European Tour's Maria Grandinetti-Milton shares how golf is going 'green'
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Exclusive: European Tour’s Maria Grandinetti-Milton on how golf is going ‘green’

Exclusive: European Tour’s Maria Grandinetti-Milton on how golf is going ‘green’

The head of sustainability tells Gulf Business how sporting events such as DP World Tour are increasingly adopting sustainable practices

Neesha Salian
Maria Grandinetti-Milton - head of sustainability - European Tour on how golf is going green

How is the UAE pioneering green and sustainable practices in sports, particularly golf?

 The UAE has an extensive history of promoting sustainability in golf.

All six Dubai Golf and Viya Golf courses in Dubai and Abu Dhabi for example have been certified for their ‘eco’ leadership by the GEO Sustainable Golf Foundation. These include the home of the DP World Tour Championship, Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Across the UAE, Ras Al Khaimah’s Al Hamra Golf Club was the first in the region to go fully plastic-free, with the venue providing wetland habitats for birds.

At the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, DP World has partnered with ADNOC to actively protect mangrove habitats.

The Hero Dubai Desert Classic, another Rolex Series event in the region held at Emirates Golf Club, has planted native ghaf trees to help raise environmental awareness.

This year’s DP World Tour Championship features a range of sustainable initiatives, including the Earth Lounge on the 16th hole fully powered by solar panels and hydrogen generators for the first time, producing zero carbon emissions.

What are the sustainable practices that you feel are missing in the global sports sector and how can they be achieved?

I believe we need to find a long-term solution to sustainably powering temporary structures – like the Earth Lounge – in a cost-effective way.

Biofuels are a step in the right direction, as well as companies renting specialist equipment for temporary structures.

Sustainable travel solutions are also hugely important, particularly when you consider the global nature of sport today. The constant stream of tours and events, and the number of people attending, means this should be a priority.

 What measures can businesses or sporting events take to become more sustainable and how can events support and pave the way for others to follow?

Initially, it’s important to look at measuring a range of sustainability indicators to understand which areas present the biggest challenges.

Assessing company culture is also key to encouraging colleagues and team members to play their part, while suppliers should be challenged to adopt a similar approach.

At events, opportunities should be provided to spectators to be more sustainable and organisers should use their platforms to showcase the benefits. It’s important to help spectators make informed choices, for example, opting for plant-based catering, using free water walls and recycling options, and taking accessible public transport to events.

Equally, the importance of innovation cannot be overstated. Earlier this year, at the BMW PGA Championship Rolex Series Event at Wentworth Golf Club, we piloted a 100 per cent green hydrogen-fuelled TV production in a world-first for sport.

We hope this will encourage other sporting events to follow suit and explore new innovations.

What are some long-term sustainable practices being adopted by the DP World Tour Championship and what is the impact you have seen as a result?

At DP World Tour, we are measuring the carbon footprint of 10 of our biggest events to understand the impacts, and are working with a variety of businesses, suppliers, partners, fans, and governments to learn, share, educate, and drive results.

There is no simple solution when it comes to sustainability, and challenges vary in each country. For example, investing in biofuels across our events in the UK over the last two years has resulted in a 95 per cent saving on emissions – a fantastic achievement.

The free water walls installed at the DP World Tour Championship have dispensed more than 60,000 litres of water to date, resulting in a saving of over 120,000 500ml plastic bottles. This has also been extended to other local events.

Additionally, working with the official waste management company, Averda, the DP World Tour Championship will this year recycle 75 per cent of all event waste – a significant amount given historical challenges in this space in the region.

How much does the DP World Tour Championship invest in sustainability measures?

Last year, the European Tour group signed the United Nations Sports for Climate Action Framework, which is focused on implementing sustainable innovations at its events to help halve direct carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2040.

We have a ‘sustainability-first’ approach within the business and sustainability is at the heart of every decision we make. We challenge suppliers to help us innovate, as we are doing at this year’s DP World Tour Championship.

Additionally, all unavoidable emissions from Rolex Series events are offset via a carefully curated Rolex Series offset portfolio with the ‘Gold Standard’.

What sustainability measures are being implemented at this year’s championship?

 In addition to the zero-carbon emissions Earth Lounge, 75 per cent of all tournament waste being recycled, free water walls, and the ongoing ban on plastic bottles, we are working with Dubai-based temporary infrastructure company Wicked, which actively promotes sustainable building practices.

All of the event’s wooden walls are constructed using sustainably produced palm strand board, with structures to be reused multiple times in the future and fully insulated to reduce the amount of energy used for air conditioning and cooling.

Electric buggies, including the introduction of a smart buggy management tool, are being used across the venue. Electric vehicles also play a pivotal role in the event’s BMW shuttle fleet.

Spectators, who arrive in electric vehicles, can take advantage of free charging stations and preferred parking spaces.

Compared to when the tournament was first held in Dubai, how has the importance of sustainability risen for the event?

It has grown significantly. Fifteen years is a long time and naturally, there is going to be evolution during that period. The last few years have seen a huge acceleration and focus on global climate challenges within our tour operations.

Golf is at the forefront of sustainable efforts in sport, with a number of tools and solutions including sustainable standards, externally accredited third-party certification, data and indicators, knowledge-sharing hubs, campaigns and strategic initiatives.

Facilitated by the GEO Sustainable Golf Foundation, the European Tour group is proud to be a founding partner and ongoing supporter of all this work.

We are working hard to play our part and understand the landscape across many territories. It’s hugely important for us to work alongside other sport, both regionally and globally, to discuss specific challenges and share solutions.

Ultimately, we believe collaboration is key, and everybody will have to play their part to make sustainability efforts an overall success.

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