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Keith Pelley Blog, UKGF Newsletter
After close dialogue with other sports, I feel we struck the right tone in our approach - honouring her memory by stopping play both on the day of her passing itself and for the full day afterwards, before going ahead and closing out the tournament on the weekend. We held a two-minute’s silence on the Saturday morning which was impeccably observed by players, caddies, staff and fans alike – giving the opportunity for us all to show our respect collectively.
As far as the tournament itself was concerned, we enjoyed sold out crowds, a stellar field, and a worthy winner in Shane Lowry. The BMW PGA Championship is not only a chance to put our best foot forward as an entertainment spectacle, but is an opportunity to set an example on wider societal issues such as diversity and inclusion (we held our fifth G4D (Golf for the Disabled) Tour event at the tournament) and sustainability.
BMW are big advocates of this approach as title sponsor, which is to be expected from a brand that has been consistently ranked as one of the most sustainable auto manufacturers in the world. I’m proud to say that the tournament was carbon neutral – with a carbon offsetting programme delivered in partnership with Gold Standard. Highlights from the week included using biofuel for temporary power (which reduces event emissions by 90%), zero waste to landfill with recycling stations placed across the site, and refillable water bottle stations to encourage the removal of single use plastic.
But off-setting individual tournaments is not enough if we want to help tackle the climate emergency, which is why we have recently signed up to the UN Sport for Climate Action Framework and its Race to Zero Pledge – becoming the first professional golf Tour to do so. This means we have committed to halving our emissions by 50% by 2030 and becoming fully net zero carbon by 2040. When making this commitment public, we also unveiled an updated Green Drive sustainability strategy. It gives a clear direction on how we will reach these targets, with a strengthened approach towards priority challenges including climate change; biodiversity loss; air and ocean pollution; equity and inclusion; and sustainable and ethical procurement.
Ultimately, our goal is to deliver world class sport and entertainment in a way that not only respects, but also helps to replenish, the landscapes and communities that provide so much to us. Under the guidance of our Head of Sustainability, Maria Grandinetti-Milton, detailed implementation plans are already underway spanning governance, operations, tournaments, venues, media and technology, communications and partnerships. Emissions are being tracked across the Tour’s operations through new internal mechanisms and tools provided by the GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf – our external consultants. I’m telling you about this for two reasons. Firstly, we have learnt that becoming sustainable is a team effort that requires a wide range of stakeholders to buy into the mission – suppliers, promoters, colleagues, and fans.
The golf industry can be a small world so as an industry, we all need to pull in the same direction and support each other. Secondly, we know that implementing an emissions reduction plan can be costly in the immediate term, and these investment decisions are set against the backdrop of a very challenging economic climate. However, we know that our fan base wants us to act. We surveyed them on this issue, and that message came through loud and clear. External research is saying the same thing – a study from market researcher Global Web Index (GWI) found that 69% of those in the 16-24 age bracket want to see sport’s stakeholders do more to help the community, improve inequality, or act sustainably. The study also found that brand purpose and social responsibility is considered "absolutely essential” for winning new fans. Acting to reduce your carbon footprint is no doubt the morally right thing to do, but it also makes business sense. To be commercially sustainable long-term, golf needs to keep attracting a new generation of fans. Young people are telling us what they expect from us, and we need to listen to them. In the coming months and years we plan to share our learnings and best practices with stakeholders across the golf industry. We are already learning from the great work that many of you are already implementing across your own clubs and facilities. Together, I’m confident that golf can establish itself as a sport that has a net positive impact on the world.