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The Green Waves of Environmental Sustainability in Sport

The purpose of this paper is to provide a conceptual framework surrounding the typology of environmental sustainability efforts made within the sport industry. We draw from multiple theoretical frameworks (i.e. institutional theory and diffusion of innovation) to understand the increased similarities of environmental sustainability efforts through organizational learning as environmental sustainability efforts become more purposeful and sophisticated across the sport industry. The paper uses examples from various sport organizations and leagues to classify the efforts of sport organizations into waves of sport environmental sustainability efforts and important implications arising from them.

This paper provides a conceptual framework from which to understand the evolution of the place of the natural environment within the world of sport. To explain this theoretical frame, a review of the contextual literature is conducted. Derived from this review is the conceptual framework and attendant propositions.

The conceptual framework is exemplified through the notion of environmental waves in sport as way to understand the past, present and future of environmental sustainability in sport. To achieve this end, examples of environmental efforts are used in order to highlight and to define the waves themselves and not the individual sport organization shown. By reviewing multiple incidents of environmental engagement globally and across organizations, the framework can be derived from evaluating commonalities in the ebbs and flows of decision-making.

The waves examined as individual contextual levels in this study in order to explain and to define them clearly. With progress and regress a part of the process as meta and micro levels, researchers utilized contextual examples to show that the waves exist independently and to demonstrate the types of activity(ies) in each.

In conclusion, given the growing momentum of environmental sustainability within the sport industry and academic literature, it is our hope that the waves typology will help facilitate a deeper understanding and spurn greater exploration of the various environmental efforts made and still yet to come. While more ethereal and difficult to study, the waves typology provides guidance to unify the various elements of environmental strategy and action in sport. Much like legislation and governance mechanisms have done for issue such as race and gender equity, it is believed the waves can bring various threads of ideology, theory and practice together in order to outline a clearer environmental pathway for sport personnel to follow. The literature discussed environmental efforts in terms of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices (in addition to economic ones) and improved fan engagement, especially in relation to improving their lives through sport fandom and participation (Kellison and Hong 2015; McCullough and Cunningham 2010). This understanding can help identify the progress and origins of environmental action within various sport contexts worldwide to better approach the next wave of environmental sustainability within the sport industry.


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