Sustainable Innovation

WSL vows to be carbon neutral by end of 2019

Surfing body claims new sustainability pledge will ‘set a new standard’ for sports.

by Sam Carp

WSL vows to be carbon neutral by end of 2019

The World Surf League (WSL) has pledged to become carbon neutral by the end of the year as part of a series of new sustainability commitments it claims will ‘set a new standard’ for professional sports.

The other initiatives, which apply to all WSL Championship Tour and Big Wave Tour legs, include eliminating single-use plastics by the end of 2019 and leaving each of its host venues in a better condition than before events take place.

Surfing’s elite sanctioning body said that its latest commitment to preserving the environment was inspired by a number of alarming trends surrounding climate change and plastic pollution.

The WSL cited the fact that 30 per cent of the excess carbon in the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, which causes acidification that harms coral reefs and other marine life. The organisation also noted that plastics break down into small microparticles that are ingested by marine life, ultimately entering food and drinking water.

“The WSL is incredibly proud to break new ground in sports in the urgent battle against climate change and ocean pollution," said WSL chief executive Sophie Goldschmidt. "We believe it's our responsibility to be ‘all in' with our efforts to protect the ocean and beaches amid the devastating climate crisis we all face. We invite everyone who cares about the ocean to join us.”

As part of the announcement, the WSL has also launched ‘Stop Trashing Waves’, a new global marketing campaign encouraging people to support the body’s existing ocean conservation efforts such as Protecting Understanding and Respecting the Environment (PURE), the WSL’s non-profit arm.

"In the sport of surfing and beyond, it's imperative that we all act immediately," added Reece Pacheco, the WSL’s senior vice president of ocean responsibility and executive director of WSL PURE. "Looking ahead, we plan to inspire more and more people to join us in reducing and offsetting their emissions through our upcoming carbon calculator and offset platform."

A number of sports teams have recently upped their commitments to sustainability. Major League Baseball’s (MLB) New York Yankees, for example, in April became the first North American franchise to sign up to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework, while La Liga soccer side Real Betis announced in March that they plan to go climate neutral.

The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), meanwhile, is another sporting body making significant efforts to preserve the environment. The global federation’s Good Net project, a joint effort with Dutch NGO Ghost Fishing, seeks to repurpose discarded fishing nets into volleyball nets.