MIT Sloan Grad Leads NHL Sustainability Efforts

by Nancy DuVergne Smith on January 15, 2015 · 0 comments

in Alumni Life, Athletics, Energy, In the News

Guest blogger: Zach Church, MIT Sloan

The NHL last month named energy company Constellation the official preferred energy provider of the league, a deal that will find Constellation providing energy efficiency analysis for the league and offsetting the carbon footprint of its 2014-2015 season.

The 2014 NHL Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich. Photo: Dave Sanford, Getty Images

The 2014 NHL Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich. Photo: Dave Sanford, Getty Images

The Dec. 18 announcement was a big one for the hockey league, which since 2010 has been touting its NHL Green initiative and which in July released a massive sustainability report chronicling the environmental impact of its games, its arenas, its corporate partners, and even the travel of its fans.

The report is the work of Omar Mitchell MBA ’12, who joined the NHL in 2012 as director of sustainability. Add in accompanying projects like a push to introduce energy- and heat-saving LED lighting in hockey arenas, and Mitchell has had a busy three years.

The sustainability report—a “tome,” Mitchell only half-jokes—was never a given. Though all of North America’s major sports leagues have some type of sustainability initiative, none has taken on such a hefty task, especially one not required of them. By voluntarily reporting its carbon footprint, the NHL is putting a stake in the ground and publically challenging itself to improve, Mitchell said.

For a sport whose greatest players learned the game on frozen ponds, there is an existential element to the threat of climate change. The report notes that NHL fans are more likely to recycle, support environmental causes, and buy eco-friendly products than the average U.S. adult….

Producing such an extensive report and using it to identify and drive sustainability initiatives required significant buy-in and partnership not only at the league offices in New York City, but among its 30 teams. Mitchell gained that support with the help of only one full-time staffer and an intern. To develop the report, he worked with the National Resources Defense Council, a climate change advocacy group and NHL Green’s primary advisor….

“We think of the report as ‘This is where we are,’” Mitchell said. “And then, once we know where we are, both quantitatively and qualitatively, where do we want to go?”

Jason Jay, a senior lecturer and the director of the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative, said corporate sustainability leaders like Mitchell must demonstrate the value of sustainability work to the business at large.

“The biggest challenge is one of translation of sustainability into the language, values, and goals of the people you need to engage,” Jay said. “People don’t understand terms like C02e or disability-adjusted life years, and they certainly haven’t been incentivized to improve them.”

Read the complete story for details.

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