Sustainability on Ice: How the NHL Is Addressing Climate Concerns
As we’ve mentioned before, climate champions can often be found in unexpected places – NASCAR, for example, or rural Texas, or the National Hockey League. The NHL, with its conservative-leaning fan base, may not fit the conventional image of a green organization, but they are very serious about their efforts to reduce their carbon emissions and spread climate awareness to their fans.
As Omar Mitchell, NHL vice president for corporate social responsibility, explains here, the game of hockey is closely tied to the environment because it requires cold weather and clean, fresh water, both of which can be threatened by climate change.
The NHL’s approach follows a number of climate-messaging best practices:
Reaching an untapped audience. Too often, climate communicators preach to the choir, instead of finding ways to connect with those who might disagree. The NHL has an opportunity to reach people who may not typically hear positive messages about climate solutions.
Leading by example. The NHL has been looking at ways to lower energy consumption at their arenas through more efficient operations and equipment. By successfully reducing their environmental impact, they can inspire other organizations to do the same.
Using the power of celebrity. The NHL has a pretty large social media presence, but it’s their players who really drive engagement. Involving popular athletes who are concerned about climate issues is a great way to reach out to fans. People are also more receptive to messages from someone they know and admire.
Avoiding politics. As a sports organization, it makes sense for the NHL to promote healthy lifestyles and spending time outdoors. These messages highlight the benefits of climate solutions in a non-partisan way.
By Kevin Blackistone, contributor to The Washington Post
I was reading a random article last month about the goings-ons at the historic climate change conference in Paris when my eyes stumbled across what appeared to be a fish-out-of-water participant – the National Hockey League. The piece mentioned that an NHL vice president for corporate social responsibility, Omar Mitchell, presented on sports and sustainability. The NHL. Climate change. I had to call the league.
I found Mitchell. He explained from Foxborough, Mass., the site of the league’s New Year’s Day Winter Classic, after giving U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy a tour of the league’s game-day set up. The NHL and the EPA. McCarthy was invited to the game by the league after the EPA awarded the league a 2015 Green Power Leadership Award for its efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. Hockey. Really?
Here’s my conversation with Mitchell about the league’s position.
Image credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images