“Would you mind terribly if we didn’t talk about, well, money stuff today?” sighed the chairman of the insignificantly-sized investment company Kermitted Asset Management as we caught up – a little while back now – to mark the end of the county cricket season. With no matches on in London, this had to be in a pub – although, given the exciting prices now being charged by sporting caterers, we were counting that as an all-too-rare ‘win’.
Even at the best of times – and when the final overs were being played out in what could still reasonably be called late summer – the last day of the season has tended to leave the chairman feeling melancholy. This, however, was the very end of September – and September, of course, had very much not been the best of times. As a result, the chairman looked as if he was melting into his banquette.
“I’m way ahead of you,” I nodded. “We’re going to stay off the front pages and focus on sport – although, when I say that, I do mean from an environmental, social and governance point of view. After all, I do still have to pretend I’m some sort of investment journalist.” “And a very good job you’ve done of that for the last 25 years,” nodded the chairman – which, now I type it, seems rather less of a compliment that it did at the time.
“Specifically,” I continued, “what caught my eye the other day was the Bad Sport Awards 2022.” “Sounds like our sort of territory,” the chairman agreed. “Tell me more.” “This is an initiative from something called the ‘Badvertising’ campaign – a name that in itself is more than enough reason for our attention. Anyway, this seeks ‘to stop advertisements fuelling the climate emergency’, including ads for cars, airline flights and fossil fuels.
“Clearly the people behind it have a way with words and their latest project is this new annual competition that aims to draw attention to the most glaring examples of ‘greenwash’ and ‘sportswash’ within international sports.” “And I would presumably be wrong to imagine Greenwash and Sportswash are some trendy new personal hygiene products for teenage boys?” the chairman checked.
“You would indeed,” I nodded. “To quote the organisers, sports clubs are well-placed to tap into public concern about climate change by ‘leading from the front, pioneering sustainability at every level and bringing their loyal fans along for the ride’. There is also the danger, though, that organisations only pay lip-service to sustainability, through ‘glitzy and misleading marketing, ill thought-out campaigns and unsubstantiated green claims’.”
“That all sounds very familiar,” said the chairman, narrowing his eyes. “Are you sure we haven’t talked about this before?” “Maybe it was in connection with another industry,” I said, rolling my own eyes in response. “The Badverts boys and girls are also worried that clubs and organisations can let their renowned brands and sport be used by major polluters to launder their reputations – and this is what the Bad Sport Awards want to call out.”
“Any cricket teams in the running?” asked the chairman anxiously. “Not among the shortlists and eventual winners,” I reassured him. “Presumably, with the upcoming and much-trumpeted carbon-neutral Men’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar having one of the biggest fossil-fuels companies on the planet as its main sponsor, the awards organisers felt they had an embarrassment of riches this year.
“Indeed, different aspects of the World Cup took up three of the four spots on the shortlist for the overall Bad Sport Award, with the other candidate, INEOS, having the consolation of the ‘Taking People for a Ride’ gong. The organisers apparently felt there was a degree of inconsistency, not to say irony, in a team of professional cyclists – the embodiment of low-carbon transport – being named after INEOS’s new SUV, the Grenadier.
“Something similar seems to have been the case with the winner of the ‘Own Goal’ award, which highlights what we might call ‘flawed sustainability strategies’ and was won by Manchester City FC after it offered fans air miles in exchange for returning plastic bottles used on match days.” “Wow,” said the chairman. “It almost casts His Majesty’s financial services industry in a good light.” “Almost,” I nodded.