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Dear FIFA & IOC, This is How to do Sustainable Sport: Singapore Sail Grand Prix

This global sailing league has married sport with climate action to make waves in Singapore and worldwide

PHOTO: ELOI STICHELBAUT, SAIL GP


14 January 2023, Singapore — By 2025, Sail Grand Prix (GP) aims to be completely powered by nature.


The groundbreaking sailing league has put their money where their mouth is and set up the world’s first ever Impact League showcasing that climate action and sport can go hand in hand.


Additionally, Sail GP set out to leave a positive impact in their host countries with local impact projects which will span from San Francisco to Christchurch by the end of this season.


At a meeting last year for the United Nations Sport for Climate Action movement, Sail GP shared the work they have done through the Impact League. They offered to help other sports set up their own Impact League and was approached by several governing bodies from sports such as tennis, golf, motorsport and even the Spanish Olympic Committee.

PHOTO: BOB MARTIN, SAIL GP


“A dream for me would be to get [an Impact League] into football or the International Olympic Committee,” said Fiona Morgan, Chief Purpose Director at Sail GP.


She believes prioritising sustainability can and should be the norm in sports, even though sports with longer histories such as football may take more time to get buy-in from senior management.


“If anything, sport is suffering from extreme weather and the problems of climate change. We have this platform, a voice — so we have to do it,” she added.


“I don’t want a talking show where people talk at each other. We’ve gotten past that, we need to collaborate and act, and do things differently.”

PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER PIKE, SAIL GP


Sail GP’s embodiment of collaboration can be seen in its Impact League which was created to harness athletes’ competitive spirit to drive climate action.


The Impact League runs alongside the season championship and requires each team to find a “Race for the Future” partner with whom they initiate sustainability projects.


After every event, the teams’ sustainability initiatives are assessed according to a set of criteria and points are awarded accordingly. These points are accumulated over the entire season, and the winning team is eventually awarded the Impact League trophy together with $100,000, which goes to their “Race for the Future” partner.

PHOTO: FELIX DIEMER, SAIL GP


“When we launched it and told the team CEOs, they all looked slightly terrified. They had no idea what it meant, and just nodded — ‘that sounds great Fiona’,” reminisced Morgan.


Yet, in just its second season, competition is fierce with teams launching novel projects such as Denmark’s “More Speed Less Plastic” pledge.


“Sailing is typically a sport where it’s about me and winning, and having this impact is much more purposeful,” said the Danish team’s strategist, Katja Salskov-Iversen.


This higher sense of purpose through sustainability efforts has provided Sail GP with a huge value proposition, said Morgan.

PHOTO: KIERAN CLEEVES, SAIL GP


“Sustainability is not a compromise, it’s an opportunity,” she added.


For the Singapore local impact project, Sail GP has taken the opportunity to support the conservation of the island city’s coastal areas.


Together with Ocean Purpose Project, a local NGO, Sail GP funded efforts to set up 100 mussel and seaweed lines at a small fish farm in Pasir Ris called De Kelong. These lines serve to prevent algal bloom that harms ocean life by reducing the amount of oxygen in the water.


Mathilda D’Silva, founder of Ocean Purpose Project, keenly anticipated the tie-up with Sail GP.

PHOTO: BOB MARTIN, SAIL GP


“This is a game where sustainability and sports meet on the ocean playground, and it’s so important for us as an NGO to align with that,” she said.


Morgan affirmed the NGO’s compatibility with Sail GP, saying, “As soon as I met Mathilda, I obviously fell in love with her. Her approach to sustainability and her passion is very like Sail GP.”


After the Singapore Sail Grand Prix, the league will continue their journey around the world while documenting their progress on their online platforms, setting an example for other sports to follow.


“Sustainability is a part of everything we do. It’s not about forcing people to do things differently, it’s showing you can do things differently,” said Morgan.


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