Go Zero: Finding A Better Way To Play by TerraCarbon Co-Founder Scott Settelmyer

August 7, 2014

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Scott Settelmyer is the Managing Director and co-founder of TerraCarbon LLC,  a forest carbon advisory firm and proud partner of Go Zero.  TerraCarbon provides technical support on the climate accounting and monitoring of many of Go Zero’s projects including the planting of more than 1 million trees  at Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana.

Last week, I attended the 4th annual summit of the Green Sports Alliance (GSA) with 700 other fans of both sports and the environment.  The Green Sports Alliance is an organization dedicated to helping sports teams, venues, and leagues  enhance their environmental performance.  The organization has more than 250 members including Go Zero partner Philadelphia Eagles, the NHL, and the NBA, to name a few.

GSA members are working hard to improve their environmental impact and to bring fans and sponsors on this journey with them.  Here are three takeaways from last week’s summit that sustainability professionals in all organizations can draw on.

1.      Keep score. Play fair. Play the long game.

During his presentation, Jay Coen Gilbert of B Lab, the non-profit behind Certified B Corps, asked attendees “What game are you playing?” Of course, there is the game on the field.  But what about the game off the field? What are you doing about sustainability?  What legacy are you leaving for the next generation of fans? These questions are relevant to a growing number of consumers, employees, and investors, particularly  among millennials.   Sports teams and companies that keep score, play fair, and play the long game when it comes to sustainability will be the winners with these stakeholders.

2.      Partner with like-minded organizations.

Sports teams and sponsors recognize that they can create unique partnerships that support and broaden the sustainability message and branding of both partners.   Levi’s, a sustainability leader in the apparel business, is sponsoring the new and incredibly sustainable Levi’s Stadium for the San Francisco 49ers that will open this fall.  Levi’s success in reducing water and energy consumption in its core business help make it a perfect fit (pun intended) as the sponsor of the new stadium.

3.      Keep it simple in the front.

During his presentation, James Curleigh, President of the Levi’s Brand, likened Silicon Valley start-ups to the 1980s mullet hairstyle: simple in the front, sophisticated in the back.  Type a word in the search bar, and instantaneously retrieve thousands of results: Simple.  Search results enabled by algorithms that scan millions of sources based on relevance: Sophisticated.

The same analogy also holds true with the best sustainability initiatives.  The best ones are simple and easy for stakeholders to understand, but also credible and rigorous.  Take the Go Zero program. Donate money to plant trees: Simple.  Measure and verify results over time to third-party standards: Sophisticated.

The simple and sophisticated nature of the Go Zero program allows Go Zero partners, such as The Indianapolis Colts and The Eagles, to simply and credibly communicate that they are offsetting emissions by planting trees and restoring habitat.  Score!

Sports teams, like companies, are at various stages of their sustainability journeys.  These journeys will undoubtedly change and targets and strategies will be refined over time.  But that’s okay. The important thing is not to wait to get it perfect, but instead, to get started.  Come on, let’s get in the game!