The green waves of sustainability (2016)

This paper summarizes the various waves (or types) of environmental sustainability efforts made within the sport industry. These waves are identifed by evaluating their common levels of environmental consciousness and complexity of engagement. Institutional theory, diffusion of innovations, and organizational learning perspectives were utilized as theoretical frameworks in evaluating these waves as well. Three waves in total were identified and are broken down as follows:

During the first wave, awareness of environmental issues develops, education in the topic of sport and the environment is established, and only very simple activities are undertaken by the sport industry with respect to mitigating environmenal impact. These activities are often reactionary and would only include low intensity activities like recycling programs and energy reduction.

In the second wave, awareness of environmental impact becomes knowledge industry personnel can learn from, education is disseminated through organizational learning and mimicry, and more advanced activities take place like the establishment of green team personnel and zero waste programs. Advanced activities also includes organization-specific efforts as well as larger governing body efforts. Overall, environmental issues become more of a larger industry issue to confront and collaborations are beginning to form within the industry and with environmental organizations in order to establish legitimacy.

In the third and final wave, knowledge becomes strategy that can be used to decrease costs or generate revenue, education continues to develop with standardization and creates outreach, and lastly, sophisticated activities take place like engaging stakeholders on environmental impacts. In this stage, environment moves from being more of a problem to deal with into becoming an opportunity for growth.


Cite: McCullough, B. P., Pfahl, M. E., & Nguyen, S. N. (2016). The green waves of environmental sustainability in sport. Sport in Society, 19(7), 1040–1065.

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