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Negotiating the future of planet earth

DBS academic to present on how sport can positively impact the environment at global climate summit.

‘There is no Plan B for action, as there is no Planet B,’ United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon once said.

In the lead-up to December’s COP21/CMP11, an annual meeting between nations which have vowed to take action on climate change, this statement weighs heavier than ever before.

Dr Sheila Nguyen, Director, Master of Business (Sport Management) at Deakin Business School, has been invited to present at COP21 on behalf of the Australian and New Zealand sport sector – an area that is often considered ‘resource intensive’ in its use of water, energy, and materials.

She says that this year’s conference has been hailed crucial for its objective to come to a renewed global agreement aimed at stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and keeping global warming below 2°C.

‘In order to contribute towards this common goal, it is my hope that we share our stories to firstly increase awareness around the Australasian sport industry's good work in environmental stewardship, and secondly to be considered a valued stakeholder in the wider climate change effort and conversation,’ she says.

A LEED Green Associate and the co-founder and Executive Director of the Sports Environment Alliance, a not-for-profit focused on strengthening the connection between sport and recreation with the natural environment, Dr Nguyen first discovered her passion for the environment when she was eight years old.

‘At that young and impressionable age I was greatly inspired by the “enviro-consciousness” of my best friend’s parents and since then have always had an underlying passion, which had its coming out in the research domain where I started exploring how high-profile industries, like sport, can use their star power to influence social attention,’ Dr Nguyen says.  

She explains that research findings support the notion that higher-profile entities have proportionally bigger expectations and thus, responsibility to influence and make decisions that improve their communities. She adds that environmental leadership is one such way to do so.  

‘The planet needs all hands on deck and the sport industry can quickly mobilise a mass of fans, spectators, participants to back a movement that impacts everyone's lives, not to mention, protecting our natural assets is business prudence.  

‘Without water, energy and materials, we cannot deliver key components of our business – participation, entertainment and employment. The sport industry needs to move the environment up the agenda.’

Dr Nguyen also argues that across the board, the sporting industry actually isn’t particularly more environmentally offensive than other businesses per se. Even more so, she says that ‘sport can and should use its star power to influence social attention towards environmental sustainability.’

Dr Nguyen is invited to present and be a panellist at COP21 on behalf of the Sports Environment Alliance (SEA), which is an industry ally of all other regional alliances such as the North American Green Sports Alliance (GSA) and the UK’s British Association for Sustainable Sport (BASIS). She will speak alongside other Australian organisations including the Carbon Market Institute, the Climate Institute and a number of government agencies.

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