainability matters. One of two headliners was mother of pop superstar Billie Eilish, Maggie Baird, who spoke about a nonprofit she created based on what she observed in terms of unsustainable habits on tour with her daughter.

“She’s really focused on plant-based food and helping to feed people with more healthy foods,” Fulmer said.

The other was Adam Met of the band AJR.

“He also has a PhD in social impact and sustainability-type work,” Fulmer said. “It was really interesting to hear from people who are artists and are really passionate about the topic.”

DINING WITH THE FISHES: Dinner at Seattle Aquarium, sponsored and created by OVG Hospitality, included interacting with the wildlife. (Courtesy OVG)

The invitational included inspirational speakers; a session on data-driven storytelling that included panelists from Xcel Energy Center, State Farm Arena and Climate Pledge Arena; and discussion of how venue management and corporate partnerships can reach sustainability goals, even if a facility is older and smaller than a major modern counterpart, Fulmer said.

Sustainability-driven solution providers made round robin pitches for their goods and services.

“Companies had the chance to share their solution with venue operators in intimate groups of about 10 venues that selected their category of solutions,” Fulmer explained. “This was a no-cost way for venues to get access to vetted sustainability solutions.”

Panelists from the Moody Center, Moda Center and UBS Arena discussed reaching zero-waste goals.

A leadership panel, led by Chris Granger, president of OVG360, featured speakers from Fenway Sports Group ownership and Climate Pledge Arena while a session on corporate partnerships included panelists from Climate Pledge Arena, CFG Bank Arena and Subaru Park.

Initial planning for the event began in December, not long after GOAL was formed, Fulmer said.

“It was our first chance to bring all GOAL members in together to meet each other, network and feel more like a collaborative environment than just being on their own thinking about this topic,” she said.

Fulmer said it’s hoped the event will be held annually, with more focus on individual topics, though a date and location for 2024 has not been set. The invitational will continue to hold events in places and at times when folks are gathered for other events as was the case with this year’s June 26-28 Green Sports Alliance Summit at Climate Pledge Arena, Fulmer said.

“The Green Sports Alliance Summit was a lot of sustainability-minded people from the industry getting together,” she said. “We gathered feedback and our intention when putting this together was that we wanted a more intimate environment that felt less like a sales showcase space for vendors and more sharing of best practices in a smaller community.”

GOAL plans to offer topic-specific meetings throughout the year, focusing on things like corporate partnerships, collegiate sports or a gathering of operators of buildings that are 50 years old or more, while also holding one broader Invitational for all comers, Fulmer said.

“That’s one of the first things we hear, ‘I can’t be like Climate Pledge Arena. They have sponsorship money, a new building; they were able to start from scratch,'” Fulmer said. “Our narrative with GOAL is you can include more sustainability efforts no matter how old your building is or what your site constraints are.”